Going to School with Dad on My Back – Part 3/3

December 27, 2011

Many poor Chinese parents, as Going to School with Dad on My Back (1998) depicts, did not always have enough income to send their child or all of their children to school. Contrary to popular belief outside of China, in many villages parents are allowed to have more than one child [Note: see The Controversy, Complexity and Reality behind China's One-Child Policy].

In the film, the widowed father spins a water bottle to decide which of his two children will go to school.  When the bottle comes to rest, the handle points to his seven-year-old son Shiwa instead of the older sister.

Thus, Shiwa wins the opportunity to earn an education due to the spin of a bottle.  He then starts the long daily walk to school and his sister remains behind, toiling in the fields. Eventually a marriage is arranged for her. The roads Shiwa walks are made of dirt and he has to wade across a river to reach the village where the school is located.

Unlike most Chinese films imported to the West that focus on kung fu, this movie shows the story of a young boy’s life in a poor village in rural China much as it remains today in much of rural China.

It’s no secret that I taught in California’s public schools in the United States for thirty years. In China, the children of poor immigrants leap at the chance to earn an education and work their way out of poverty.

However, as I can testify, in the US, most children from poor families do the worst academically. The difference is one of philosophy.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says, “A hallmark of Confucius’ thought is his emphasis on education and study,” something missing in Western philosophy.

In fact, I heard many American parents tell their children that if they didn’t like what I was teaching, they didn’t have to cooperate.

In the movie, the father places his hopes and dreams on the shoulders of his young son in this true story of family sacrifice and a father’s love.

This movie not only provides its audience with a close-up look at rural China but also how Confucianism works in the family.  I’m not going to give away the ending but I will say this much—what Shiwa does at the end of the movie demonstrates how much of an influence Confucius has on the Chinese family and the why/how of children showing love and respect to their parents.

You may be able to download the full film at Typepad.com. Other movies that I have reviewed that depict the value of an education in China are Not One Less and Mao’s Last Dancer

Return to Going to School with Dad on My Back – Part 2 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Going to School with Dad on My Back – Part 2/3

December 26, 2011

No country has built a world class, modern educational system over night, as you shall learn in this post.

Based on a true story, Going to School with Dad on My Back (1998) is an excellent film that accurately portrays the difficulties many children from poor families in rural areas of China experience to earn a meaningful education.

Most Americans do not realize that partly subsidized private schools in China, both in urban and rural areas, were not always free. Parents needed to pay a fee for their children to attend school as the father does for his son in the 1998 film.

However, China’s education system is evolving as public education evolved in the United States.

For example, secondary schooling in the United States started as an essentially elite pursuit, with a mere 2 percent of the population acquiring the equivalent of a high school education in 1870, the earliest year for which data are available.

Then from 1900 to 1996, the percentage of teenagers that graduated from high school in the US increased from about 6 percent to almost 69 percent today [the highest US high school graduation rate was 77% in 1969], which demonstrates that public education in the US evolved and is still evolving as it is in China. Source: EdWeek.org

In the movie, which was released in 1998, the father had to pay a fee for his son to attend the closest rural elementary school.  Today, paying a fee to attend school may not be the case. Starting in 2010, China implemented serious legislation to prevent any attempts by schools [private or public] to collect illegal charges. Source: Xinhuanet.com

Xiong Bingqi, the deputy director of a Beijing-based private non-profit organization on educational policy, noted that enhancing the quality of compulsory education would help put an end to charging school enrollment fees.

The University of Michigan says China’s “Compulsory Education law took effect in 1986 and made requirements and deadlines for the public to receive a free education. The law guaranteed school-age children the right to receive a nine-year education—six years of primary education, and three years of secondary education.

However, there are fully subsidized schools in China and partly subsidized schools, which means parents may be asked to pay a tuition fee and other fees [regardless of the law] required by the private schools that are partially subsidized. The partially subsidized private schools are an attempt by China’s government to increase literacy.

Continued on December 21, 2011 in Going to School with Dad on My Back – Part 3 or return to Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Going to School with Dad on My Back – Part 1/3

December 25, 2011

This post started out as a movie review and a recommendation of Going to School with Dad on My Back (1998), but recent criticism on the Internet and in the media of China’s central government giving twenty-three 35-seat school busses to “tiny Macedonia”—in addition to a school bus accident in China—added a twist to this series of three posts.

In the UK, the Guardian left out crucial information from an Associated Press news release of the accident and focused on the 500,000 comments posted on China’s popular Twitter-like micro-blog Monday criticizing the donation “given the poor quality school buses many Chinese children ride in”.

Yahoo News also used the AP news release and mentioned the 500,000 complaints and then pointed out the deaths of 19 Chinese preschoolers in an unrelated school bus crash two weeks earlier in addition to another bus crash in rural China where a bus rolled over injuring students.

It’s what these two Western media sources do not say that may mislead people’s opinions astray.

Since I have learned that much of what we hear of China in the west often doesn’t tell half the story, I turned to the People’s Daily to discover “Parents of students at the [private] kindergarten said school bus overloading has been a problem for years, despite repeated complaints.”

The school bus that crashed belonged to a private school that had removed most of the seats and safety gear to make room for more kids—I imagine the resulting school bus was sort of like the cattle trucks I was transported in when I served in the United States Marines in the late 1960s, where there was standing room only and no safety gear.

The People’s Daily also reported the owner of the private school had been arrested and would be tried in court for what he/she had done to cut corners and boost profits.

In addition, last year we learn from the “China Daily” that it is not the lack of a standard for school busses in China, but “the rampant use of illegal vehicles” like the van involved in the crash.

In fact, accidents happen to school busses in America too and the laws and safety equipment found in US school busses are because of those early accidents.

For example, the private school bus crash in China that killed preschool children occurred nearly five years to the day of the Nov. 20, 2006 school bus crash in Huntsville, Alabama that killed five high school students after the vehicle plunged off a freeway overpass.

This brings me back to the movie, Going to School with Dad on My Back (1998).

Continued on December 20, 2011 in Going to School with Dad on My Back – Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Eating Bitterness

January 15, 2011

Mainland Chinese are different. They are willing to eat more bitterness than others to learn.

The reason I’m writing this post is due to Amy Chua’s Essay in The Wall Street Journal and a response from Funny Little World where Nang Ngot wrote in a comment, “You can have a system like China that churns out smart but obedient drones. There, the collective behavior guides the intellect.”

Mainland Chinese are not obedient drones any more than all Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists or Hindus are obedient drones within their cultures.

Within every culture, each person is an individual. In China, the difference is how the individuals see themselves in relation to the whole. That does not make them drones.

There’s even an ancient Chinese saying that supports being disobedient, which explains why the central government in Beijing is having so much trouble with corruption at the local level. “The emperor lives behind high walls and is a long ways from our village.”

In simple language this means, “What the emperor doesn’t know won’t hurt us.”

Where Jews and Christians have the Bible and Islam has the Quran, the Chinese have a culture governed by a mixture of Confucianism, Taoism and in part by Buddhism.

The Chinese do not need a temple, church or mosque to tell them what to believe and how to act.

Although there is no Confucian bible, the basic guide that Confucius left behind is as significant as the Ten Commandments, the Bible and the Quran.

In Chinese culture, those guidelines were designed for living a moral life and the family teaches the children as the child grows into an adult.

The Chinese family has done this for thousands of years until it became part of the culture, as Christianity is to the West and Islam is to the Middle East.

Stanford.edu says, “A hallmark of Confucius’ thought is his emphasis on education and study.”

Nicholas D. Kristof, writing for the New York Times, says, “Perhaps as a legacy of Confucianism, its citizens have shown a passion for education and self-improvement — along with remarkable capacity for discipline and hard work, what the Chinese call “chi ku,” or “eating bitterness”.

Kristof  is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard College and then studied law at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship, graduating with first class honors. He later studied Arabic in Cairo and Chinese in Taipei.

Kristof writes, “China used to be one of the most sexist societies in the world — with female infanticide, foot binding, and concubinage — but it turned a corner (in 1949 when Mao said women hold up half the sky) and now is remarkably good at giving opportunities to girls as well as boys….”

At China Education Center.com, I learned that many scholars believe the history of education in China started in the 16th century B.C., and Confucianism has had the largest impact on education for more than two thousand years of Chinese history.

In fact, during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 219 AD) a form of public education was established. Not only for the elite but also for the common man so both would become better gentlemen.

In contrast, it wasn’t until 1918 that all states in the US had laws requiring children to attend at least elementary school. In 1900, only 6% of children graduated from high school. By 1996, 85% were graduating from high school.

Compared to China, the importance of earning an education in the United States is relatively new and doesn’t have as strong of a cultural component.

Discover more on this topic at Mean Chinese Supermoms are Right while Positive Self-Esteemism is Wrong

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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