"Why we don’t want our children to go to school in the U.S.?"

December 7, 2011Sven Holler13 Comments, , , , , ,

Via M4.cn

An article on magazine Jinglue, cited by website M4.cn, details the thoughts of two parents, an American father and Chinese mother, of why they chose to emigrate to China for a Chinese-style education for their child. Below are some of their reasons alongside my commentary. NOTE: Of course I will be commenting based on anecdotal evidence (the same as the main article) and experiences can vary.

Why We Don’t Want Our Children to Go to School in the U.S.?


Collage of pictures from Gossip Girl, a popular U.S. TV drama portraying high school students.

Father of the child Kay:
26, American,  Bachelor’s in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science, Stanford University

“My biggest concern for Kay going to America schools is the American culture.”

There are three main reasons:

First, Anti-intellectualism is pervasive in American culture, most notably in the primary and secondary schools. Everyone wants to be the cool kids, who are characterized by a lack of interest in studying. If you love to study, people would think you are a nerd, would ridicule you and isolate you. The kid would bear too much negativity as she grows up, because she has to deal with too much disapproval from her peers.”

This is half true but really only occurs in elementary and partially into middle school, where every kid makes fun or every other kid at some point in the year. Children that young, for any reason that makes them different from another person, will often pick on someone else for being different while they grow and discover that difference isn’t so bad.  By the time you get to high school in the US system, no one thinks it is bad if you do well in school EXCEPT in poor socio-economic circles. In these circles, lack of parenting due to their condition is what causes this kind of mentality. As I will later touch on, most of the gripes are associated with the results of bad parenting instead of the education system (not that the US system doesn’t have faults for sure).

“Second, children in America are forced to confront the exposure of drugs and sex from a very early age. They have to learn how to resist, while they are under constant peer pressure that lures them to give it a try. This is in great interference with the child’s normal education.”

US high school

A typical U.S. high school classroom

While it is true children get exposure to these things, how is this not an issue everywhere else? Especially China, where there is no legal drinking age, where 1 out of 3 young males smoke, where abortions in high school aren’t uncommon, and where middle school children were caught engaging in sexual acts and condoms were found in their backpacks?  The only thing not so common is smoking marijuana due to China’s strong anti-drug laws. Personally, I would rather my child smoke marijuana than start smoking cigarettes due to the highly addictive nature of nicotine. But as a matter of things, almost all countries face this issue so it is unfair to say this is a reason why I don’t want my child to be schooled in the US. Furthermore, saying these things effect schooling really isn’t true. In my time I have seen people who have done all 4 things get extremely good grades as well as people who did none of these things and were almost failing. You can always be sure that children will try to push their boundaries and explore life’s avenues and it often comes down to parenting again to see how these things affect their child. Sometimes instilling your child with understanding can be more beneficial than restricting or sheltering them.

“Third, gender inequality prevails.Granted, there are gender inequality everywhere in the world, but it is particularly serious in American culture.I am particularly disgusted with the fact that American culture promotes girls to dress hot and slutty from an early age, making girls to grow up in a particularly bad social atmosphere.Take a look at a typical girl aged 13-14 in China: she would wear school uniform and thick glasse and look like a student.Girls at the same age in the U.S. seems to dislike their age. They wear make-ups and grown-up clothes. Which one do you think is more acceptable?S o which culture is more healthy at this particular stage of growth? Growing up in the U.S., if a girl is not good looking or find it difficult to assimilate to the environment, she would receive a tremendous amount of peer pressure, get marginalized, which in turn would be a great hinderance to her academic endeavor.”

Again I think this is a moot point because China is no saint in this regard either, Ministry of Tofu has posted numerous articles themselves about high school and even sometimes middle school girls offering sex or keep men company for money for clothes and other materialistic desires. In the Chinese net netizens are often lamenting about the superficiality of their culture now, just because schools require uniforms doesn’t hide any of that (and if you wanted you could attend a school in the US that requires uniforms as well). Gender inequality and sexuality are just as prevalent in China, just in a different and more subtle way than the US.  Also last time I checked not everyone was a beautiful model in US nor China, so while yes unattractive people do often receive unfair treatment due to their looks, there are more average and lower looking people than beautiful people.

china high school

A typical high school classroom in Chinese cities during break

Kay’s mother
26, Chinese, Bachelor of English Language and Literature, Peking University; Master of East Asian Literature, University of Southern California

“First, I hope my children will have wonderful school memories

I believe that my child will be happier growing up and receiving education in China than in the U.S. I worked as a teaching assistance for a few semesters at both University of California and Yale University. I taught many American college students when I was in graduate school. Throughout those years I have been inquring students that I was teaching [about their experience in education in the States]. Of course, those who get admitted to colleges of such caliber usually have good academic records. However, not a single one of them spoke of their high school memories with a pleasant or nostalgic sentiment. They all disliked their high school experience. By contrast, both my high school friends and have good memories on campus, despite the fact that we have graduated for years.We still cherish our time as a student after so many years.

I’ve been thinking all these years: what has contributed such great contrast?”

Purely anecdotal, I can cite just as many counter examples. I also find it contradictory talking about enjoyment when her following paragraphs talk about more homework and other things which would make a typical child more unhappy.

A recent trend in Chinese media is that they tend to claim how little homework is assigned at foreign grade school and elementary schools, that school usually finishes at 3pm every day, how happy the children are, which has become a major trend. Whether these statements are truthful are subject to debate.In fact, in the West, students from private schools (which usually hold a higher standard of education than public schools) also finish school at around 3pm. Afterwards, they would start taking a variety of extra-curricular classes typically till eight or night in at night. In such high quality schools, the higher the grade the student is in, the more pressure they receive. My husband remembers only being able to go to bed after 12am every night during the last year of his high school.

More importantly, sense of joy and happiness is a complex matter: less homework is not necessarily equal to more happiness.There are two factors that affecting happiness that are often overlooked. The first is a sense of accomplishment.If you look closely how a child puts on her shoes, or plays with legos, you would discover that humans, from a very early age, would take a natural form of pleasure from accomplishing tasks or reaching goals through his own effort.Sense of accomplishment is essential to the formation of a healthy personality.This begs the question: what exactly defines a sense of accomplishment?One important property is that its creation must goes through the process of putting in effort. Say a person is taking two exams on two different subjects. One exam is easy and would require no preparation to excel; the other exam requires a lot of effort in order to get a good result. The latter exam must leave a deeper impression for the exam taker.

china high school02

Chinese students doing eye exercises.

This, along with many of the other points just seems like a justification to put their child in a more stricter controlled environment. But one should also remember the more you try to clamp down and control, the more they may try to act out. She tries to talk about accomplishment and even cites examples of a child feeling accomplishments not related to school and then goes on to justify that is why she can be more strict for ‘school accomplishments’.

But you know what? Of the Chinese friends I talk to, they say their elementary and middle school years were difficult and extremely high pressure, they spent all their time preparing for the next exam or working on extracurricular activities deemed appropriately suitable such as playing an instrument. Even before they were teenagers they can recall studying until 10pm or later, only to wake up the next day and do it over again. That kind of environment where you always focus on the next exam, always study what you have to and what people tell you to lead to a lot of Chinese suffering from a ‘lack of creativity and innovation’, so much so that it has become a stereotype for Chinese in the global market. Hard workers? Surely. Low cost? Yep. Innovators? Nope. Which doesn’t have to be a negative depending on your stance, but it is something I don’t think was touched upon at all. Another thing not touched upon is suicide rates in Chinese schools are much higher due to academic pressures. How many suicides have resulted from the gaokao and bullying? There has even been at least 1 due to the school’s dress code.

In terms of hoping to avoid social issues like sex, drugs, and materialism, you will find these in both the US and China, so I don’t think avoiding them will work. Handling them is a different matter and all comes down to good parenting, and from the sound of these parents they should sound well equipped to handle it regardless. In terms of the quality of education, I can’t argue that China seems to be producing more skilled people (especially in fields like Engineering), BUT a US citizen with good parents can certainly achieve a great education as well. Nearly every school provides gifted courses for smart people (also known as advanced placement). and even be able to take college courses in high school and take an exam to transfer the credits to their college, so the curriculum is there, but when it comes down to, teachers cannot force students to work if they don’t want to, which once again comes down to socio-economic factors, but from the education of both the child’s parents, I really don’t see their child going to a school where this is a problem.

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13 comments to “"Why we don’t want our children to go to school in the U.S.?"”

  1. Gary | December 7, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    Yes, if they survive the school bus, cafeteria meals, air pollution, bullying teachers, stress over the college exam then your children educated in China will be better at mathematics when they graduate high school. Don’t ask them to invent anything or be able to think critically.

    • Sven Holler | December 7, 2011 | Permalink Reply

      Good point Gary. I really didn’t even touch on these points because I didn’t want to seem as being overly critical of China, but it is worth noting these other quality of life factors as well. Additional examples are not having to worry about tainted food like milk and meat, or pollution spills contaminating water supply.

    • w1 | December 8, 2011 | Permalink Reply

      critical thinking that evolution is a myth, among 35% of your presidential candidates? 25% drop out rate from high school?
      your thinking is not very critical.

    • Meee | December 18, 2011 | Permalink Reply

      This “better at maths” is bs. Every other day here in China, in a shop or restaurant I see Chinese taking out a calculator to add 10 and 5 RMB (literally!). Yesterday I got a 20% discount on a 25 RMB meal. The guy looked for the calculator, even though I had told him 5 times that it was 20, of course. Still, he had to check by using a calculator. Chinese are not good at math, I have not met one that I would consider good at math. but whatever, keep up the myth.

  2. w1 | December 10, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    and the Republican Party nominee for Vice President in the 2008 presidential election, Sarah Palin, did not know Africa is a continent but thought it was a nation.
    “critical thinking”, with out proper data input and storage, which requires discipline and hard work (like germination of a seed) at a very early age, is nothing but self glorifying ” fanciful imagination”.

  3. Wei | December 10, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    I don’t understand, why is early knowledge of sex, drug a bad thing? Their children will hate them when they grow up!

  4. FRENCHGUY | December 15, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    Finally there is little difference beetween American school system and Chinese one, both produce people who have very little abilities in sciences and foreign languages….

    80% chinese students who study sciences in France fail in their exams, mainly because they don’t know how to produce original Research Papers…

  5. Matthew A. Sawtell | December 20, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    Be interesting to really know where this couple lived in the U.S. – especially given the question of private versus public schools, given the degrees they have. As for the ‘culture’ bit… have to laugh at that one… read between the usual lines and it sounds like they were afraid of their neighbors more than anything.

  6. Greg | December 20, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    The father was born and raised in America, or is a Chinese immigrant? He seems not very familiar with either American or Chinese schools.

    If I had kids, China would be the last place I would want them to be educated. Aside from the absolutely lousy education one receives in China (rote learning, political indoctrination classes, no ability to question things, party line on history and social sciences, etc.), kids in China learn to lie, cheat, and steal in school — even at very good schools. Talk about anti-intellectualism? Chinese doctors (and more so the general public) believe in all manner of scientific and medical nonsense. They’re as bad as southern Americans with their ‘intelligent design’ silliness.

  7. carlos | December 29, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    You do realize m4.cn is a nationalist website affiliated with anti-CNN right? That’s like taking Stormfront seriously.

  8. Andre M. Smith | January 4, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    The mother has written that

    “Throughout those years I have been inquring [spelling!] students [syntax!]that I was teaching [about their experience in education in the States]. [What???] Of course, those who get admitted to colleges of such caliber usually have good academic records. However, not a single one of them spoke of their high school memories with a pleasant or nostalgic sentiment. They all disliked their high school experience. [Two senteces in succession stating the same idea. This disdain is not unusual, either in The US or China.] By contrast, both my high school friends and have good memories on campus, despite the fact that we have graduated for years. [What a beautiful sentence!] We still cherish our time as a student after so many years. [Two numerical discodrances in one sentence. Bravo!]

    Bachelor of English Language and Literature, Peking University; Master of East Asian Literature, University of Southern California. INDEED!

    Now I understand why the father may want his daughter to avoid an education in America.

    Nancy Friday, “My Mother/My Self: The Daughter’s Search for Identity”

  9. LOL | January 12, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    It’s nothing more than romanticizing a culture that is no longer. But it’s their kid, they can send her to the moon if they can afford to.

  10. Yangzhou Fried Rice | January 16, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    No question the American education system has its own flaws, but at least the majority of students aren’t miserable. Ask any high school or middle school student in China about their hobbies. Chances are they’ll say something along the lines of doing homework, studying, or sleeping. Heck, talk to a lot of parents and they’ll agree the Chinese education system is something they’d rather not submit their children to.

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