In which Master Yoda goes to China

Are you testing me Master Jedi?

Dr. J. is still playing catch up on topics he’s wanted to talk about. Last Friday, the New Atlantis Jedi Academy had a Dad’s Coffee. The Jedi Academy has a few of these every year, some are open houses to allow prospective dads to speak to current fathers at the school, others are lectures on topics relevant to school or parent life. Later this month there’s a dads outing to see the Hobbit with our kids. 

On Friday, Master Yoda spoke to the group about his trip to China this summer. Master Yoda is a visionary leader of the New Atlantis Jedi Academy. His goal is to prepare these younglings to not only be ready for the challenges at the next level (secondary preparatory education followed by college) but to be leaders there and in the world beyond school. Consequently, much hay is made about the fact that the United States is ranked much lower in education compared to its peer nations around the world. Master Yoda went to China to see how their educational sausage is made in hopes that he would be returning with 47 new ideas that he would attempt to integrate into the Jedi curriculum so as to prepare the children for the changing world they are growing up in. 
After coughing up a lung due to the horrible pollution in Bejing, he noted that Chinese culture is vastly different than in the United States. There is no sense of personal space. If one leaves too much space between himself and the person in front of him (say, waiting for a bus), folks will just cut in front of him. In addition, there is less of a sense of self that is replaced with a sense of nationalism, that the needs of China are greater than the needs of the individual (which comes into play later).
There school structure is different too. There is nothing before first grade. No kindergarten, no preschool, no Head Start™, no nuthin’. But when a child has two parents and four grandparents all to himself, he’s getting his own head start so to speak. 
Kids then go to a local public 1-6th grade school. They take an exam to determine if they stay in the local middle school, and have a workers lot in life, or if they go to a key middle school, which is what is hoped for by the parents for their children. Athletes are separated early as well. the child makes it to a key middle school, they take another exam in 9th grade for high school. If they pass they go to an academic high school (HS), if they fail, they go to the local HS, with no opportunity for a bright future. The academic HS kids take an exam, like our SAT and are offered admission to a first tier, second tier or third tier university following HS. 
Here, Master Yoda prepares the next generation to anticipate things before they happen.
School is in session 5 days a week with Saturday supplementation. School days are longer 7AM-6PM. There are 30 minutes of calisthenics twice a week. No fine arts, no recess. There is a 4-6 week summer break. Middle and high school has a 5d-7d boarding component. Especially the preparatory tracks. They have two math classes, they take physics, biology, and chemistry each year 7-12. 
The student teacher ratio is 70:1 and the kids frickin’ behave. They are silently working, and participating when called upon. They are remarkably attentive. No lil disruptive fuck-nuts making things difficult for the rest of the class. They’re all there to learn. 
In these exams, kids are tested against a standard score, not against each other. Despite this, or because of this. Master Yoda lost something in translation. There is some element of cheating on these exams. 
Now while any failed exam in Japan would result in Hari Kiri, and in the US, a great deal of shame generated by the parents, in China there is a more fatalistic sense. “That’s ok you tanked your exam, Chin Po, China has need of a noodle cart operator her in Xian, we will make sure you are fully prepared for that role.” The overwhelming number of Chinese are fine with this arrangement.
As China has a growing affluent community, those parents aren’t satisfied with a noodle cart or factory job for their precious snowflake. For them, education in the US and Europe are an option. The state doesn’t pay for it, so they must fork over for it. And those with means will if their children don’t make the cut in China. 
So there was a lot that Master Yoda learned regarding what not to do. The tests that we score poorly on represent a broad sample of American students. In China, the students represent the Key Middle and Academic HS population. So it is enriched for the scholarly. The academic detritus is excluded.  Larger class sizes don’t work culturally over here, unless starts permitting his teachers to unleash force lightning on the kids. It certainly won’t work well in public schools. It does permit tremendous economies of scale not seen in the US. High stakes testing is a motivator here but the stakes of the Independent School Entrance Exam, SAT, ACT aren’t as high as they are across the Pacific because there are plenty of slots for kids who shouldn’t go to college to go to a low tier college on the public dime (lottery money, etc…). MCAT and LSAT tests have higher stakes. These students aren’t creative thinkers either. They aren’t problem solvers. If you ask them to reverse engineer something, they’re your guy. But if you want critical thinking skills, we have these guys licked. 
So what did Master Yoda like. He liked extra hours and is looking to incorporate some solid educational opportunities after school hours. He liked the idea of grouping by ability in the older grades. There is no reason NOT to track kids of like ability with each other rather than have 3 classes with the same ‘least common denominator’ causing academic drag. Again this is more relevant in public schools but is not irrelevant in independent schools where there are kids of varied ability. 
His last take home from his trip was that there is a differing view, in his eyes, in modern America, Europe (old and new) and China with regard to how one becomes successful.
In Europe from time immemorial to this day, your circumstances of birth and societal standing, more than anything else determines your lot in life. While there has always been efforts to change that, they’ve always failed whether it be under the boot of aristocrats or self-appointed progressive elites.
In the United States, originally with the early 20th century Progressives and their academic descendants, taking their cues from European cultural elites, began poisoning the offspring of the Greatest Generation in the 1960s and onward. There has been an eschewing of the notion that hard work will bring you success, and that success is brought on by luck. While Dr. J., Master Yoda and every father in that room reject this notion, our politicians, especially Alinskyites like President Obama, attribute the fruits of hard work to luck, rather than legitimate hard work in order to foment discord in the helpless and hopeless so that they will cry out to the Government for help rather than rely on hard work, will power and gumption to make successes out of themselves by following their muse. That and the degradation of the family is probably why the public schools in our rougher neighborhoods are typically wretched. If a kid thinks success is lucked based, he, unlike the silent generation and the greatest generation, he is less likely to see hard work as his way out, and sitting on his laurels waiting for luck seems the best strategy. Our celebrity culture (where luck legitimately plays a role) also further rots us from within, as they are examples of the lucky successes. What the hell did many of them do, seriously.
The Chinese, however don’t have time for this hogwash. Six-thousand years of recorded history, they know that hard work and investment bring about success. While they are currently an unfree totalitarian, top down, one party state, they still want the best of their people to rise to the top and their less abled people to have roles where they can make real contribution rather than be a drag on the economy and society. Seriously, even Mustapha Mond knew someone had to run the noodle truck in Xian. 
That’s the other lesson to take away. Respect and appreciate hard work. Whether its Bob, the guy who empties your trash can in your corner office, or Sally who waits tables at your favorite meat-and-three, and Rose, the shop-girl who sells you perfume for your wife’s birthday. Each job someone has is an integral part of our economy. Without them, you’d be fixing your own lunch and taking your trash to a dumpster down the hall and cobbling together a bead necklace in your garage. And consequently, you aren’t working to your potential either.

About Dr. J.

Dr. J. was born the son of a New Atlantean sharecropper who cornered the market on notoriously delicious seaweed Himanthalia elongata (popularly known as Thongweed). With his newly minted seaweed fortune, Mr. J. the Elder sent his son to attend the Academy of Sorcery, Alchemy and Surgery where the good doctor apprenticed with the finest sorcerer surgeons in New Atlantis. Dr. J.'s areas of expertise grew to include bleeding, cutting for stone, trephination, medical divination with outstanding spatial and temporal resolution, cybernetic sorcery and medicinal alchemy. When King Orin of Atlantis fell ill with the Ick, Dr. J. stepped in with an elixir he devised from a combination of minerals, herbs and saps. Curing the king, Dr. J. gained significant notoriety which afforded him the luxury of time to devote himself to his side hobbies which include porpoise racing, the study of supply-side economics, cooking and raising his lovely merchildren alongside his lovely bride the archconservative Mrs. Dr. J.