Menu IconA vertical stack of three evenly spaced horizontal lines. In international tests, Chinese children consistently outperform Americans. American Lenora Chu children about math her young son in the Chinese public school system in Shanghai.
In her book about the experience, “Little Soldiers,” she explores how culture influences this academic achievement gap. For the most part, American children aren’t great at math. But Chinese children tend to be excellent. Chu, a Chinese-American journalist raised by Chinese parents in Texas, moved to Shanghai with her American husband and toddler son in 2009. To immerse their son in the culture, she and her husband chose to enroll him in the Chinese public school system starting in preschool.
The differences she notices in her child’s focus and discipline are dramatic, but she also notices cultural differences that influence how Chinese schools are run, and the reason its students test so well. Along with factors such as highly trained teachers and an emphasis on rote memorization before pursuing deeper understanding, the difference comes down to a belief that has begun slowly making its way across the US: Achievement is the result of hard work, not innate ability. Chu explains this approach comes from “an intrinsic belief that anything is possible with hard work, with chiku, or ‘eating bitter. If there’s a goal worth accomplishing, day-to-day life might be absolutely and miserably unpleasant for a spell,” she writes.
It’s a concept that parents tell their children, teachers ingrain in their students, and China’s leaders use to motivate their populace toward the goal of modernizing China. Chinese teachers believe a lack of effort — rather than of smarts — is to blame. UCLA psychology professor James Stigler, said the American approach is problematic. In America we try to sell this idea that learning is fun and easy, but real learning is actually very difficult,” said Stigler. It takes suffering and angst, and if you’re not willing to go through that you’re not going to learn deeply. The downside is these students often give up when something gets hard or when it’s no longer fun. However, there’s one place Americans display the growth mindset in spades: sports.
It’s all about getting better, getting better, working harder,” Stigler told Chu. In sports, we’re okay with competition and struggle. Plus, Chu writes, Americans are OK with being ranked on the football field or soccer pitch. Stigler told her that coming in ninth in an athletic competition doesn’t cause a crisis of conscience for Americans — it just means they need to train harder, better, differently.
But in academics,” he said, “you don’t want to embarrass somebody by ranking them Number Thirty because ‘It’s not their fault. In American academics, ‘you either have it or you don’t. A growth mindset isn’t all that foreign to American children — it just isn’t applied in school. Little Soldiers” can be pre-ordered via Amazon. For the record, it’s excellent and absolutely fascinating. 47 0 0 0 13 6.
In adults, mindfulness has been shown to have all kinds of amazing effects throughout the body: it can combat stress, protect your heart, shorten migraines and possibly even extend life. Researchers wanted to test the effects of a program that promotes social and emotional learning—peppered with mindfulness and kindness exercises—called MindUP. Developed by Goldie Hawn’s foundation, it’s used in schools across the U. The study authors put 99 4th and 5th grade public school students in British Columbia into one of two groups. In the mindfulness classrooms, the program incorporated sense-sharpening exercises like mindful smelling and mindful eating, along with cognitive mindfulness exercises like seeing an issue from another’s point of view. Children did a three-minute meditation three times a day focusing on their breathing.