I have been thinking of writing an article about my view for homeschooling adopted by some Taiwanese parents and the purpose of education.  I finally get the time to sit down to talk about it.  What prompted me to touch on this topic was the suicide news(1), the article about the overbearing Asian parents(2), the infatuated obsession of a Taiwanese friend over her friend’s homeschooling and my stumble upon an article on homeschooling by a Taiwanese living in the US.  I hope this article serves as a wake-up call for some parents.    

The reason for that Taiwanese blog author to start homeschooling was her impeachment of the education system in the US.  In her view, the public K-12 education system in the US is a failure.  She based her argument on the 2006 NCES report that stated that US students ranked at the bottom third and fourth in Math and Science literacy respectively, when compared to students from other nations.  However, when I quickly glanced through the report she provided, she seems to have over-exaggerated the problem and painted a false picture.  What the report stated was that among the 40 countries participating in the 2003 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), the U.S. ranked 28th in Math literacy and 24th in Science literacy, not at the bottom third or fourth.  This is the link to the report she provided http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL33434.pdf.  She also stated that she sided with the author’s analysis in that the public k-12 education system had shifted its focus from the basic academic subjects to both liberal and environmental issues.  This statement baffles me.  Nowhere in the report did I see a suggestion of the shift of the American education system.  Maybe there were hidden messages that I didn’t pick up.  Anyway, she went on with her complaints about the many earth day projects that public schools participated in.  I am sorry that I cannot get her point.  What is the problem with teaching kids about earth day?  What’s wrong with teaching our kids to protect the earth?  Shouldn’t we increase our kids’ awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment?  Does solely focusing on Math and Science and ignoring other subjects the right way to teach our kids?  Is teaching our kids to excel in academics the sole purpose of teaching?  What’s wrong with liberal studies?  I am sorry that I am just too dumb to understand the teaching and child-rearing philosophy of some Taiwanese parents. 

 

 

Everyone has his or her own belief.  We are not Christians but we are open to any religion.  Our son went to a Lutheran Day Care and my daughter is still there.  My mother-in-law is a Buddhist.  From the blog of this Taiwanese mom, I see that her disappointment of the American education system stemmed from her strong Christian belief.  She was angry at California governor for passing SB777 and stated that the public schools were demoralizing family values in banning anything in the public schools that could be interpreted as negative toward homosexuality, bisexuality and other alternative lifestyle choices and in painting a picture that alternative lifestyles are normal and acceptable.  The purpose of California S.B. 777 may be just a protection to people who hold different values.  I did not perform an in-depth analysis on CA S.B. 777 and I might not get the magnitude of the impact.  You can find more details about it at the link below http://www.hrc.org/issues/parenting/5308.htm

 

I can understand that some people have an extremely strong belief that makes them intolerable of other beliefs.  Like the one who tried to introduce me to Christianity but I politely refused.  He then commented that I have a closed mind.  Like the person who attacked Buddhism to spread Christianity at the bible-reading classes.  When he realized that I did not get the messages from God, he pitied me that I could not be saved.  By the way, I am not picking on Christianity.  I do think that Christians have a very strong family value and I do send our kids to Lutheran Church sponsored daycare which teaches Christianity.  However, I think that we all are somehow close-minded when it comes to religions.  A lot of wars errupted from different religious beliefs.  We do need to open our mind to differences.  To criticize that the entire American education system is going south simply based on your own personal belief and one single bill implemented in California is ridiculous.  I don’t judge my gay and lesbian friends.  They have their own lifestyle.  Everyone is different.  We cannot force everyone to act and think the same.  My mother-in-law, a Buddhist, thinks that homosexuality is a bad thing, so I can understand the concern of some parents, especially someone like that Taiwanese mom who has strong Christian family value.  They are afraid of such bill that introduces school children to the concept of alternative lifestyles.  She was threatened by this difference in value that will be introduced to her kids and feared that her kids with Christian value will be ridiculed and bullied because they are different. 

 

I don’t know what to say.  It is hard for me to think that kids believing in Christianity will become minority and be bullied since Christian beliefs are so widespread in the US.  On the contrary, kids from a gay or lesbian family are truly the minority and are more likely to be bullied.  We are not living in a perfect world.  We cannot keep our kids in a bubble and shield them from anything that we deem as evil.  Is it truly evil?  I don’t know either.  However, I do think that it is a prejudice to think of homosexuality as abnormal.  I do think that it is presumptuous to discriminate against one’s sexuality.  I believe that all religions start with the purpose of teaching people to do good deeds, rather than silencing other voices.  So she reached the conclusion that the American education system isn’t really better than that of Asia for its poor academic performance and the “amoral” values fed upon the kids.  For the above reasons, she decided to provide homeschooling to her kids.  What puzzles me is the reason that she came to the United States to get her education in the first place.  If all you want for your kids to learn from school is to excel in academics, why not go back to Taiwan or stay in any Asian country to raise your children?     

 

Anyway, I still believe in American Education System.  It teaches kids to be creative and independent, which I deem to be extremely important.  It focuses not solely on academics but social values as well.  There are a variety of public schools out there and the quality of the schools varies.  It is important to enroll kids in a good school district.  In a good school district, you pay high taxes to fund the school to ensure that your kids get high quality education.   During voting season, your school will have agenda on what they want the funding for and you will have to vote for or against it.   You, the parents, own the voting decision, not the politicians.  If you are looking for schools which teach Christianity, public schools will not be your right choice because they are open to people with different religions (Buddhism, Muslim, and etc).  Private schools however can target people with different needs.  One of our neighbors enrolls her kids in a private school which teaches Christianity.   

 

Overall, I still like what I see and what our school offers.  Next to our school is an outdoor learning center, boasting 4.3 acres of open space that includes forest, wetland and prairie ecosystems.  Once a week, the students will attend this outdoor learning center to learn about natural and environmental science, to observe and care for the living creatures, and to understand the impact of the ecosystems.  Education is not all about acing your academics.  No matter where you go in the United States or in Asia, you will always face a variety of schools.  Not all of them offer the same quality of education. 

 

Homeschooling is tough.  I cannot imagine myself doing that even if I don't work full time.  Our kids listen to teachers better than to us.  Sharing the responsibility of teaching with school teachers lessens the burden on the parents.  However, parents still own a huge responsibility in ensuring that the kids follow what's taught in school. 

 

I really can’t understand why so many Taiwanese parents place such great emphasis on nothing but academic excellence.  I have heard reasons provided by many Taiwanese parents for selecting homeschooling mainly to accelerate the rate of their children’s academic progress, as homeschooling provides a focused environment for their kids to study only the subjects fostering academic excellence, without the distraction of activities promoting non-academic skills.  The parents deludingly think that their kids will become gifted children from cramming with all kinds of tutoring programs and brain-stimulating activities.  This is also a reason why my Taiwanese friend is so infatuatedly obsessed with her friend’s homeschooling.  In this case, her friend is also a Christian.  Maybe this is just another coincidence.  It is hard to teach old dogs new tricks.  They are formulated to think the way they were brought up in Taiwan and continue that same approach to bring up their kids in the United States.   

 

Can you tell me what the purpose of education is?  Isn’t it to teach our kids the importance of integrity, humanity, humility, compassion, and accountability?  Isn’t it about fostering their creativity, confidence, independence, self-esteem and social behaviors?  So now you graduate from a top-notch school, are you a better person than all the rest?  XXX Bishop, a Harvard University-trained neuroscientist, tenure denied, killed three faculty members at University of Alabama.  XXX Zhu, a Ph.D. student in agricultural and applied economics at Virgin Tech, won national academic awards in China, decapitated a woman in the campus cafe.  XXX Griffiths, a privately educated bright child during his early life, a PhD student studying criminology at University of Bradford in England, turned into a serial killer.  You will agree with me that all of them are very smart people who excel in academics.  Are they better people?  Do you want your kids to turn into one of them?  By the way, a smart kid is not guaranteed to become a successful adult.

 

Of course, the cases I raised are extreme cases.  You could argue that they might have mental illness or come from a broken family.  However, what I wanted to point out is that academic excellence shouldn't be the sole focus of education.  Social skill development and mental health are equally important.  There are many things that we need to teach our kids to broaden their views other than to score high in academics.  To narrowly set your focus on academic excellence may actually drive your kids into or amplify their risk of developing personality disorders. 

 

 

 

Reference: 

(1) The Suicide News: http://news.newamericamedia.org/news/view_article.html?article_id=c2b8f3a43bbe3e0445f23274028d24a7

(2) The article about the overbearing Asian parents:  http://www.stanford.edu/~pgbovine/asian-parents.htm

 

Written By Elisa English

On 8/13/10 in Minneapolis

Modified on 8/20/10

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