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Chinese Education and Parenting

alyssa_爱思 (10 posts) • 0

I just read an article from the Wall Street Journal that a friend sent to me titled "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior" that addresses differences in parenting/educational approaches in China vs. in 'the West.' Between the article and the extensive commentary that it incited, it offered some very interesting food for thought.

Article: online.wsj.com/[...]

In the true spirit of a forum, I don't want to outright attack or praise anyone or anything, but just wanted to post this article to try and and instigate some good discussion. This article was written by a Chinese mother in the US, and I personally see some radically different results from the 'Chinese parenting approach' here in China vs. in 'the West.'

There are a lot of interesting points that merit consideration (and admittedly, these are generalizations)~ promotion of individuality vs the almost mechanical emphasis on (educational, work) 'achievement,' promotion of creativity and independent thought vs. rote memorization and an emphasis on excelling at certain percribed skills (often math, piano/violin, English), the idea of children being the future and parents having a responsibility towards their children vs. the idea that children owe their lives to their parents and owe it to their parents to achieve and make them happy. Why do Chinese students often excel academically but rarely are the creative minds behind the world's largest, innovative companies/industries. (eg. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc.) And this is just a spattering of underlying concepts and principles that merit discussion.

As a lot of us foreigners here are teachers and work constantly with Chinese students, we might have an interesting perspective from which to analyze the differences in the approaches to parenting and education that we knew as youth vs. what we see here.

laotou (1714 posts) • 0

Alyssa - the corporate culture mentality in asia (including China, Japan, Korea, etc) is much stronger than the west where we occasionally encourage innovation. In Asia - the general mentality is group think. So as an example - an employee who works hard, works long hours, and is quite bright makes his co-workers look lazy and dim - inspiring unbridled hatred and serious corporate backstabbing. Believe it or not - a manager with a bright, upwardly mobile employee may elect to get rid of him/her to maintain peace within his/her group. The traditional US military (special forces aside) operates in much the same manner. Career military are very very protective of their jobs and rarely try to innovate - preferring to stick to tried and true methods of management as opposed to implementing an innovation that may fail and cause a hiccup in one's career path.

China's 3G giants were recently lambasted by the government for their utter lack of innovation - all preferring to follow the same lazy brainless but established patterns of their foreign fore-runners.

The Japanese corporate philosophy which amply reflects most of asia - the nail that sticks up gets POUNDED down. So to answer your question - innovation is generally crushed - however you may have noticed that the Chinese military is quite innovative in some areas (blasting a man into space, carrier killers, stealth fighter/bombers, moon missions and beyond).

China is a bit more unique than it's neighbors because of the strong government influence throughout industry - when the government elects to develop a certain area - be it geographical or technology - it can be quite focused and effective - and innovative.

As an example - the Science and Industrial Parks - created to bring technology and innovation to China - which also greatly benefited host cities economically. This is the equivalent of a Silicon Valley - but with the added benefit of government backing (tax breaks, business leads, etc).

In China - the kids have to compete starting from kindergarten - just to be average - as outperform academically is the norm and a requirement to get into one of the Tier 1 national universities.

Since you mentioned students - have you noticed students RARELY study together (unless they're romantically involved). From K-12 and through college/university - they rarely study together - but their group dynamics are incredibly interesting to observe.

These are just my personal observations and experiences from corporate and academic life in Asia. As JJ opines - I tend to focus on the unpleasant things - professional management hazard.

Jenatwiname (1 post) • 0

this is a very worthy issue for the forum and I'd like to thank Alyss for presenting it.

I also read the above mentioned article in Wall Street Journal last night and it certainly threw me into depths of reflecetion on parenting styles and their outcomes.

There are certainly great advantages to the way the Chinese raise thier offsprings, how they manage them to reach real heights of achievements and if they hadn't China would not have been the country that it has become in just a very short span of time, one has to be truthful. The article also indicated how the Chinese cultivate an iron like confidence in their children that no power on earth can shake. This I've witnessed in my long years of associations with the Chinese. I've admired this very great quality, that no matter how life may treat one, one does not chicken out or give up. This is a very amazing quality that I very much even envey. The Chinese feel good about who they are and what they do, no matter what the circumstance and what goofs one has committed.

The western style of parenting, as the article indicated, of being scared of one's children and almost paranoid about certain subjects such as overeating and overweight, and allowing the child to choose his/her own path of learning and development; on the other hand may not provide the answers that humanity needs at this juncture in its history. It has been shown that children who are brought up with hardships grow healthier mentally, emotionally, psychologically, and even physically. If one has no idea about hardship, one can never appreciate comfort; and if one is always in comfort, it's totally taken for granted. Thus the generations get softer and softer and more comfort oriented and pleasure doctrine seekers, etc.....

Intuitively I feel there must be a fine balance between the two ways, a yin and Yang balance perhaps to keep everyone sane and our children guided. So many of them have no idea how fortunate they're and on the contrary feel they're oppressed if they can't play enough, etc. but when you tell them that 70% of the children of the world have no access to even primary schools, or 70% adults go to bed hungray and only 1% have the possibility of going to university, they really calm down and begin to think again.

Anyway a universal teacher said: "Children are the light of the world and at the same time its darkness!" The easiest thing in life is to bring a child into the world and the hardest to educate that being to be a human. I hope others contribute to this forum and we can keep it going! It's an important discourse!

aaronb (54 posts) • 0

Interesting article, thank you. My 2 cents:

While there are many silly aspects to so called "western" style parenting today, the parenting style featured in the article-as well as the one my Chinese friends experienced- is no improvement. Unless your only goal is to stay alive.

This so called "Asian values" parenting represents a race to the bottom. If you want to adapt yourself to the most alienated aspects of the most alienated societies in history, and one of the most troubled periods-I am sure this method is helpful for short term survival and job security.

If you want to enjoy your life, develop into a 3 dimensional person, and also contribute something to society and the solving of its problems-being raised this way is counterproductive.

Survival and living have never been the same thing, and at our unique point in history, survival no longer even leads in the direction of further survival ( I am thinking about climate change for example).

The author of the article is a grown adult who still believes in the existence of "losers".

She also hasn't lived much if she thinks nothing is fun until you are "good" at it-and I question her concept of what good is. In truth nothing is fun if you are not comfortable doing it. Not the same thing.

The truth is, this person displays basically no ethics at all-I mean, don't look for Harriet Tubman, Da Vinci, Li Bai (Li Po), or Martin Luther King on her list of kids who turned out well. There would be no good life to enjoy in the first place, if everyone simply competed to conform to the basest requirements of survival and "success" in society.

The timing of this article (2010/2011) is no accident. People are worried about economic security.

I DO NOT think a balance is needed between this reductionist, cynical "Chinese" view of parenting (and life itself), and the confused, passive/aggressive, psycho babble techniques now featured in the west.

Both need to be rejected in favor of a 3rd way. That 3rd way can be found in other traditions. Or it can be something really contemporary.

Either way, the very creativity needed to forge a parenting style suited to the unique challenges of life in the present day, is proof enough of the inadequacy of the feudalistic approach offered by this woman.

SusanAB (3 posts) • 0

I am an American who has lived and worked in a college in south China (quite a bit different from Kunming, I do believe) for some years and feel that the issues here are incredibly complex—certainly not as simple as those stated in the article. I have close friends and students who come from both privileged and extremely poor backgrounds, with whom I exchange extensive confidences, and it seems that there is a big difference between them in what they demand and expect from their children. For one thing, only a very well-off family can afford violin or piano lessons (extraordinarily expensive relative to the normal standards of living in China), and indeed, the amount of bragging and comparing of children tends to increase exponentially according to income and/or status. Children of wealthy parents are quite aware that their performance is very much used as a status symbol and they seem to be increasingly bitter and resentful of it. These children are also a universe away, in terms of character and moral rectitude, from the kids in the relatively small town college where I teach. (I had the occasion this summer of spending two weeks in the big city home of some extremely wealthy and influential acquaintances with a teenage child (and her friends who had gathered there) and am still reeling from the shock, both in parental attitudes and the teens' behavior.) But, regarding the youth in my own small town and surrounding areas, I have often commented that the West must certainly have a lot to learn from Chinese parents. In short, the proof is in the pudding. The college youth I deal with here are, in general, infinitely more respectful, kind, giving, generous, considerate, humble and tolerant than those I have generally known in the West. Whether this is important, depends, I guess, on one's priorities—who would you prefer as a son or daughter when you grow old, one of these children or a creative Western child? Actually, it doesn't have to be an either/or situation if we can get the right mix of Chinese and Western ingredients...

Certainly, more academic discipline is demanded of all children in China, especially as they get older, but a very important point seems to have been entirely overlooked in the comments I read from the article—and that is an amazing amount of tolerance, patience and gentle coaxing that most Chinese parents use with their children, particularly young children. I have spent many long hours in Chinese homes and have rarely seen a parent shout and demand obedience in the harsh authoritative manner that Western parents tend to resort to. Rather, children are gently coaxed, prodded and reasoned with. There is, however, a very different flavor to this patient Chinese coaxing and reasoning from any I have seen in the West—in that it seems to stem not so much from an intellectual decision that some amount of gentleness and patience is required; rather it stems from a natural, innate tendency to avoid conflict.

And this, I feel is the crux, the key, to past successes of the Chinese in producing "good kids". Setting high academic standards IS part of the mix of ingredients used, I do agree, as well as exposing children to some hardship and expecting hard work, but it is the part of the culture that regards one's ability to give face to others, to get along harmoniously with others and to put others' ("others" as in those in your circle of family, co-workers and friends) needs before one's own needs as a sign of maturity and acceptability that is, probably, much more influential in producing "good kids".

Another thing that this article seems to overlook, and I cannot but believe it was a deliberate sidestepping—thinking perhaps she is addressing a largely Western audience that wouldn't know—because it is impossible she wouldn't be aware of such a well-known issue in Chinese circles, is the fact that the behavior of children is changing very, very swiftly in China, due to the one-child policy which everyone agrees tends to produce increasingly spoiled and selfish children—-and again, particularly, but not exclusively, amongst the privileged and wealthy sectors of society.

In conclusion, my take on this is that these wealthy parents who so blatantly use their children's performance as status symbols (the author is dead right about that), are able to do so only due to a long tradition of innate good character embedded in the Chinese culture which is still managing to rub off on their children. It's influence is, however, sadly waning, and their increasing selfishness and pride cannot but also rub off with increasing effect. There is, sadly, no doubt at all that they are in for a rude awakening, and if my experience this summer is any indication, they are already experiencing (but just not admitting) it.

germanincanada (5 posts) • 0

Hello !

My wife is from Kunming and I m German we have a 1 year old boy and a 3 year old girl, we life in Canada. And I am here on my first time to visit currently her family!

Anyway, I seen some simularities in what I read here, compare to our mixed clultural family.

In a lot of situation day to day life my wife can be very strict to our Kids ! She talks about rules and proper behaviour, otherwise they would become trash when they grow up!

Where I think it is not that seriouse, because they are still KIDS and they should have space to be Kids and act like Kids. I believe it is important to have good manners and teach the Kids proper behaviour, but I think it should be more in a playful and for Kids understandable way !

Not sure if this is helpful, but I thought I would like to contribute to it

Thank you


Danmairen (510 posts) • 0

These ideas and this discussion come up every ten years or so. 20-30 years ago it was all about the Japanese and how they were going to take over the world. 10-15 years ago it was about the many excellent students from India -or of Indian decent. Now it seems it's China's turn. Truth is we in the West have outsourced basically all of our manufacturing jobs to the developing countries which have left us in a bit of a pickle. 10-15 years from now when China has taken a massive turn for the worse with rising inflation, unemployment, an aging population and the (cough) government issues we'll be talking about Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand and how we should learn more from them because they are ones riding the next economic wave.

Remember the world needs taxi drivers and bin men as well.

laotou (1714 posts) • 0

China has ALWAYS focused on the values of education - just had a speed bump 50 years ago - but advancement, civil service - always dependent on the horrific imperial exams - now called the gaokao (kidding - but it's terrifying stressful for all high school students desiring to attend mainline universities) and the subsequent civil service exams for various plum government jobs.

Some governments however like to keep their people apathetic, stupid and uneducated. Example the former liberal Clinton administration wanted to change the US educational system so that instead of being competitively graded (the hated T-curve) or based on your actual knowledge (the knowledge based grade), students would proffer their own perception of how well they performed. It was a grand idea - but naive and foolish.

Keeping people ignorant and uneducated is how repressive governments maintain power - that and maintaining a strong domestic police state - such as TSA and Homeland Security.

Truthfully - good education starts and ends at home. Good study habits, discipline, and self esteem. Teaching one's children by showing them the benefits of education and the misfortune of no education - WITHOUT disrespecting those honest hardworking denizens of unskilled labor.

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