Contrasting German and Chinese education systems

20th July 2018

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Books of the week

This week, we compared two books that discuss raising US-born children in non-US educational systems.  

  • Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve, by Lenore Chu. It’s very easy to fall into a pattern of thinking that making your child happy is—and should be—the theme of all education.  Chu’s remarkable book explores an educational system that is in many ways the exact opposite of that espoused by Westerners. As it turns out, when “happiness” is not necessarily a factor, sometimes kids, and parents, seem to end up happier.  It’s fascinating to read about the obviously negative (from a Western perspective) effects of the Chinese education system on Chu’s son, but how Chu’s open-minded understanding allows her to persevere and see the benefits of this very different system. We also deeply appreciated Chu’s visits to the Chinese countryside, to obtain a fuller account of what is going on “on the ground” in the Chinese educational system. This is one of the best and most thoughtful books we’ve read on education in a long time—highly recommended.
  • Achtung Baby: An American Mom on the German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children, by Sara Zaske. Zaske’s book keeps a positive focus on the many positives (from a US perspective) of the German schooling system. This means there’s less willingness to peer under the rug at the mixed positives and negatives than Lenore Chu’s Little Soldiers. At the same time, Zaske’s book is a terrific one to read in tandem with Little Soldiers, because it shows how a system that is different in many significant ways from the Chinese system can have its own benefits.  

We found Zaske’s discussion of the problems with “attachment style parenting” to be particularly interesting.  As Zaske points out, efforts to be a close parent who maintains a strong bond with a toddler may have the inadvertent effect of creating a type of dependency—not to mention making for many sleepless nights.  Fascinating insights into the differences between US and German parenting cultures, including the German focus on fostering independence, increasing appreciation for the open air, and taking necessary risks.

Barb in an open-to-everyone free lecture at the University of California, San Diego

Barb will be giving a lecture on Learning How to Learn at 9:00 am on August 4th at the Goldberg Auditorium, Moore’s Cancer Center, UC San Diego Health Science Campus, 3855 Health Sciences Drive, La Jolla, CA, 92037. Her lecture will include many new animations and insights related to her and Terry’s upcoming book, Learning How to Learn: How to Succeed in School Without Spending All Your Time Studying; A Guide for Kids and Teens. Even if you’re an adult, you’ll gain new insights, going beyond even what you’ve learned in the MOOC. If you’re near San Diego, come—Barb would love to meet you. (If your children are mature enough to be well-behaved in a crowd, bring them, too!)

Study finds that teens glued to phones may risk a ‘modest’ rise in ADHD symptoms

This interesting article describes research findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggesting that “excessive phone use could be linked to to a ‘modest’ but significant rise in symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).” The results were based on “nearly 2,600 Los Angeles teens who answered survey questions over a two-year period—making it one of the largest and longest studies on the topic to date.”

Barb’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on women in STEM

Barb’s well-received op-ed in the Wall Street Journal has stirred people’s opinions from all ends of the spectrum.  If you don’t have a subscription to the Wall Street Journal, here is a version of the article with some of the key grafs, and that also gives you the ability to comment.The Complete Guide to Building Your focus

This article by one of our favorite writers on learning, Scott Young, lays out virtually everything you need to know about maintaining your focus.  The article is a not-to-be-missed classic if your work requires any kind of focus.

Helping Kids with Math

We’ve heard good things about a program called Beast Academy, for aspiring “Math Beasts” in grades 2-5.  There’s a series of books, and also a new interactive learning experience under development that has an adaptive review system that provides extra practice as needed.  If you’re looking for additional practice materials for your child, or if you’re homeschooling, you may wish to check this system out.

Keeping Online Courses Fresh: Valuable, but Costly

This well-researched article by Mark Lieberman in Inside Higher Ed (featuring insights from our friend Mary Niemiec, associate vice president for distance education at the University of Nebraska), describes the sometimes unanticipated costs of keeping online coursework up-to-date, as well as the how investment and quality of the learning experience intertwine.

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team

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