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Tough Love: An Education

All day today I have been thinking about a video I watched yesterday called Tough Love: An Education about what school is like in Hong Kong.  If you ever have an extra twenty five minutes to spare, take a look.  (Incidentally it is the first time in my life I have clicked on the Aljazeera website.)  “Tough Love” shows a detailed look at how the Chinese educational system in Hong Kong is intense, exacting, and producing a generation of students that is already crushing American students competitively on just about every test you can name.  As a parent and teacher, I am taking notice and afraid.

Typically, the American retort to situations like this is that the Asian educational system relies too much on rote learning and memorization, and not enough of critical thinking, problem solving, and imagination.  The argument follows that even though our students are failing on standardized tests, the American educational systems is going to crank out the creators and innovators of the future.  I think it is time for all of us American hopefuls to reconsider this notion.  In fact, the Hong Kong educational system is adapting and modifying to incorporate critical thinking and creativity as we speak.  When you combine this with hard-core study skills and dedication found in China, all of us Americans should be shanking in our boots.

As a parent, I have always tried to be careful not to push my children too hard academically.  Anyone who takes a cursory look at my blog might not believe that, but really… I strive to advance my children’s learning through fun and engaging activities.  I am not the parent that wakes her son up at 5:30 AM to start studying, but I am the mom who insists her six year old completes two pages of math each day before playing the computer during the summer.

But after watching “Tough Love” I am reconsidering my own Afterschooling intensity level.  There is not much I can do about the rest of America’s youth that is rotting their brains away watching the Disney Channel right now or playing Xbox, but I can make sure that my own children are prepared to compete with the Chinese workforce of the future.  I am still committed to fun, child-centered learning, but I think I need to up the ante with the STEM subjects.  For those of you who aren’t fluent in teacher-speak, STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.  Prepare yourself for a lot of blog posts about science in the near future!


  1. Claire H. says:

    Have you heard of the documentary Two Million Minutes? The title refers to the difference in time spent doing homework between the typical American high school student and the typical one in India. I haven’t gotten a chance to watch it yet, but I’ve been told it’s really eye-opening.

  2. jengod says:

    Haha, I was JUST coming here to mention Two Million Minutes.
    Here’s part one of Two Million Minutes on YouTube, the second half is on there as well.

    Also, I am no Tiger Mom, but I actually liked several aspects of that book, and that (and my experience growing up with a lot of Asian friends in L.A., plus doing Kumon for a while in high school) gave me a confidence I would not have had otherwise to be much more demanding and rigorous with my child than is common or socially acceptable amongst most of our parenting peers.

    This is interesting as well:

    The New White Flight

    In Silicon Valley, two high schools with outstanding academic reputations are losing white students as Asian students move in. Why?


    • jenbrdsly says:

      The link you sent was for the discussion after the screening right? Another clip I have now seen is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eZi-eXDw54&feature=related

      I think one of the most interesting things is when the panelist says that American parents have lost the quality of being ambitious for their children. That is so sad but true!

      The white flight from high achieving public schools populated by Asian Americans in Cupertino is really bizarre. I’m remembering that there is a private French Immersion school in Cupertino. I wonder if that is one of the schools they are leaving for.

  3. jengod says:

    P.S. Also, don’t panic: Everything is going to be OK.

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