"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Catching up with China by Going the Other Way

Chief technocrat, Bill Gates, and his cronies at the Business Roundtable have been trying since February's "education summit" in Virginia to lay the blame for exported jobs and imported workers on the failure of American high schools. For the time being, anyway, it seems that even the US Congress has been able to see through that smokescreen, thus disposing of the Bush/McGraw-Hill plan for more testing in the high schools.

There is no shortage of high tech or low tech workers in America, but there is a shortage of will to pay them American wages, rather than Chinese wages. BR types, now in the driver's seat of the American psychometric-technological complex, would like to emulate the draconian drill-and-kill education system of China as a way to churn out a passive, non-questioning, and well-behaved work force willing to accept any job at any wage. (Is this a form of capitalism emulating a form of communism that is emulating capitalism)?

Well, it seems that we may, indeed, catch up with China in this mode of learn-it-til-it-hurts education, but it will happen as China passes us going in the opposite direction. In a piece today from Canada's The Tyee that attacks Canadian tendencies to emulate America's testocracy, Rikia Saddy reports that

China's education system is currently undergoing the most massive transformation of any country in the world. China's leaders have come to see that a system that turns out students who can't think for themselves isn't going to help their quest to become a global economic power. In response, they're replacing the old system, dependent on rote memorization, with a new focus on communication skills, critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity.

In less than a generation, China could be turning out the brightest, most original thinkers on the globe. With 200 million students and 12 million teachers leading the way, you can be sure that other countries are paying attention.

It seems that the world may not be flat after all, as Republican middle-brow apologist Tom Friedman would have us think. It may, indeed, be filled with peaks and valleys that rise and fall as the great cultural plates of peoples shift. One can only hope that America is not drowned in its own self-imposed soup bowl of toxic testing before someone can re-start the pumps or turn off the spigots.

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