I currently teach English in France, in a less-than-stellar part of the Lyon metro area.
A couple of days ago, when I found out my students were having a test, I gave them a brief talk on study habits. None of them understood why I was talking about this. I didn’t understand what they didn’t understand. One of the kids finally asked,
Do American kids work harder than we do?
And that’s pretty much the crux of all of this.
People get uncomfortable with unwavering stereotypes, but there is generally a source. American innovation is a well-known concept because it’s true. The country/culture fosters creativity and making the most of one’s ideas. Creative thinking is discouraged in other parts of the world, in favor of deferring toward working for a greater good.
I’m frequently stunned by the lack of willingness (or potentially ability) to think, on the part of my current students. I won’t say that American students are intrinsically better, but it’s clear that critical thinking makes for more successful people who can further their education.
I’ve never been comfortable with the conclusion that China will be an unparalleled powerhouse in the future, simply due to population.
It’s a vast country with a lot of ethnic minorities, some of whom cannot communicate with their leaders in Beijing, if for no other reason than wholly different languages. How do you sustain this in the future, while allowing for growth?
Barring near-total eradication of minorities within China (which is not so out of the realm of imagination), I see two options:
1) You have an elite that is able to think creatively enough for innovative competition, with a vast, uneducated population that at some point has to realize that they are being cheated out of a better life by said elite. Historical revolutions have shown this time and again. It’s just a question of breaking point.
2) You educate more people to a higher degree, at which point there is a sizeable portion of the population that wants to have the access to information and accountability that can be found in other parts of the world.
I don’t see how long China can walk a tightrope of placating a population that is supposed to just trust that a mistake-prone central entity will do better on its own, in the interests of all.
I look forward to any of your ideas on the matter or anything related.