Having published on the zhongkao and with Hu Jintao’s visit to the US, my father and I have been discussing education. Here is an excerpt from the dialogue.
Dad: China is in the news as Hu Jintao bops around the states. Since China is our banker, he is being received with open arms. Send more money please Mr. Banker! The news has also been focusing on education, and naturally we (US) suck in comparison. We are now 17th in the world and falling. South East Asia is leading the pack and putting distance between themselves and the US. Due to failing state budgets, (we are in tough economic times), we will be laying off at least 25% of our teachers! Unlike the federal govt., states are required to balance their budgets. In Moore County this means 600 teachers. No school district in the state [North Carolina] is hiring. Who would have thunk?
MA: As for education, I’m not sure we can talk about ahead and behind when both systems reproduce conditions of inequality. Both systems need not only to produce underpaid workers, but also “acceptable” reasons to legitimate inequality. Clearly, the US system is getting really good at it; can’t do math go into service. China is also very good at it, when you keep in mind that they have five times our population; can’t pass the zhongkao go to a factory; can’t pass the gaokao be an underpaid clerk. Consequently, in China the cream that is rising is proportionately much, much smaller than in the US. So maybe what’s actually happening is that China is setting what Marx would have called “acceptable living wage” for the world. Importantly, the acceptable living wage in China is much lower than in the US, so our wages are shrinking because we need to lower our national acceptable living wage in order to compete globally. I think at Harvard business, the unsinkable call this “economic adjustment” and then go out for a Michelin starred meal.
Please join the conversation. How we educate is the expression of why we teach children; clearly, all of us everywhere need fresh inspiration.