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Old 11-12-2012, 07:53 AM
 
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I found this article fascinating. Struggle is a part of learning, and I am of the opinion that it benefits the learner much more than just doing what they already can.

From the article:
"We did a study many years ago with first-grade students," he tells me. "We decided to go out and give the students an impossible math problem to work on, and then we would measure how long they worked on it before they gave up."

The American students "worked on it less than 30 seconds on average and then they basically looked at us and said, 'We haven't had this,'" he says.

But the Japanese students worked for the entire hour on the impossible problem. "And finally we had to stop the session because the hour was up. And then we had to debrief them and say, 'Oh, that was not a possible problem, that was an impossible problem!' and they looked at us like, 'What kind of animals are we?'" Stigler recalls.

"Think about that [kind of behavior] spread over a lifetime," he says. "That's a big difference."


Struggle For Smarts? How Eastern And Western Cultures Tackle Learning : Shots - Health News : NPR
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Old 11-12-2012, 09:33 AM
 
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Very interesting article.

There's no doubt that many East Asian school systems rank among the best in the entire world. However, I agree with the article's assertion that a lot of the reasons why East Asian students perform so well on the international level has a lot to do with their culture. I have lived in Japan myself and spent time both in China/HK and Korea and there's no question that in their own respective cultures, a sense of excellence and "perfection" is expected. The amount of pressure that is put on school children to exceed and to do well in school is so astronomical and mind-blowing that it's almost impossible for a Westerner to completely understand. As cliche and "weird" as it sounds, a lot of it has to do with bringing "honor" to your family and not "bringing shame". A student's performance is not only seen as a reflection of themselves, but also of their entire family too. Parents will literally spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to get their kids the best kind of schooling and tutors, teach them English, etc. etc. Another popular thing is the extra-hours schooling too, which is especially popular when students have to take standardized tests for college, etc. Kids will go to school for addition hours (plus on Saturday) after their normal school days are over to prepare for these tests and study even more. On the night before and day of the exam, if the parents are spiritual or religious, many will go to temples and pray/ give intentions/bows for hours (and I mean like 24 hours) in order so that their children might do well and succeed on their exams. All that pressure comes at a high cost though, and that's why we see the high suicide rates in many of these countries.

One "criticism" for lack of a better word that cannot be left out is that, in spite of their normally stellar school systems, one thing that the systems and even the cultures themselves tend not to breed is innovation. Notice, even though they have great school systems with amazing results, there really are no Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerbergs, etc. Like I said, this has a lot to do with culture. East Asian cultures are not individualistic like Western cultures are. Simple as that. It's all about the team, the group, everyone together. Which is fine and dandy, but then does not inspire individual innovation. These are homogeneous societies that are, even though they're rich (well not yet with China) and developed, still quite wary of anything "foreign" and going against their own mainstream and culture. They don't go against the others nor strive for individualism like it is encouraged in Western societies. It's just not a part of their culture or identity. That's why the Japanese and now the Chinese too are known for being "copy-cats." I mean just look at all the recent examples of the counterfeiting that goes on in China with Western products/brands. It's unbelievable (and quite laughable, imo)! Like when they found out that they had set up entire fake Apple stores and were selling fake Apple products to the populace. This is the kind of stuff that I'm talking about here.

Here are some videos you guys might find interesting that are related to this subject:


South Korean Students Take Crucial College Entrance Exams - YouTube


South Korea's exam suicides - YouTube

Anyways, that's a kind of very brief and scattered overview of how school systems and stuff work in East Asia, at least from what I know and my own point of view that is.
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Old 11-12-2012, 09:38 AM
 
Location: Shawnee-on-Delaware, PA
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So the American kids were smart enough not to waste their time on a bunch of crap, but the Asian kids were not? OK.
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Old 11-12-2012, 11:47 AM
 
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Asian kids like problem solving and show off. They think all math problems can be solve.

If you give them impossible math problem to work on, then there is something wrong with the researcher. They should give them very hard problem(s), not impossible.

Last edited by spotlesseden; 11-12-2012 at 12:22 PM..
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Old 11-12-2012, 01:25 PM
 
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The difference is exaggerated.
In China, there are many "lazy" and "bad" students too. Many of my classmates never finished the homework on time, not to mention spend an hour on an impossible problem.
I was a "good" student, but still, I skipped classes and "lied" to parents when I was a child. In China, parents often need to sign students homework and graded exam papers. I often signed them myself, and I was not alone for sure.

However Japanese and Koreans are usually much more disciplined than Chinese. At least people in Asia said so. So they might be different.
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Old 11-12-2012, 04:38 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jtab4994 View Post
So the American kids were smart enough not to waste their time on a bunch of crap, but the Asian kids were not? OK.
No, the American kids gave up because the problem was hard. Even if it had been solvable, American kids often give up because they think they are not smart in math.

In order to learn almost anything, one has to try and try and not give up. All children learn to walk by this process. They fall and get up again and again, but in terms of academic learning, many children give up way too soon.

http://www.micheleborba.com/Pages/ArtMB05.htm

Quote:
Many historians feel that one of Winston Churchill’s greatest speeches was given at a graduation ceremony at Oxford University. He had worked on the speech for hours. When the moment finally came, Churchill stood up to the cheering crowd, and in a strong, clear voice shouted just three words, "Never give up!" He paused a few seconds and shouted the words again, "Never give up!" He then reached for his hat and slowly walked off the podium, satisfied that he had told the graduates the messages they needed to succeed.
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Old 11-12-2012, 11:21 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nana053 View Post
No, the American kids gave up because the problem was hard. Even if it had been solvable, American kids often give up because they think they are not smart in math.
Mother of American kids here - and I can attest to that.

Both of my children are half American, half what I am...which is some Eastern type
But I consider them to be more American than what I am because they were born and raised here.
Despite my sustained efforts to instill many of the values of Eastern-type parenting and education mentioned in this thread, American ways seem to stick to my kids like well-boiled spaghettis on the wall. Yes, to my chagrin - you guessed that right by now.

In this respect, it doesn't exactly help that they have a father who leans towards permissiveness and not ALL THAT high expectations;...certainly not the "Tiger-type" expectations he jokingly suggests I hold at times. To me, they are not "Tiger", they are what I grew up with.

As a rule, my son likes the "easy" button. He wants "easy" everything. He only wants to do things that come very easy to him, WHEN the spirit moves him, and only when he is wildly interested in the task. It's gotta FEEL GOOD. After all, that's what they do at school, where it's "cutting, gluing, coloring and fill-in-the-blanks" land.

As soon as he faces the "struggle" threshold, the whining, wailing, rebelling, and pissing off begin. It's almost as if they have this built-in genetic mechanism that rejects struggle in the first place and that signals to their brain that life SHOULD be easy.

Tonight we repeated a so-called "challenging problem" for 1st graders. I asked about it a while ago here, and most experts said that yes, it would be kind of difficult for first graders, but some said it would be perfectly doable with a bit of thinking and effort. So OK. The pain threshold - let's reach it.

Oh, the scandal. Oh, the protest, the screeching and the wailing. Why does it have to hurt, why do I have to think a little?...

Deep inside, I certainly wanted to strangle him, recognizing exactly the "should-feel-easy-and-it-doesn't, dam* it!!" American attitude this article talks about. He hated spending even a few seconds in thinking, sustained effort mode.

I kept my cool, I explained how to do it once. Twice. Three times. I kept giving him similar scenarios and with guidance, he seemed to slowly make his way towards the light, but not without tears and protest. I kept asking him every time if he now got it and he kept saying "no, it's STILL hard!"..at this point, largely to test my limits and **** me off.
I told him that every time he says it's still hard, I will give him 2 more similar problems, until they start feeling easy. It took over an hour, his father wanted me to let go and just have dinner...and I was obviously pissed enough to not let go - and I didn't.

After about 10-12 attempts...he began to relent. I finally saw how he got to the other side. We went to eat...and later, when I put him to bed, he said: Mom, I am sorry I threw such a tantrum...can you give me another one? It really feels easy now". And he gave me a hug.
I hugged him back as I DO love his sorry as* to death, and gave him the extra problem he now requested himself. He solved it instantly, showing clear understanding of the logic.

So yes, it's doable - but it is something in the water that prevents these kids from embracing sweat-producing intellectual effort. They all dream of how some God-given, natural, magical creative source hidden deep inside them, will allow them to "innovate" out of the Serene Blue and hit it as big as that Zuckerberg dude hit it.
In the meantime, the Asians snatch the much more realistic and numerous opportunities in science, engineering, medicine and the like...because they were able to embrace those moments of effort that hurt.
Americans reserve the effort for the gym.

Last edited by syracusa; 11-12-2012 at 11:38 PM..
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Old 11-12-2012, 11:51 PM
 
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People often work hard for two reasons: to gain honor or to avoid shame.

In the US, "shame" is not used as a tool to push students. When I was a kid in China, the teacher handed out exam papers in order of scores. The whole class knew your score and your rank. Those who got called on at the end often started to cry and the teacher just let it be.
Even in college, all the students are ranked according to GPA and everybody can see the ranking.
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Old 11-13-2012, 12:02 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bettafish View Post
People often work hard for two reasons: to gain honor or to avoid shame.

In the US, "shame" is not used as a tool to push students. When I was a kid in China, the teacher handed out exam papers in order of scores. The whole class knew your score and your rank. Those who got called on at the end often started to cry and the teacher just let it be.
Even in college, all the students are ranked according to GPA and everybody can see the ranking.
I don't think that is necessarily a good thing.

It is important to work hard because you want to learn not for honor *or* shame, imo.
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Old 11-13-2012, 12:21 AM
 
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Originally Posted by nana053 View Post
I don't think that is necessarily a good thing.

It is important to work hard because you want to learn not for honor *or* shame, imo.
I do not like that either, but it could be very powerful.

I do not think they do that any more either. At least not in the same way.
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