As usual, I lay in bed listening to the BBC last night and I heard a most interesting talk on the role culture plays in education. The speaker was referring to the cultures of various races, and he was concentrating on the cultures of Asia. He was visiting a school in Silicon Valley in the US, where nearly all the successful students come from an Asiatic background, including India. Of course, the standard of the area was high as most of the parents were academics anyway, but it was the proportion of Asian students that were at the top that struck me, because here, in Australia, we see the same statistic. Whenever newspapers publish the photographs of exceptional students most of them are Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian or Korean. Yet I believe intelligence is pretty standard throughout humanity. The speaker 'last night' put it down to the culture. Basically, he said, people of European descent worship at the shrine of individuality; students are encouraged to 'do their own thing'. In Asiatic countries students are brought up to consider themselves as part of a group and a family. They see their parents as fellow-travelers in the business of education. Thus, they are more biddable and willing to submit to hard work. If they succeed the whole group succeeds.
I was reminded of this when I read someone else's blog this-morning. (And I apologise for not recalling the name of the writer.) He wrote of the 'Broken Window' approach, which is said to have improved crime rates in New York. Rather than wait for serious crimes to occur, the police jump on lesser infringements, such as window-breaking, thus nipping crime in the bud, literally. It seems to me that the urge to break windows, scrawl graffiti, and generally be 'agin the government' stems from the cult of individuality. No doubt the perpetrators are 'finding themselves'! I'm quite sure young people in Asia commit petty crimes too, but do they do it to the same extent? I doubt it. They may riot for want of food etc, but pure self-indulgence must be rare. They don't break windows in a mood of 'this is me!' surely!
I was at Harry's school this-morning, helping with reading exercises and I found myself in a room buzzing with life and activity, but full of 'individuals' vying for attention. And I wondered.........
I have to admit that I belong to the 'individualistic' society too. I don't see myself as part of a group as much as an individual. And I know worries have arisen about Japanese children, for example, being hounded to succeed, and suffering from mental stress. But surely there's what my mother always called 'a happy medium' somewhere.
I hope Harry finds it!