Posts Tagged ‘education’

The Future – It is ALL about Education

December 24, 2012

My recent trip to Taiwan was an eye-opener. Ever been to Taiwan? No? Well, you should go! There are two passions obvious in Taiwan that I don’t see here in the US to nearly the same degree:

  1. Children – children are everything in this society. Children are the future. Children are every parent’s future – after all, when the parents are retired and in their old age, they will be living with one of their children, and the more successful those children are, the more comfortable the parents will be in their old age!
  2. Money – after the child, money is everything in this society. If you aren’t earning money, you are wasting your time. If you aren’t making as much money as your neighbor, well, you must be doing something wrong. In two generations, Taiwan has progressed from 3rd-world to 1st-world, and money is the most tangible element of comparative success. Money – Money – Money…

Getting there… It is a long flight… Take EVA Air across the ocean. EVA Air is an excellent airline with high standards.

Getting around… Taiwan’s mass transit is efficient – the bus, subway, MRT train, HSR high speed rail. Where ever you go, it is inexpensive and efficient. Signs and ticketing systems are in Chinese and English. Most signs throughout the country are in Chinese and English. You’ll have no problem getting around. GO – have a good time there!

EDUCATION

In Taiwan, every school ranks students in every subject. Go to a school, and you will find the student rankings on a bulletin board somewhere near the main entrance. Parents cluster around these lists looking for their children to be near the top of the list.

During the top grade of every public school, a National standardized test ranks students nationwide. Coming out of Middle school, this ranking determines which high school you can attend, and every parent hopes for the best high school for their child. Coming out of high school, and the next National test ranking determines which college you can get into. And again, every parent hopes – and hopes – for the best college for their child. The better the school, the better the job, and the more money. It is ALL about education!

We had dinner with a number of friends while in Taiwan. The children came to dinner with school books in hand, and they studied seriously while we ate and talked among ourselves. When a child asked for help, conversation stopped until the child’s question was answered and they were back studying.

As this post title says, it is all about education in Taiwan. It was clear as a bell. Walk out on the street in any large city, and you will see test prep centers on many street corners: “CRAM” Center, Math Skills Institute, Tutor Center, English Coach, etc. Taipei had an entire street dedicated to test prep centers near the central train station. Schooling is a national industry in Taiwan. EVA Airlines even owns a franchise of test prep schools.

Where were we taken by our friends when they showed us around? Their best local schools and universities were among the destinations. The schools and universities were busy on every Saturday with extra classes and competitions.

What favor was I asked at dinner? “Could you help my child with his English?” “Sure,” I said. I was glad to.

There are 165 universities in Taiwan at last count.

It is ALL about education in Taiwan, because education is the key to a good future with security and prosperity and some prestige. Education is The common thread for children and money – those two passions I mentioned above.

Compared to the commitment to education in the US where budgets are being slashed, hours are being cut back, school years shortened, activities are being cancelled, children are tuned out by parents who decline to help with homework, entertainment (TV and video games) takes precedence over homework, and critical thinking is all but missing not only at school but also at home, Taiwan is leagues ahead. I would place my bets for the future on Taiwan and not the US.

The Future – It is ALL about Education! We can look to Taiwan for a success story with a few take-aways for us to learn from here in the US. Parents – you can do much, much more to participate in your child’s education.

A Conversation about the Weather

October 11, 2012

I pulled up to a table at a local Starbucks – I shared a largish table with a stranger who kindly offered to share in the completely full Starbucks with a sea of laptops adjacent to empty coffee cups… I was glad to share this fellow’s table, and he was happy to strike up a conversation about the weather.

“Strange weather out,” he said.

“Yup,” I replied.  “The western storm system is pushing moisture into our region of the country, and a cold front is whizzing through the plains right into Texas.  Strange weather,,,”

“This isn’t global warming, though. That’s nonsense,” he said. “This is just strange weather.”

“You think that global warming is nonsense,” I asked?

“Yes, of course it is,” He said. “Just a conspiracy for someone to get rich off of carbon taxes. Just an excuse to justify more and more Government regulation. People don’t understand that we have bastards all around us who want power and money. They can all go to hell for all I care.”

“Sometime it does seem that we are surrounded by greedy, power hungry people who want all my money – and yours, too.” I retorted.

I am smiling on the inside. I don’t want to offend this gentleman.

“Who is the real expert on global warming,” I ask?

“Well, it’s not Al Gore. Rush Limbaugh says it is all nonsense. So does Glenn Beck,” he pronounced.

I guess that I shifted visibly in my chair.

“You think that global warming is real? Heck, they say the ocean is a half degree warmer than it was fifty years ago. A half of a degree – that’s nothing,” he says. “A half of a degree doesn’t matter at all. The ocean is just absorbing more sunlight, is all.

“Maybe so,” I said. “Maybe so.”

I am thinking to myself that a half degree warmer ocean is pretty significant, and that this fellow should be somewhat alarmed about that if that is indeed the case. But the reality is that a warmer ocean is disputed in scientific circles because the data is largely inconclusive considering other factors such as ocean currents and salinity.

My brain was busy preparing a slew of questions to put this fellow in a corner so he would realize the degree of ignorance he was displaying, but I refrained.

I asked, “What do you think the weather will be like tomorrow?”

This conversation brings me to the point I really want to make: Our society as a whole is terribly ignorant about science. This fellow I was having a cup of coffee with was turning to Limbaugh and Beck for scientific confirmation – two gentlemen who are none too credible in my book for scientific reporting.

More to the point, when a person is ignorant, they are easily manipulated. Extend ignorance to an entire society, and important decisions about policy and priority are easily swayed by a measure of “razzle-dazzle” and a convincing face. Give me facts that I have the knowledge to comprehend, and I will apply them to a relevant context, and I will make better decisions. So will the public – if the public can in fact comprehend the most basic of facts.

My observation is that much of the public is held in ignorance about most things scientific. The average person seems to want the “convincing face” to tell them the answer they want to hear so that they don’t have to think about something they are ignorant about – someone with a good haircut can do a fairly good job as the “convincing face”! I just want the facts (and they can be hard to come by) – and I wish that society as a whole was better educated, particularly in the sciences, than we seem to be.

Oh well… The weather tomorrow will be a little cooler!