Nov 2, 2009

In the context of pressure put on young Chinese students by their parents at Gunn High School in Palo Alto, a teacher in another school, a small private school on the peninsula, told me these anecdotes from a teacher-parent conference. The teacher is not Chinese; the parents are.

The mother of a 7th grade boy was upset that the teacher had given students this weekend assignment: prepare for a quiz on Monday. "You need to give us two weeks notice for any kinds of test so we can prepare," said the mother. "We need to calculate the number of minutes required to study each day."

The parent of another 7th grade student said, "You want my son to learn how to read 'for fun?' We don't believe in that. Reading is not for fun."

In fact, there is no character in Mandarin that quite connotes, 'fun'.

The mother of a boy in this same class takes her child once a month to a psychiatrist, who charges $250/hr. The psychiatrist claims the child has issues and prescribes various medications.

The teacher disagrees. "There's nothing wrong with the boy. He's fine. He just likes to move around a lot. He has relentless energy. The problem is that he's told he's got a problem. His mother is always telling me, 'there is something wrong with him, you just can't see it.' It's heart breaking to see a child in effect brain-washed into thinking he's ill when he's not. And heart- breaking to see a child who is gifted and smart put under great pressure to appear in a certain way, to display the same kind of academic prowess as other children. This boy has great potential but he's not going to reach it in a conventional way. This is what drives me crazy: this mother, who is very smart, will not acknowledge any way that is not conventional."

And finally a revelation from the Chinese principal of still another school on the peninsula. She noted recently, "I see all these Chinese parents doing this to their children, putting them under so much pressure to succeed. I think it's stupid. I can't even talk to them. They don't understand anything about education... But I am doing the same thing to my daughter. I know it's wrong and hypocritical but I can't help myself."

1 comment:

Anjuli said...

It is after all the 'Chinese' way :)- I should know, I'm married to a Chinese.

My eldest daughter grew up thinking- "You can't have two days of fun in a row- after all,when will you have time to study and work hard."

But she thanks her father because she sees that she and her siblings are thriving in society when many of their peers are still 'trying to figure out who they are'

My daughters say thanks to me, they did enjoy a bit of life WHILE they learned to study and work hard.