In “Be Glad for Our Failure to Catch Up with China in Education” (Psychology Today, 28 May 2013), Peter Gray Ph.D. writes:
In addressing the question of why the US system has produced better real-world results than the Chinese system, Zhao writes, “The short answer is that American education has not been as good as the Chinese at killing creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit. In the most fundamental ways, American education operates under the same paradigm as the Chinese. … In a nutshell, both American education and Chinese education are designed to turn a group of children into products with similar specifications indicated by how much they have mastered the curriculum, that is, what the adult decides they should know and be able to do, regardless of their backgrounds, interests, and differences.” [1, p 134-135]
Zhao goes on to explain that the advantage of the American system is that it fails to do very well what it wants to do; it fails to bring American kids into line. His analogy is that the American system is like a sausage machine that isn’t very good at making sausages, so sometimes it spits out things quite unlike sausages.
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What do you think about this article?
I agree with most of the article.
But I totally disagree with the solution of the author: to let students be free to pursue whatever they want. Children do not know what they need to know as an adult. They don’t know a lot of things; they are like visitors from a different planet, trying to figure out how things work here on earth. They need guidance from the residents of the earth, from those who have experienced and mastered its demands and requirements: adults.
Both America and China need an improved educational system based on the nature of man, not on Platonic or Kantian fantasies. We do not need to have an educational system that teaches memorization, does not explain much of anything, treats ideas as divorced from reality, treats experience as a “handmaiden” to abstractions and principles. We need an educational system that teaches only what it can conclude inductively from the evidence of the senses, that integrates knowledge, that memorizes chains of reasoning for the purpose of having students know what they are talking about and of making reasoning second-nature, that takes the practice of adult life as a human being seriously.