Book Alert! (and New, Old Article)

Some of you have been awesome and followed me around China for as long as I’ve been blogging here on Area Voices. Others of you are also awesome and enjoying some of my older pieces in black and white in the Sunday editions of The Pioneer.

I’m excited to say that I’m taking all 70 of the articles I wrote about my experiences in Asia and compiling them into a book.

It’s more than simply taking all the pieces and putting them in one place. This book uses the best of the pieces to create chapters based on themes that kept hitting me over the head while I lived abroad.

Big topics, like:

Education
Nature and Man
Eastern Culture vs. Western Culture
Relationships and sex
and others

What struck me more than once was how being in a new environment teases out these life-lessons, even though I had been in similar environments before. For example, I grew up in a small town, but the freshness of a small town IN CHINA provided new insights into the big benefits of these small packaged communities.

I also grew up in the woods, but reveling in the nature of Asia helped me see the power behind our connection with the outdoors.

Dating women, teaching students, giving money to the poor.

I did all this stuff in America, but doing it abroad was doing it again for the first time.

And as such, this book will provide a rich look at life as it was presented to me (and as I was able to perceive it) living in China.

Every one of the themes bring us all closer together as a people, and so I name the book, as I named this blog.

“New Plateaus in China”

Indeed I did attain such heights, and it’s my hope that you can, too.

The book will be complete later this winter. I’m seeking support through the website, Kickstarter.com. I’ll fill you in on the specific website address when the proposal is posted for all to see.

“New Plateaus in China” will be both an eBook and a paper book. The eBook, though, will leverage its capabilities with more pictures, links to other content, and feedback mechanisms built-in.

So I’ll keep ya’ll posted on the progress of it. 🙂

In the meantime, here’s one of the articles that none of you have read, because I wrote it for my old blog. It’s about an insight/experience I had about the American and Chinese educations systems.

Enjoy and to “New Plateaus in China”,

-Brandon

APPLES TO APPLES TO ORANGES

My school offers a monthly event called “English Club.” It’s an opportunity for community members to attend an hour-and–a–half free, discussion-based class with one of our staff. It’s a nice way for my school to reach out, and a nice way for area folks to come test their English.

As teachers, we’re asked to address something light, yet talk-provoking. Last weekend I was the teacher and chose to talk about summer event and activities. It was low-key stuff with swimming, relaxing, and travelling all being mentioned. But half of the attendees were high-school aged, and some interesting things came up about their schooling.

I found out that the older the students get, the less time off they have in the summer. For a 12-year-old present it was two months. For the 16-year-old it was less than a month! She could even remember the dates.

“Last year is was July 14th to August 5th”, she said.

I wondered if the school days in June and July were half-time or less. But though the school subjects apparently change during the summer months, the day’s length was no different. In all, breaks are sprinkled throughout the year with two longer ones in summer and winter. In other words, school is much like a career to the 16 to 18-year-olds. They go to school about 80 more days a year than U.S. students. For subjects, they choose a track of either math or literature after a foundation of basics.

It’s tempting to compare apples to apples. Figures like these cause concern about the degree to which American students might be out-paced. Indeed, it is a concern for the U.S. students who heavily rely on more time spent in school. This logic may promote calls to expand the school year, etc. And this would be valid.

But I also happen to be working on an article on “Ways to stay sharp during the summer holiday”. And in doing so, I soon realized that the lessons that can be learned away from school are actually the most important ones. It’s a time to flex one’s initiative: travel, exploration, research, projects, experimentation, getting a job, volunteering, organizing. What I came up with was a list that really promotes growth and accomplishment.

I also realized that America has benefited (and been defined) by these endeavors of motivated individuals. Those that see the apples to apples likely see public school exposure to be THE determiner of a child’s success. I think America has gotten a little stuck in this theme, and frankly, America will have a tough time competing when it comes to regimented public activity. It didn’t grow up that way.

So let’s not forget that there’s more than one script, and the different scripts of China and America also make this comparison apples and oranges. Heck, looking at it this way: one could also say that China’s kids are stuck in school for a long time, unable to be themselves!

In fact, this point was brought up by one 15-year-old girl at the English Club. She recognized that the China system is strong and is pumping out educated kids in remarkable numbers. But it’s also producing few leaders and creative people. The opposite is the trade-off that America has always and indefinitely will face: less impressive nation-wide efforts—school, health care—but continue to create ways to change the world.

The trade-offs for both countries, evident in their education systems, makes perfect sense given the path they’re on and their strengths exhibited.

What say you?