Since it is close to final exam season here, why not read a book about other peoples' examinations?
The Chinese imperial examination system was first eSince it is close to final exam season here, why not read a book about other peoples' examinations?
The Chinese imperial examination system was first established in the Tang Dynasty, and came to a formal end in the closing years of the Qing Dynasty in 1904-5. In this period of just over a thousand years, this educational system and bureaucratized civil service was a main feature of the imperial administration.
The system was established at first to curb the power of the landed aristocracy and create a more meritocratic civil service system. Of course, it didn't always work that way since education was very expensive, but it was marginally better than before.
The exams took place on a 'tiered' system, with exams taking place on the county, prefectural, national levels, with the highest tier being administered by the emperor himself. There were also military examinations which were based upon strength tests, and the academic standards were slightly less for them.
Miyazaki approaches the exam system from this lofty perch of social analysis, but he also provides a convincing depiction of the details of the examination. The cannon shots marking time, the cramped rows of cells with the anxious students, and even descriptions of the anxious test-takers awaiting the results, which were announced publicly.
The tests themselves were taken in closed cells for three days writing essays on specific questions. Students were allowed to bring food, water, ink stones, writing brushes, and a chamber pot. Occasionally students died or went insane during the tests, so they were escorted out or their bodies thrown over the walls.
It's especially interesting to read contemporary criticisms of the exam system. They say that the tests prohibited original thought and creativity, saying that individuals who spent all their effort on the astronomical demands of the examination lacked the creativity and initiative to deal with civic issues. Some great scholars and writers of the time did very well on these exams, but some (like the favorite author Pu Songling) flunked out of the lowest level.
This book is a short and descriptive view of a historical phenomenon, and seems to lose nothing in translation. The idea of standardized testing is no historical curio, as many students in the West and in China can agree - but a source of great hopes and anxieties for students the world over. ...more
勿忘国耻。 振兴中华。 "Never forget national humiliation. Rejuvenate the nation."
This volume presents a comprehensive history on the state of contemporary histo勿忘国耻。 振兴中华。 "Never forget national humiliation. Rejuvenate the nation."
This volume presents a comprehensive history on the state of contemporary history education in China, and its demonstrated effects on the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party, and China's foreign relations. The main thrust of this education recasts the role of China in world history, presenting it as the victim of colonialism and imperialism through a 'century of humiliation' (百年国耻), lasting from 1839 at the start of the First Opium War to the takeover of the Chinese Communist Party in 1949.
This process of shaping historical education has multiple roles. First among these is a new role for the CCP after the Tienanmen Square Incident of 1989. The party has long ago abandoned the Marxist rhetoric of class struggle, revolution, economic justice, and the like. Instead it presents itself as a patriotic association, and one which led the struggle for national rebirth and avenging the century of humiliation. Although the party still finds it useful to present itself as a bringer of economic prosperity after Deng Xiaoping's economic reform, it is still necessary to have other pillars of support should this one fall.
Furthermore, history is used as a tool in foreign policy. In response to the 'century of humiliations', the government presents itself as a revenging these historical losses. However, this now institutional use of history presents a series of misunderstandings and complications in foreign policy. The author presents multiple cases - the historical textbook controversy with Japan over representation of the Nanjing Massacre, and disputes with the United States over a crashed plane in 2001 and the Belgrade embassy bombing in 1999. This need to overcome humiliation extends to nearly every aspect of foreign policy, including disaster relief and sports - take the 2008 Olympics as a 'triumphal re-entry'.
To take a more humorous example, Chinese bloggers have assembled a list of nations that supposedly have 'hurt the feelings of the Chinese people'. On one blog, you see a list of the usual suspects like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan, but also India, Guatemala, the Nobel Prize Committee, Albania, Iceland, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and South Africa.
However, it should not be said that this policy of shaping the collective memory represents total societal control. Often times it can complicate historical negotiations. The territorial disputes over islands in the East Asia and South China Sea, for example, are complicated by pressure from below in order to achieve a fair deal. Likewise, the same events which caused the massive outburst of protest in 1989 - governmental corruption and one-Party Rule - have remained in place. In effect, it is concealing the symptoms and leaving the causes unchanged.
That said, this is still an important issue in understanding how a major power with a post-colonial history presents itself and its aspirations for the future. ...more
This is a unique entry among the already rare books about life in North Korea. The author is not an escapee or someone working solely as a journalist.This is a unique entry among the already rare books about life in North Korea. The author is not an escapee or someone working solely as a journalist. Instead, the author has gone voluntarily as part of a delegation of English language teachers to an elite school, the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST). Suki Kim had to perform two layers of deception - first to the other teachers by posing as a fellow Christian missionary, and secondly to every other person in North Korea.
I must be honest. It's very easy to not take North Korea as anything other than an extensive joke. It's easy to give in to popular cliche and misinformed policy. It's just a silly little tinpot dictatorship. Laugh at it. Laugh at the puppet show. Laugh at Kim Jong-Un's ugly hair. Laugh at this movie. Laugh at their bad English. It is such a target for rhetorical tricks - at once in total opposition to the rest of the world, so self-confident in its boasts, and so weak and impotent it is easily ridiculed. Laugh at it and feel like you're doing something to change it.
In any case, that's why clear-eyed observation of the regime is needed. This particular book also provides a rare view of the social elite, as few others in North Korea would have the opportunity to receive an education like this. Those who live in the capital have more consistent access to electricity and easier access to foreign goods.
Though Kim occasionally talks about her own life, most of the book is about life outside and with the boys in class (No women here except for the teachers). Parts of their life seem almost familiar. They like playing basketball and occasionally have trouble asking the girls out. But from there, there is a vast distance of experience between them.
For one, the students have a blinkered view of the world. They are told very well about the failings of America, real and imaginary, but they lack even the most common base of knowledge. They don't even know what the Pyramids are or that people went to space and walked on the moon. There is one infuriating episode where these technical and scientific elites can barely operate basic computers and can't even touch-type, and the author is so overcome with frustration that she has to leave the room.
But that is only a lack of technical knowledge. There is another layer to their experience, one which is only hinted at from politics and propaganda. It is about how the students lie. This is more than the usual students' tendency to fib about lost homework or (although they still do that). They lie openly, without hesitation, and are unusually quick to read others emotions. This is part of their social education - where a bad lie can mean demotion or poverty or worse.
That's the truly frightening part. It's why so many of the people who do escape are often so reserved. The total control over society, physical and mental. After six months, she barely has any grasp of any of her students' personalities. Even though she becomes more brazen in their attempts to bring in the outside world, she feels as though she has carried no light or fire to them.
The author returned home in late December 2011. As luck would have it, Kim Jong-Il had passed away on the 17th. Perhaps real social change could be possible, she thinks, even if it might take one dead dictator at a time.
Any book about North Korea will be grim reading, but this one is interesting because of the author's perspective and her understanding of emotional subtlety make this an interesting book and one that breaks free of cliche. ...more
Essential reading. Describes the process of de facto segregation in schooling, based on population, demographics, and funding. This problem goes backEssential reading. Describes the process of de facto segregation in schooling, based on population, demographics, and funding. This problem goes back decades, and is self-perpetuating, feeding into itself due to the effects of poverty and crime and prejudice and how they all feed into each other.
How could all this happen, even after the de jure ban on segregation passed by Brown v. Board of Education?
-This underfunding leads to a poor quality materials, decaying buildings, lack of cafeteria food or desks, etc.
-Misguided and overly strict education programs, which try and force all types of students into a standardized mold instead of allowing some variation for different career tracks
-A 'corporate' approach to education, making students think like 'managers', 'team-players', and being subservient to a larger authority or group
-A heavy and misguided focus on standardized testing, forcing students to prepare for the test above all. This is also related to the problem of underfunding, as the 'No Child Left Behind' debacle left students with bad scores without funding. Thus the problem is compounded and made worse.
And so forth. All of this leads to the segregation of schools by race and class, and a major cause of socioeconomic stratification in America. In other words, apartheid - not directly by law, but indirectly.
Would integration alone resolve this problem? Hardly. There are so many compounding factors that relying upon only one method would be woefully inadequate. But attacking the funding deficit would be a start. Or removing the over-regimented program of standardized testing. Or...
Not too long ago, I worked in my state senate, and talked to a Republican senator who was an advocate in doubling state funding for preschool programs. He was almost alone in his party in advocating this program, and he'd had almost no success in pushing it through over the past six years - arguably due to a climate of 'fiscal austerity' and unsubtle racist code phrases against any educational reform. When I asked him about why he pushed it and very few others did, he looked at me with a sigh of resignation and said "Preschoolers don't have lobbyists."...more
This is a very sobering look at the chaos of the modern American schooling system.
In a way, it is very much like a prison (and those are catastrophicThis is a very sobering look at the chaos of the modern American schooling system.
In a way, it is very much like a prison (and those are catastrophic already). Klein characterizes many of the bullies as having 'hyper-masculine' instincts. Apathetic to authority, a need to 'show off' to others through conquests physical and romantic. Economic and social status. Incredible pressure to compete, or conform, or hide. Basis of gender, sexual orientation, physical appearance as major factors for being targeted.
Not all those who are bullied become school-shooters, though, as Klein tends to overemphasize. Most only hide further within themselves. Although this crucible of an educational environment only makes those individuals already susceptible to violence even more likely to crack.
Furthermore, I would hesitate to characterize the flaw of the educational system as being the cause of all of our major social and economic woes, although it does play a not insignificant role, and one that needs action, not my mere words.
A lighthearted, funny, very relatable novel. Anybody who's worked in a school setting can relate to this teacher, impertinent and brash and hilariousA lighthearted, funny, very relatable novel. Anybody who's worked in a school setting can relate to this teacher, impertinent and brash and hilarious as he is....more
The books that started it all for me - I started a vigorous campaign of self-education when I was in freshman year of high-school by reading all of thThe books that started it all for me - I started a vigorous campaign of self-education when I was in freshman year of high-school by reading all of these. It took well over a year, but I managed to get through them all, and I learned so much because of them. I regularly return to my favorites. Has some obvious gaps, but then, doesn't anyone's reading?
The high rating here is partly due to my sentimental attachment to them and as the start of my long journey into reading....more