Seasons Greetings, Everyone. After the lack of updates over the last year or so, I probably have three readers left. So I hope my three readers will enjoy this post.
One thing in my life that I had always taken for granted was my love of reading. Reading has been with me for all my life, and I’ve always loved reading and writing. You can see it in my past posts: I used to write long book reviews, and I used to grill commenters who would comment but never sought to read more about the subjects on which they were commenting. But last year, my love for reading and writing stopped. Maybe it was due to the fact that the non-reading Far Left won the cultural war, while the non-reading Far Right won the political war. Maybe it was my realization that all our arguments mean nothing in an era where emotion seems to be the guiding force of Leftist culture and Right-wing politicians. Maybe it’s because I realize that hanging out with my kids is more fun than creating content in a world where moderates get no love. Maybe it’s because I’m tired of losing every fight I step into. We lost the fight for common sense in politics, common sense in education, and common sense in culture. The Republicans have beaten us in politics and have now waged war on the environment, Black Lives Matter has successfully fought to eliminate and destroy expectations of personal responsibility from underrepresented minorities, and crazy Leftists have overrun the universities. Hell, even the Celebrity Club has won. I think sometime this year I threw in the towel, at least for now.
In any case, I’m finding it really hard to read and write anything these days, so it was with great effort that I pushed through Lenora Chu’s book Little Soldiers: An American Boy, A Chinese School, and a Global Race to Achieve. It’s with great effort that I’m writing this review. The book is about a Chinese American (Taiwanese American?) woman who moves to China to raise her two sons. The focus of the book is her cultural adjustments to the rigid educational system in China and how she copes as a parent who is putting her son through the system.
I thought this was an incredibly honest book. Chu doesn’t try to sugarcoat anything. For example, her son gets into an elite school because his father is White, and the author doesn’t hide this fact. Chu talks at length about her own upbringing with a strict father, and how she herself dealt with some of the vestiges of a Chinese cultural upbringing. She talks about the corruption, abuses, and bribery that goes on in Chinese schools, and she has interviews with students who are studying for the gaokao. Having dealt with some of the Chinese parents at my school, I can now see why they see education the way they do. Chu doesn’t deny the existence of culture (as some liberals do these days), and instead focuses on the pros and cons of both the American and Chinese systems. When she talks about the role of memorization and testing, she comes to many of the same conclusions that we here have reached. This book garnered recommendations from both Amy Chua and Michelle Rhee. These recommendations were well-deserved, and anyone serious about their children’s education would benefit from this book.
While reading the book, I was a bit surprised by Chu’s remarks about the “American system” of education. I didn’t think her remarks had anything to do with how public education is actually conducted in America, although I think the American education probably differs greatly depending on where you live. I appreciated her conclusion that both systems have something to offer. I’ve found that different cultures see the world differently, and there’s no way we could ever copy another culture’s system of education completely. One’s national education has to suit the national character and culture (and yes, culture does exist). For example, there is no reason to be teaching Japanese kids in Japan to speak out and argue if Japanese adults don’t do that. At the same time, there is always something to learn. Math instruction in this country, for example, is woefully inefficient. It’s inefficient not because of how our culture deals with math, but rather it’s inefficient because Americans don’t like memorizing and would rather waste time than demand results from lazy kids. As Chu mentions, we have no problem ranking athletes, but we would never rank kids by academic performance because of how we view self-esteem. We could learn from the countries who are kicking our asses in math.
Anyway, check out this book.