Archive for April, 2009


Tuesday, April 28th, 2009


I noticed today – for the first time – that all the trees in the school are labeled. So for any Chinese speaking botanists out there, or anyone interested in the lush diversity of Shanghai’s vegetative life I have posted some pics after the jump. (more…)

Learning to read

Monday, April 27th, 2009


Bad news for those of us struggling with Mandarin. Here is the earlier report from Shanghaiist.

Hard Work and Intelligence

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Intelligence is judged differently here. We noticed this first, a few years ago, when chatting with our teenage friend Ruru. Westerners tend to believe that smart people don’t have to work too hard. If you are intelligent things come easily.

Ruru and her friends, however, assume the opposite. It is the kids that work the hardest that are smartest. When pushed, she will sometimes, reluctantly admit, that some subjects are easier for some people. For the most part, however, Ruru rejects the idea of natural ability. The smart kids are the one’s who study most.


Friedman on Education

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Here is Thomas’ Friedman latest lament about the state of American education. East/West education is a long term obsession for Friedman. See, for example, Still Eating Our Lunch & Learning to Keep Learning.

Green Handkerchief Campaign

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009


Another reason to support the shoupa

Bilingual Babies

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

The Economist on the merits of  growing up in a bilingual environment.

School Trip

Monday, April 20th, 2009


On Saturday Zoe’s class organized a trip to ‘Yusui village: A National Agriculture Tourism Demonstration Site.’ After an hour’s bus ride we arrived in Fengxian on the outskirts of Shanghai. Our destination was a farm that – about 6 years ago – began to welcome visitors. It was kind of like something I frequent during summers in Canada – except it was distinctly Chinese (as should be obvious from the eccentricity of this welcome sign) (more…)


Thursday, April 16th, 2009

The school has begun a new practice of letting us all know what’s for lunch. Unlike in Western-style schools where a carefully printed menu is posted outside the classroom door, however, in our school a table has been set up with Tupperware containers, each displaying the raw ingredients of the daily meal.

English First

Thursday, April 16th, 2009


James Fallows – whose blog has been added to the sidebar – comments on the provocative ads of English schools in China.

Creativity (part 2)

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009


When I drop Max off in the morning Zoe comes with me. She likes to stay for a while and play. Sometimes she heads for the drawing table, sits down with paper and crayon and scribbles with great intensity. Invariably one of Max’s classmates will offer a critique. Bu hao kan 不好看  (not nice), they say, staring at her scrawls.

Max shares the Chinese tendency for harsh judgment. Sitting in a taxi he informed his grandmother and I that some kids don’t know how to draw their mommies.

We – my mother and I – did our best to temper the criticism, explaining that there were all sorts of ways to draw, but neither of us was satisfied with our response. We both know that, as with everything else, some kid’s drawings are better than others. Not everyone’s skill or talent is the same.

Still, the rigid conformity implicit in the vision makes me uncomfortable. How to judge childhood drawings is not an easy matter. Besides, it is impossible not to detect in these childhood critiques, the intense pressure and total disregard for self esteem that so many adults here complain about when they speak of their past.

When Max pointed to one of Zoe’s drawings at home and told me it was ugly I protested. Her 2-year-old scribbles are beautiful to me (or at least I want her to think so).