Thoughts on cultural difference

I’ve remarked at a few different things in reading to prepare for our upcoming move. Now that the blog is up and running, I’ll start to share.

The historical Chinese emphasis on examinations does a lot to explain how it is the Chinese-Americans are frequently dubbed a “model minority” on account of educational achievement. Chinese culture places significant emphasis on academic performance as the only way to achieve economic and political success. In the American context, this element of culture is likely to lead to high academic achievement. For almost 1500 years the ability to enter political and professional positions in China depended upon performance on a series of exams. Quality performance on the exam was the only way to move up out of the lower classes. As I read about the examination system and its continued impact on the way that social mobility and economic success is pursued in China (or at least until the last decade), I considered the difference between the “Chinese Dream” it would as opposed to the “American dream.” The mythology of success in the U.S. isn’t just about hard work and has little to do with academic performance – in fact, a lack of formal education is often taken as a positive sign that someone is “self-made”. It also encompasses having a great/unique idea and a little bit of luck – leading students to place less emphasis on the role of examinations in terms of their eventual attainments.

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