Jiang Xueqin, deputy principle of Peiking University High School (think Harvard High), cites David Brooks a lot in an attempt to criticize the Chinese education system for stifling emotion and therefore condemning Chinese students to be uncreative


This hits pretty close to home right now since one of my teachers is an intense iconoclast when it comes to contemporary Chinese pedagogy and our class theme tomorrow is “另类“ educational techniques.  There’s a lot going on here (and a lot a lot of David Brooks), and despite my vague suspicions toward the type of pop-social science cited here, I want to linger on the question of emotion’s role in learning.  I really can’t speak for education in China (yet!) or even for all of America, but I can say that the unwillingness of professional educators to allow emotion into the classroom is not just a Chinese characteristic.  It’s a characteristic of an insecure or threatened educator, and it happens in America, too.  Often.  At my current university, even.  Is that worth pointing out in this context?  Maybe, maybe not, but the point is, as it so often is, that the things people and particularly Chinese people object to about China are not necessarily specific only to China.  This is one of those weird perspective warps that comes as a result of some Chinese writers’ self-obsession that earlier scholars like C.T. Hsia spent a long time pointing out, or another way of conversely investing in Chineseness through criticism as Tsu Jing has argued, and it’s one of the downsides of navel-gazing or even navel cross-referencing.  

To take the navel-gazing metaphor five steps too far: Jiang Xueqin’s son may have belly button lint, and he may be worse at cleaning it out than, say, David Brooks because Brooks has a whole bunch of q-tips.  And Jiang has the right to want to have q-tips to give to his son if he wants them.  But!  David Brooks’  son might have even more belly button lint AND access to q-tips, just no desire to use them.  Brooks’ dirty son, however, has no way of showing up on Jiang’s radar since Jiang is spend all his time dolorously categorizing the color and material of each microfiber of as-yet unexcavated lint and deciding that the problem must be with his belly button in particular.  Now, maybe he’s on to something; maybe in Jiang’s case these problems (in this case, unemotional education i.e. belly button lint) are more systemic.  Maybe Jiang and his son both have super-duper innies and Brooks is sporting a convenient and hygenic (but weird) outie.  Regardless, I’m less inclined to believe that having belly button lint is the consequence of having a Jiang-like belly button rather than a natural, common hazard of belly button ownership in general.  So basically in conclusion what I am saying is buy q-tips, use them, and then cry in class because David Brooks and that other more official sounding guy say it will make you smarter.  Also, check out some of the crazy stuff going on over at NeochaEDGE or at my pal Josh’s pangbianr before deciding that China’s educational system has not produced creative minds, I mean come on.

[EDIT:] Okay, I also can’t help but respond to the first graf:

Nowadays people may admire China’s economy, but not Chinese creativity. Chinese architecture and art, music and movies are derivative, and many a Chinese enterprise is merely a carbon copy of an American one.

Okay, yeah, but again: The NYTimes arts & leisure section can’t get its head out of Chinese architecture’s butt, and Jiang, have you listened to American pop music recently?  Look what just happened to dub-step!  How is that not just as awful and derivative?  And don’t even get me started on contemporary American movies.  Mediocrity is mediocrity everywhere; we all have belly button lint.  Q-tips 万岁!

  1. dearmeiguo posted this