Category Archives: Chinese & American Education

Yetta Goodman Endorsement

I am very pleased to share an endorsement received from dedicated educator and internationally known professor, Yetta Goodman. She has studied literacy development in many cultures and provided literacy researchers with valuable insights about how children become successful readers and writers.

Nancy Pine in Educating Young Giants: What Kids Learn (And Don’t Learn) in China and America provides a marvelous tapestry of experiences through which to experience teaching Continue reading

Map of China

A 60-Year-Old Insight

Written after the devastation of World War II, the young women graduating from The Dominican College of San Rafael in California devoted energy and imagination to creating Map of Chinaa book dedicated to understanding China. Over 60 years ago, they introduced their work with the following words, still relevant today:

 Never again can we feel secure within the boundaries of our two oceans. It is a small world and the peoples in it will and must learn to know each other better, to understand each other better than they have in the past. We Americans do not possess the only way of Continue reading

Deborah Meier Lauds Educating Young Giant

Deb Meier, Founder of Small Schools Movement & MacArthur Fellow

In her widely distributed Education Week dialogue with Diane Ravitch about their very different views of schooling and how to give children the learning opportunities they deserve, Deborah Meier wrote recently ~

I wish I had read Nancy Pine’s Educating Young Giants, What Kids Learn (And Don’t Learn) in China and America before I went to China in 2007! It’s a thoughtful and thorough account that starts with classrooms in both nations that come alive in her telling.

Meier is often considered the founder of the modern small schools movement, is a Continue reading

Zheng Zheng math class

Middle School Reality in China

For several years I have been observing in the classrooms of a friend’s son—first in elementary school and most recently in his first year of middle school. Zheng Zheng heartily disliked elementary school. He would tell me at length about why lessons and his homework were boring, boring, boring. He hated the memorization and repetition, but also the pressure of competition with those students who are aiming for the very highest scores on tests and exams. He did the work he needed to do, but he seemed much more interested in building complex structures with Legos and experimenting with how to grow potatoes in pots propped on the ledge outside his parents’ bedroom window.

But junior high school is different. Not only does he like his more student-centered

Zheng Zheng math class

Zheng Zheng and others attempting to solve algebraic puzzle

teachers better, but significantly, the highest achieving students have been skimmed off to a different class. This leaves him among students who are still competitive, but not to such an exacting degree of perfection. When I last visited, I spent time in Zheng Zheng’s math and biology classes. (I selected the classes to observe when I arrived at the school; they were not preselected and practiced ahead of time.) There were twice as many students in a class than he had had in elementary school, but the atmosphere seemed more congenial, the pace less relentless. The teachers kept a steady rhythm with high expectations, and as usual, students needed to be completely prepared.

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Endorsement from Karen Worth

1990 First Grade Class, ChinaA recent endorsement from Karen Worth, an internationally known science educator at Wheelock College in the Department of Elementary Education.  She is planning to use the Educating Young Giants: What Kids Learn (And Don’t Learn) in China and America in courses for beginning teachers.

“This is quite a remarkable book that should be required reading for students preparing to become teachers, for practicing teachers, and also for educational leaders and policy makers engaged in educational reform. The author, Nancy Pine, brings her extensive experiences in education in the US and China to the comparison of teaching and learning in these two countries. But this is not a standard academic study or a simple contrast and therein lies its strength. Nancy is a skillful writer and has used detailed colorful descriptions of her many observations of classrooms and conversations with educators to allow us to see what she saw and hear what she heard. In a strikingly unbiased and non-judgmental way, she reflects on these stories drawing from the literature and her deep knowledge of the history and cultures of both countries to deepen her own understanding and enrich ours.”

Exam Pressure and Ancient Traditions

Junior high school schedule, 7:40 to 5:00 pm

Zheng-Zheng and his friend bent over their first grade homework at the small table in the family apartment, fingers pressed against pencils as they meticulously made each line in the day’s new characters. Their concentration was absolute as they repeated the intricate patterns over and over again placing them neatly into squares on their paper. When they finished they moved on to practice the lesson in their Chinese reading texts until they knew it confidently, and finally moved on to math. When they finished everything, Zheng-Zheng’s sixth birthday party with long noodles could begin.

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Illiteracy Strikes

I must have slept, but well before dawn I was dressed and peering down at the awakening street from my room at the Foreign Language Institute on the northern outskirts of Shanghai. The soft yellow light of a small shop across the street warmed the morning darkness; a lone truck rolled by, its tires hissing against wet pavement. A man and woman wrapped in dark-blue padded trousers and jackets moved boxes from

Shop workers in the early morning light

It was my first trip to China, twenty years ago. Another mid-career graduate student and I had arrived in Shanghai near midnight from Los Angeles. Met by friends of our Ph.D. advisor we had been taken to this hotel to get some sleep before traveling on to Nanjing by train.



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A year before the Beijing Olympics an article in China Daily, China’s English language newspaper, described a war in Beijing against “baffling English translations” sometimes referred to as “Chinglish.” Some of them are, indeed, amusing to monolingual English speakers or possibly to those fluent in both English and Chinese. For example, one quoted in the article, translates a sign warning about a slippery walkway as “Slip carefully.”

Some English speakers have lamented that corrections are being made. One American living in Shanghai said they “take away one of the joys of China.” The signs, however, are often an embarrassment to Chinese fluent in English. A Chinese foreign language consultant said, “We don’t want anyone laughing at us.” He emphasized that correction of the signs was to help foreigners. The English certainly wasn’t meant to benefit Chinese.

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