Sunday, January 09, 2011

China as Japan, Circa 1985

How many of you out there remember the days when it seemed like Japan and its culture were on the precipice of overwhelming us? I do. And I remember all the news stories about the superiority of Japanese culture and the inferiority of America. I'm smelling a repeat of history.

The gist of the article is this: Chinese parents expect excellence of their children. American parents want their kids to feel good about themselves.

I am as wary of the rising level of competition in all areas from China as anyone. But this smacks of the overblown news stories about the Japanese in the 1980s. I offer this anecdotally as my proof:

If a Chinese child gets a B—which would never happen—there would first be a screaming, hair-tearing explosion. The devastated Chinese mother would then get dozens, maybe hundreds of practice tests and work through them with her child for as long as it takes to get the grade up to an A.

This passage by itself is proof to me that this entire editorial is a boast of a proud, culturally Chinese woman. There is no way - NO WAY - every Chinese child is scoring straight A's and doing so explicitly because their parents hold them to that standard. We are all of different aptitudes, abilities, and skills. And their are a good number of very intelligent people who do not have the aptitude for school work, regardless of how hard their parents drill them. And, sorry to say, there are some amongst us who just can't get A's or B's, but who still have places in societies, American or Chinese.

Like the Japanese stories of a previous generation, their is a strain of truth in this piece. That strain is that we owe it to our children to hold them to the highest possible standards that they could achieve. But the piece goes off the tracks in projecting a China that is perfect in raising its children (those that don't end up dead because they weren't a boy, anyway). Do not be fooled into a hand wringing panic like many were by the rise of Japanese competition, however. Just learn from it, and use the lessons you take to better raise your kids to make them competitive for a new era that will be very much unlike yours.

1 comment:

Dad29 said...

That strain is that we owe it to our children to hold them to the highest possible standards that they could achieve.


At the same time, you'd be amazed at the number of people (including teachers) who have really bought into that "feel good" babble.