December 14, 2018

Event Coverage Highlight

OPC West: Book Night with Lenora Chu

Former PacificTime editor and Marketplace foreign editor George Lewinski is offering an interesting China-related event in his Berkeley home, 2918 Elmwood Court, on Sunday evening, Oct. 1 (the anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China!), at 7:30 p.m., with newly minted author Lenora Chu. Her new book, Little Soldiers, is about the regimented nature of China’s education system, told through the lens of watching her own American son go through part of it.

Here’s a blurb about her book:

“When students in Shanghai rose to the top of international rankings in 2009, Americans feared that they were being “out-educated” by the rising super power. An American journalist of Chinese descent raising a young family in Shanghai, Lenora Chu noticed how well-behaved Chinese children were compared to her boisterous toddler. How did the Chinese create their academic super-achievers? Would their little boy benefit from Chinese school?

Chu and her husband decided to enroll three-year-old Rainer in China’s state-run public school system. The results were positive—her son quickly settled down, became fluent in Mandarin, and enjoyed his friends—but she also began to notice troubling new behaviors. Wondering what was happening behind closed classroom doors, she embarked on an exploratory journey, interviewing Chinese parents, teachers and education professors, and following students at all stages of their education.

What she discovered is a military-like education system driven by high-stakes testing, with teachers posting rankings in public, using bribes to reward students who comply, and shaming to isolate those who do not. At the same time, she uncovered a years-long desire by government to alleviate its students’ crushing academic burden and make education friendlier for all. The more she learns, the more she wonders: Are Chinese children—and her son—paying too high a price for their obedience and the promise of future academic prowess? Is there a way to appropriate the excellence of the system but dispense with the bad? What, if anything, could Westerners learn from China’s education journey?

Chu’s eye-opening investigation challenges our assumptions and asks us to consider the true value and purpose of education.”

Lenora Chu is an award-winning journalist with more than a dozen years’ experience. She is a former TV correspondent with Thomson Reuters and a contributing writer with CNNMoney.com, and her freelance work has appeared in The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, APM’s Marketplace and PRI’s The World. Chu holds degrees from Stanford University and Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism and speaks Mandarin. Since 2010 she has split her time between California and Shanghai. She and her husband Rob Schmitz, NPR’s Shanghai correspondent, have two young sons.

Interested? Please contact George Lewinski at glewkinski@gmail.com to RSVP. Or you can call him on his mobile phone: 415-713-9898.