How Conscious Education Can Support Our Health Program

When a child enters school, they are in the mode to learn about how they can best prepare for the future. In this article I want to deal with our Education Program and the National Health plan. If we looked at empowering children to develop the life skills needed to learn better and the skills needed to deal with a health program, they would be better prepared to meet their challenges in the future. Skills like a positive self-image and self-trust help them tap powerful inner resources that support healing and education. Those skills also help control any kind of sabotage that would limit them from operating at their full potential in these areas.

Imagine if a child had the ability to control how they deal with important challenges. With a simple training, a child can develop habits that allow them to control these life skills with a simple word or phrase. Once they develop this trigger and experience this life skill, they approach the challenge more confidently without hesitation or self-doubt. This might not sound like a significant change, but when inner resources support the education or healing challenge, the child becomes more ‘in-dependent.’ This means they depend on inner resources to work as a partner with outer resources. This makes the student partners with their teacher and doctor. This teaches them how to actively participate with authorities in accomplishing important goals.

The life skill of a positive self-image gives you the power to control how you interpret your situation. For instance, if a child came from a dysfunctional home, they would tend to start their school day with a frustrated perspective; they would be in a state where they were unable to learn. We tend to relate to ourselves the way we have been related to. Often, in a dysfunctional home, the child is conditioned not to be open and receptive. If a child could switch their self-image, they could turn that frustrated perspective into an open, positive perspective that is open to learn.

I worked with a 7-year-old boy referred to me for school behavior problems. He named his Negative Self ‘bad boy’ and his Positive Self ‘good boy.’ I taught him that, when he felt like ‘bad boy,’ he could switch to ‘good boy’ and deal with school from that perspective. As a result, he felt more comfortable in school; his grades and behavior improved. Later in life, these habits could set the tone for crucial interactions, like dealing with poor health or relationships.

I was counseling a veteran with PTSD, which left him in a pretty consistent state of anger. I got him in touch with his positive and negative self-images. He named his negative self-image ‘anger’ and his positive self-image ‘lover.’ His wife got cancer and on the way to the doctor, he wanted to be as supportive as he possibly could. When ‘anger’ related to his wife, it did not have a supportive tone. When ‘lover’ related to her, his love definitely came through. I taught him how to switch instantly from ‘anger’ to ‘lover,’ so he could always give his wife loving support.

If children could learn to control their self-image, they could develop in these areas. They could meet their challenges from a more confident perspective. That would limit self-doubt and subconscious sabotaging programs that make it difficult to manifest. This could be as minor as approaching a test with confidence or as major as dealing with a chronic illness. If these skills were developed in school at a young age, by the time they had health problems, they would have a perspective connected to powerful inner resources. If they did not develop a self-image connected to inner resources, they would be caught in the maze of their mind and deal with self-doubt during crucial times.

I have seen people burdened with a negative past create a positive self-image and deal with challenges their ego was just frustrated with. In school or in the hospital, this self-doubt can grow and sabotage your efforts. You might not be a complete failure, but you are not manifesting to your full potential. This transition would happen easier if the Positive and Negative Self were developed at an early age. When you rely on an old self-image that turned into a strong habit, you are more confident and comfortable operating that way.

Another life skill that is very important in both school and healing is the ability to trust yourself. Self-trust allows you to accept resources that are beyond your conditioned habits. Self-trust also keeps your focus inward, instead of immediately looking outside for the answer. A person who trusts themself can utilize external resources as a partner, so that inner and outer resources work together. Self-trust helps eliminate victim consciousness and empowers students to meet their challenges.

Remember the child that came from a dysfunctional home? If that child could trust their positive perspective; they would identify with the more conscious self-image. Then if they were in a situation like the veteran had with Anger, they would be ready to change.

Educating our children is not limited to teaching them the right answers. Real education draws out of the students inner resources that are useful for any problem-solving they will need in their life. In Latin, the root of ‘education’ is ‘to draw out.’ To do well in school or to heal from a chronic illness, we need to master our life skills and draw them out when necessary.

To deal with our national health program, we need to start developing people who actively approach their challenges. If this was developed throughout their education, it could reduce expenses as we better prepare our children to deal with future health challenges.

© Marc Lerner and Life Skills Institute 2013

World Oil Deals – Are Fortunes Made As Intermediary in Oil and Petroleum Trade Deals?

A. THE GET-RICH-QUICK ETHIC IN THE BUSINESS

We call this the ‘get rich quick’ or ‘get rich overnight’ ethic or mentality. That is, the notion and thinking that just the mere involvement of one in the petroleum trading business, whether as a dealer or a broker, agent or other intermediary role, will almost automatically guarantee one a millionaire, in deed, a multimillionaire, station in life, and almost in no time at all! That is an ethic and mentality that has pervaded the common mindset and psychic of the average intermediary involved, or contemplating involvement, in the business today, and has been even particularly more heightened since the modern era of the Internet trading. In a word, it is a mentality that says that world oil deals and the petroleum trading are a business that is awash in wealth and fortunes and easily guarantees the intermediary who gets involved in it in any capacity at all, but in particular as an agent or intermediary of some sort, that, as one analyst put it, “you are going to be super rich next week or next month” by doing so.

Historically, in the past, over a period of several decades (and beyond), there has almost always been a sizable number of what could be called “professional middlemen” who operated in the oil and other commodity “secondary market” trading industries who are primarily but genuinely driven by the belief or inner conviction that working as an intermediary in the industry is a reasonable path to honest living which, if not leading one to an instant wealth, then at least to a reasonable means of livelihood and steady economic progress and well-being.

In more recent times, however, since the advent of the Internet and its increasing role as the dominant and preferred tool for conducting business among intermediaries, there has gradually shifted and developed, in stead, over the years, a “new breed” of intermediaries and middlemen (brokers, agents, etc) in the trade. Often given to far less education, training or apprenticeship in the trade than the previous pre-Internet generation of intermediaries, and usually having vastly less knowledge and experience in the art of international trading because of the greater ease of entry into the business afforded them by the Internet, as a group this “new breed” of post-Internet intermediaries and middlemen are generally less shackled by the normal moral code or ethics and decorum, and are more greedy and in a greater hurry to “strike it big and fast” by merely working as an intermediary. And, just as importantly, they’re in a greater hurry to clinch that elusive, dubious get-rich-quick ambition by any means whatsoever, including the scamming of unsuspecting or gullible international crude buyers, as such scheme is aided and made easier for them by the Internet and the easier cover of anonymity that it provides them.

In deed, as many knowledgeable observers and respected analysts of the industry have noted, the get-rich-quick greed and mentality have, in these hard global economic times of today (mid 2012), reached an even new, particularly frenzied high, as many crooks, scammers and fraudsters with actually no real crude oil to sell, have now trooped into the international crude oil selling business in unprecedented numbers, seeing that arena as a fertile ground for them in attaining their dubious ambition of “striking it big and fast.”

Robert McAngus (among many others), the Managing Partner/CEO for the Robert McAngus Group, has noted, with great lamentation, that phenomenon. In a 2004 article, McAngus voiced a rather ringing alarm at the escalated, often grossly unrealistic, divorced-from-reality kind of the commission fees being demanded, or expected, in recent times by brokers and intermediaries in the petroleum trading.

According to McAngus:

“Over the past few years, I have seen the fees charged to a possible transaction spiral upward in some cases reaching the astronomic heights of $30 USD per metric ton to be divided 50/50 between the buy side and the sell side. For God sake! Get a life! Or at least do the mathematics, on a simple 100,000 metric ton transaction using the figures I have quoted, that’s $30,000,000.”

McAngus continues, asking: “Please explain how we, as the buyers, are supposed to justify that amount of money to the bank at which we have our lines of credit, and perhaps if I have a reader at this point they can explain what the broker did to earn this amazing sum of money… I have no idea where the idea that fees of this magnitude are paid to brokers in an oil transaction [came from], or for that matter who in the transaction is going to pay them, certainly not me as the buyer!.”

A salient aspect of this common notion and thinking is that to attain this high financial status of instant wealth in the business, you need not necessarily have to work hard or to be trained or particularly experienced in and knowledgeable about, it, but can attain it by this doing basically nothing – other than, perhaps, just shoving around a few copied or bogus false oil trade deals documents on the Internet usually passed down to the particular intermediary from other fellow equally uninformed brokers and intermediaries.

B. BUT HOW TRUE OR REAL IS THIS THINKING?

The principal question, of course, is: How true or real or not is this general thinking, if any? Are fortunes made as intermediary in petroleum and oil trade deals? We shall address this issue pretty soon. But, first of all, let us address the general nature of this thinking, and its general genesis or origins.

C. A MAJOR INFLUENCE and FACTOR IN THE CREATION OF THIS MINDSET OF GREED & GET-RICH-QUICK MYTHOLOGY

There might, of course, have been some other significant relevant factors and influences to which the origins and genesis of this present-day phenomenon of get-rich-quick mentality in oil deals could be attributable. But, for our purposes here, suffice it simply to say that, based upon this writer’s own extensive research on the subject, there seems to be one dominant intellectual factor, above all, which has significantly influenced and aided a great many among the current breed of Internet brokers and intermediaries in formulating this conception of the nature of the oil trading business, and of the above-described current mentality of greed and get-rich-quick mythology that is widely prevalent among these players about the oil business.

And what is that factor?

Somewhat incredibly, that factor seems to be one rather obscure e-book rather appropriately titled “How to Earn $Millions in Oil Deal.” Its author is Mr. Sam Igwe, who goes by the alias Sam Nelson, said to be an operator of an oil consulting service since 2003. Credible research shows that an early, cheap, but powerful and influential Internet promoter and preacher of the gospel of the quickie-and-easy-wealth-from-service-as-a-petroleum-deal-agent, is this simple publication by Mr. Sam Igwe, alias Sam Nelson – titled “How to Earn $Millions in Oil Deal.”

D. The Basic Doctrine of “get rich-quick-with-no-work-or-effort” of the Nelson Publication

In point of fact, Sam Nelson’s “How to Earn $Millions in Oil Deal” publication lives absolutely up to the billing of its title as an ardent gospel that fervently preaches what the title denotes!

Though nominally stating at the outset that the book is “not a ‘Get Rich Quick’ book,” the book promptly asserts that “If you are searching for a sure, fast and genuine way to earn fast, steady, honest living and how to become a millionaire, I bet, this is the right book [for you].” The publication proclaims itself to be “the clear path to financial freedom,” it declares its prime mission as being to teach the reader “the long-held secrets of how to work smart and become a big-time Agent, millionaire within few months,” and asserts that it “is intended to open the eyes and minds of the readers to join the team of the big players in crude oil business.”

Regarding the amount of money the average intermediary agent or “facilitator” is to expect, Nelson asserts,

“• Do you know you can become an Oil Deal Facilitator and EARN Millions of dollars within few months? • Do you know you can become a Buyer’s or Seller’s Agent? • Do you know you can EARN $1,000,000 – $2,000,000 just for successfully closing one Oil deal within few months?” He adds that you can “induct yourself into the Millionaires Club!,” that you “can change your life forever by becoming an Oil Deal Facilitator and earn up to ($2,000,000) two million dollars within few months… [with only] a phone and an Internet access, your only investment is just this step-by-step (Manual).”

Nelson sums up his “attain super wealth overnight” doctrine this way:

“There are millions of barrels of Crude Oil being sold daily around the world. You can close a deal in any part of the world. Just a click of your mouse and few phone calls plus extra smart work… you can earn Millions of dollars in just few months by successfully closing one Oil Deal working in the comfort of your home as a facilitator. These secrets have not been made public because the participants do not want the public to learn their game. These oil deal giants have been very privileged to learn the game and have constantly made people feel that one has to be a millionaire before he/she can participate. This is not true.”

E. No Work, No Education or Skills Required!

And is there any amount of work or efforts that it will take for the agent to master this business and make a success of it, or to earn all that money? Is there any education, skills, knowledge, investment and experience that this will take or require? Nelson’s answer to these questions is, basically, practically little to none of that. According to Nelson, “This is Easy and Simple! Just from your dinning table you will work at your own pace and make millions of dollar within few months. There is no hidden cost. No huge investment. No upfront fees. (WE MEAN ‘NO FEES UPFRONT’).”

F. BUT HOW TRUE OR REAL IS THIS THINKING?

And now we get back to this central but critical question: How true or real is this general thinking, if any at all? Basically, the question is, are fortunes made as intermediary in petroleum trade deals, in fact?

In point of fact, if we were to put it simply in a word, probably the most fundamental and truest thing that could be said about the above-sketched doctrine of “get rich quick with no work or efforts” for the oil trader or intermediary, is simply that that doctrine is completely and patently false and misleading, and is at variance with, and directly contradictory to, the whole TRUTH and actual REALITY about the business! It is that the above-prescribed thinking is patently contradicted by the well-established, tried-and-proven trading doctrine and thinking that has long been preached, practiced and successfully used by mainstream traders and the most respected and most successful experts and practitioners of trading for generations in the industry!
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Sure, decent money, or, in deed, even high incomes could still be made, and continue to be made, by many persons working as an intermediary in the business today, and a good number of intermediaries still close oil trade deals that are lucrative. But that’s ONLY by someone, however, who shall have already “paid his dues” in the industry before hand, before he (she) can possibly attain such success and such income working in the business – in terms of having acquired the requisite education and training, of being skilled and knowledgeable in the fundamentals of the trade and the appropriate rules and procedures of the trade, and, above all, of having acquired the hands-on practical experience and apprenticeship and long years (some 2-3 years or more) of painstaking, patient, diligent hard work in the business.

Clearly, that is a far, far, cry from the Nelson doctrine outlined above which essentially says and spreads the thinking that, as a broker or agent working in world oil deals and trading, you’re almost automatically “guaranteed” to close oil trade deals and to attain incredibly humongous and high “millionaire” financial status of instant wealth within months in the business just by the mere trying of your hands at it; and that you need not necessarily have to work hard at it or to be trained or particularly experienced in and knowledgeable about it, but can attain such great wealth overnight, any way, by doing basically nothing — other than, perhaps, just shoving around a few copied or false oil deal documents on the Internet usually passed down to the particular intermediary from other fellow brokers and intermediaries.

Clearly, anyone who really knows anything about the true realities of the business, would immediately tell you that nothing could be more ‘Joker Broker’ like type of philosophy than the above-described Nelson doctrine. An attitude and mindset that immediately reminds one of this characterization made by one analyst about the core nature of the joker broker, “Some of them [the “Internet” brokers or joker brokers] are quite entertaining [in the notions about the workings of business they typically exhibit], and remind us of the Nigerian scam artists. The world simply [just] does not work like that.”

G. THE PERVASIVENESS OF SUCH THINKING AMONG THE INTERMEDIARIES

Yet, such attitude and thinking fundamentally represents the kind of underlying mindset and mentality which typically pervades and controls the thinking of most persons who are attracted by and enticed into dabbling into the role of an agent or intermediary in petroleum dealings today – a mindset and mentality which essentially views the petroleum trading business as the ‘cash cow’ path to instant financial riches, and one which requires no deep learning or knowledge set to attain it, no long experience, and no hard work, but could simply be accomplished merely by passing around a few copied or even forged but never verified “documents” on the Internet! An underlying mindset and mentality of get-rich-quick-through-the-intermediary-work-without-work-or-study, which, though grossly misguided and totally erroneous and misinformed, pervades the broker network on the Internet – and bespeaks of the kind of unbelievable unrealism, unreal mentality and difficult-to-comprehend attitude often witnessed among a good many Internet brokers and agents operating in the international petroleum trading market today in terms of the frequent presentation one sees on their part of offers of business propositions or demands that are often impracticable, totally unreal and unrealistic, seemingly mere day-dreaming than serious, clearly divorced from simple reality, and completely contrary to all time-honored, well-established norms of the trade and the normal ways of doing business!

H. How Pure Greed Blinds & Hoodwinks People into this Doctrine

It is a mindset and mentality that, though rooted in the Sam Nelson doctrine, have their most primary and powerful impetus in one fundamental factor – sheer human GREED and FANTASY or MYTHOLOGY! Many times, mainly consumed by the false thought of becoming “super rich” overnight out of the blues from an oil deal, many of such brokers are found to be innocently and naively trying to close a deal for someone who they believe, or merely hope, to be real, but who is, in fact really not. But oftentimes, they are too blinded and overcome by the false belief in their pipe dream of becoming “super rich next week or next month” overnight by virtually doing nothing, or too proud or conceited, to simply accept or concede that such beliefs and procedures that they present are simply incorrect or impracticable, and so they refuse to change their ways and continue along the same futile path of wasting their time and the precious time of others, for months and years still trying to push plainly unworkable deals – until, perhaps, it finally begins to dawn on them that for so long no deals have been closed, or are likely to be closed, and not a dime of income has been, or is likely to be, earned!

These words of cautionary alarm and distress by a vastly experienced and successful 35-year veteran of the business, Robert McAngus, the Managing Partner/CEO of the international conglomerate, Robert McAngus Group, concerning the escalating greed and demands for unrealistic levels of commission fees he had observed from Internet agents and brokers, seem to hit the nail squarely on the head:

“Having been in the oil business since 1976, many years prior to the birth of the internet and Skype, I feel I have the practical experience and the hands-on management knowledge and skills required to try and set some of the misunderstandings [held by brokers and intermediaries about what they should be paid] right,” as he strongly advices the brokers and agents that, having come from the old school, he would strongly ask that they always “THINK THE DEAL THROUGH. If you as a fresh-faced young broker or a grizzled seasoned veteran, take the time to think about the process, I am sure that you will realize that this industry requires a lot of hard work and effort, so rather than just pass the deal from your friend Joe, along to the next broker friend, do some dam work and find out if the deals [are] real or not, and try to earn your commissions.”

I. Don’t Even Try Your Hands at It Until You’ve Had the Requisite Education, Training, and Experience

Divide Papa, the noted expert in modern international trading procedures, somewhat debunking the Nelson doctrine of get-rich-quick-without work-or-study, elaborates:

“[If] you want to become a Doctor or Accountant or Engineer,” he notes, reminding us of the way things have always worked in the real world, “you must [first] study and go to school for may years. Then obtain experience. You want to become a professional intermediary Buyer/seller, the same ideal applies – 2/3 years is the learning, obtaining the experience cycle, and after studying, many will give up trying. That’s how difficult this business is. But in return – if you close even just ONE single large deal – you will make a small fortune. You will make a life time of earnings on one deal. If you learn and study well your chances to close one deal is an even 50/50. [However], if you trade without study, your chances of closing a deal is ZERO. There is no 100% study applications in this business.”

Papa adds that any persons who are acting as import/export intermediaries in world petroleum deals, but have NOT first done the requisite studies, or fail to apply the appropriate doctrine of trading that’s followed by credible practitioners and experts, are virtually doomed to failure, guaranteed to close no deals or to make even a dime in income. And such persons, he asserts, should just rest assured that at least 99% of them “have no idea on what they are doing and will never close one deal even in 50 year of trading with silly procedures like LOI, ICPO, BCL, POP, etc. The net is full of silly ill-informed intermediaries who think they are trading when, in fact, all they’re doing is trading in nothing – just wasting time.”

SUMMARY

To summarize, the central point of this essay is that – whatever may have actually been, or is, the causal source for or genesis of it, whether it is traceable to Mr. Nelson’s book, or to the new ethic of the Internet and the Internet generation, or some other unidentifiable corrupting or misguiding influence, or whatever else – literally nothing could be more wrong-headed, more misleading, misguided or unfortunate for the international petroleum marketing business today, or any Internet broker and agent who operates or want to operate in it, than adopting or buying into the above-described doctrine of fortune being made as intermediary in petroleum trade deals overnight, without work or efforts or education, which is widely admitted to be the underlying prevailing mindset operating among many of today’s Internet brokers and agents. In fact, to put it even more starkly, the central point that is made here is that nothing could be more cruelly ‘Joker Broker’ like – i.e., more negative or despicable, more unreal and unrealistic, more damaging or destructive, and counterproductive – to the average broker’s very own best interests and to his best chances of ever finding success in the business or ever landing any sales, closing any deals or making any income – than for a broker to operate under this kind of thinking and mindset – a mindset that is completely false and wrong, totally mistaken and misleading, unrealistic, unattainable, and absolutely contrary to and devoid of any realities and all norms of doing business..

Put simply, in terms of world oil deals, it is this innate belief in the above-described doctrine and mistaken thinking concerning the actual nature and realities of international trading and what ought to be the proper role of the commission intermediary in it that is generally held by the modern Internet intermediary, consciously or unconsciously, deliberately or otherwise, that is fundamentally the single most critical element which account for why most commission intermediaries fail as agents and generally do not close any deals or earn much income, for months, even for years of involvement in the business. And, what is more, it is this unfortunate innate erroneous belief that is held by them, that has been the most fundamental critical element which account for the terrible image of the modern Internet commission intermediary in today’s petroleum marketing business, and the horrible image and notoriety with which they are generally viewed.

And this is so for very good and readily understandable, and, in large part, justifiable reason!

Why so? Simply, because to operate in the business based on such a wrong-headed doctrine or mindset, or such misguided thinking, by any one at all, directly leads one, as it has with the intermediaries involved in the oil business, astray, leading them to the wrong approach and wrong mindset and procedures for the business, and therefore to undesired results and to failure and not being able to close oil trade deals, or to earn commission income from their involvement in the business.

An apt and excellent word of knowledge by which to conclude this essay is perhaps this one offered by one noted expert and author on the international trade intermediary, “There are no short cuts in this business [of trying to work as a trader or an intermediary].”

Or, to put it perhaps even more lucidly still, I might myself add this: “Either trade with the correct philosophy and approach, or fail woefully if you try to trade otherwise!” As an intermediary (or trader), those are your ONLY two stark options and certain results, and none else!

FOR A FOLLOW UP

WISH TO FOLLOW UP ON GETTING A CRUDE OIL OR PETROLEUM PRODUCTS SELLER OR BROKER WITH WORKABLE, REALISTIC PROCEDURES THAT A CREDIBLE BUYER CAN READILY ACCEPT? Please see the instructional information in the author’s resource box below

Chinese Education: Students, Teachers, and Methodology

With my interest and background in education, my teaching in China placed me in a unique position to do firsthand observation of Chinese education at all levels, which was one of the primary purposes of my original sabbatical request and my subsequent trips there. My wife and I visited a number of elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as several community colleges; in addition, I had the opportunity of teaching at all university grade levels. I came to find out that education has very different, much more deterministic consequences for Chinese students than it does for American students.

Look at it this way. With a population of over 1.3 billion people, China has one-fifth of the world’s population: one in every five people on Earth is Chinese. Further complicating the problems of that massive populace is the distribution of the people. China has roughly the same land mass as the United States. However, a good portion of that area is uninhabitable or sparsely populated: the Gobi Desert is non-arable and the Himalayas and the Himalayan plateau regions have proven to be largely useless; the eastern half of the nation is where the majority of the people are clustered, with a good deal of the population concentrated in and around the large cities located in that part of the country’s land mass. In addition, seventy-five to eighty percent of the people are still agrarian. Such disparate distribution and density of the population certainly makes feeding, housing, caring for, and educating the citizens an ongoing challenge, with education being a key focus.

Every school day in China, over 300 million students study in Chinese classrooms… more than the entire population of America. Indeed, one of my Chinese colleagues once related to me an enlightening analogy. Education in China, he illustrated, can be compared to a wide, packed highway leading to a narrow bridge. The farther along the road one goes, the narrower it gets. Many students get forced out into endless side streets all along the way. And at the end of that crowded road lies a very narrow bridge called “post secondary study.” If one does not cross that bridge, full participation and success in the Chinese economy is extremely limited. And because very few people can ever cross that bridge successfully, entry into post-secondary study is extremely competitive.

All Chinese citizens are guaranteed a basic ninth-grade education and increased literacy in the nation is one of the primary goals of the government. However, given the enormous number of students to be educated, those aims are difficult to achieve. Average class sizes range anywhere from forty to eighty, depending on the specialization of the school, and can number even more if the circumstances demand. The better schools have smaller classes (no more than forty students) so the teacher can do a better job. However, fifty to sixty students is the norm. From kindergarten on, regimentation is the rule of the day. Students are required to listen and take notes. The teacher traditionally has supreme authority and asking questions or commenting on course content in the classroom is considered to be an affront to the teacher and is thus forbidden. Teacher aides, tutors, or parental help in the classroom are unheard of. Rote memorization remains the dominant methodology and students learn early on that silence and copious note taking are the only keys to success. The students themselves spend most of their day in the classroom-usually from eight to ten hours-and the remainder of their time is devoted to homework and any additional tutoring or other supplemental courses that the parents can afford. At all levels of schooling, test results determine the caliber and quality of school the students will be able to attend, so continual study for capstone examinations (national exams at the completion of fourth, sixth, eight, tenth, and twelfth grades) do much in determining the direction and quality of the students’ lives. Some of the college students I talked to admitted that the rigorous demands placed on them by their teachers and parents left them with little or no childhood, a condition they vowed they would never impart on their own children.

The Chinese post-secondary education system is vastly different from the America system. The semesters are twenty-one weeks long. Chinese college students often attend classes Monday through Friday as well as extra classes, tutoring, and/or study sessions on Saturday and Sunday. Entrance into Chinese colleges and universities is quite difficult and is determined by the infamous national Gaokao placement exam. Only about 10 to 20 percent of high school graduates go on to technical colleges or universities and the exam results determine not only which universities they can attend, but also what majors they can study. Once accepted by a university, the students move through their course of studies in cadres of thirty-five to forty. Each cohort takes exactly the same classes and the members share the same, gender separate dormitories, with eight people to a small, confined room. Often their shower and toilet facilities are in a separate building. One of the students from each cohort is appointed to be the class monitor, and he or she becomes tasked with assuring that all classroom and dormitory activities take place with as few problems as possible. To be selected class monitor is indeed an honor. The students within each cohort and dorm room form close bonds and work together for the good of the whole. Interesting enough, most of the students I have talked with say there is little collaborative or interactive learning that goes on in the classroom. The totality of the Chinese education system serves to severely restrict creativity and individuality in students. Just as with the public education system, the college classroom experience involves listening, memorization, and continuous preparation for entrance exams and placements tests. However, the tests college students take are cumulative and will determine the employment they will acquire after graduation, and thus their future quality of life. The competitive nature of the Chinese education system has produced students who, for the most part, are very earnest, obedient, and extremely hardworking, yet who severely lack initiative.

I taught Chinese college students from all grade levels and their abilities and eagerness to learn continually impressed me. Unlike in America, problems with attendance and preparedness never interfered with classroom instruction, which made my teaching experience most enjoyable. And nearly to a person, the students continually exuded a childlike air about them… a certain navet… a sense of innocence to the ways of the world… indeed, they lacked the hardness present in so many of the students I deal with in my American classroom. The students who I worked with were highly motivated to do their best because they almost universally felt compelled to achieve success at any cost; doing so is their duty to not only society, but more importantly to their family. Parents often sacrifice a great deal in the education of their child, who comes to feel deeply obligated to repay them for the education he or she has received. Many of my students said the same thing: “I must get a good job and make much money so I can take care of my parents. They have worked so hard and spent so much money on my education.” The Chinese still place great emphasis on family… the ancient Confucian notion of Parental Piety… and on subservience to the society as a whole… the collectivism so sharply contrary to the individualist worldview of Westerners.

Every once and a while, one is given an epiphany, a moment of insight, if you will, that provides more information than volumes of books ever can. The first of my educational moments of enlightenment came when we visited several classrooms at a middle school. After the last class of the school day, I noticed many of the students were busy cleaning the windows in the classrooms, washing the blackboards, mopping the floors, and even cleaning the bathrooms. I asked the teacher giving us the tour of the school about this and her reply was, “These activities are part of the students’ education.” Schools have no janitorial force; all of the cleanup work is delegated to the students. “If the students are responsible for the condition of the classrooms and the school,” she continued, “they will put much more effort into and value upon their education. This is very much a part of our Socialist tradition… of Chairman Mao’s ideas of loving labor.”

The second insight came during the second month I was at Northeastern University. On a cold Sunday evening in February a sudden snow storm dropped several inches of snow on Shenyang. Very early the next morning, as I left our apartment building and began to make my way to my first class, I noticed students all over the campus-by the thousands-industriously shoveling snow off of the sidewalks and streets and chipping away at the patches of ice that had formed near door stoops and on steps. They had apparently been at their tasks since daybreak. I could only look on, perplexed, not sure of what I was experiencing. When I met my first class, which coincidentally was a cross-cultural communications course, I took several minutes to explain my curiosity about their activities. They were more than happy to explain the mechanics and the purpose of the activity.

“It is our duty!” explained Albert proudly (Chinese students learning English usually assume an English name).

“Shoveling snow is part of our education.”

“Yes, no one should slip on the ice and become injured,” chimed in Tiffany, whose muffler remained just below her lips in the cold classroom.

“How is the work determined?” I asked, still trying to keep the conversation going.

“Each class is given an assigned area. If the area is not done satisfactorily, the responsible class will be punished,” answered Gerald.

“What happens if someone is lazy and doesn’t want to go out into the cold and sleeps in?” I continued.

“That person will be scorned and even ridiculed by his fellow classmates… will be considered as a person who is unreliable… who can’t be trusted,” said Gail.

Intrigued by the ingenuousness of their answers, I tried to get as much information as I could. “And I saw the girls shoveling and chipping just as hard as the boys. Why is this?”

Connie, who was always timid in class, finally found her voice. “Chairman Mao did much for establishing the equality of women to men. He maintained that women need to stand with men in society, not behind them.”

Perhaps with a little chagrin, I concluded the conversation with a joke about what my students would probably tell me to do with the shovel if I commanded them to go out and remove snow from our college’s sidewalks… a joke no one really understood. But I had found a “teachable moment”… or rather a “learnable moment”… an instance in which the students and I were able to look beyond ourselves and jointly comment on the world around us. And not only had I found out more information about my environment, I was beginning to find those rare moments of teaching when I learned much more than I could ever impart.

I had two such other sudden leaps of understanding just this past year when I went to Shenyang. In my several trips there I had never had the occasion to go in the fall, so because we went during September and October on that visit I was able to observe two very remarkable occurrences. The first was on September 10th, which I did not realize was National Day of the Teacher, a nationwide holiday in which students around the country show their appreciation for their teachers by presenting them with gifts of cards and flowers. We knew the day was a holiday for teachers, but we were incredibly surprised when two of our students appeared at our door with two large arrangements of flowers… a token they said of the gratitude all of our students had for us being their teachers. Traditionally, the relationship of the teacher to the student has almost mirrored that of the one between parent and child, a concept that comes from the time of Confucius (Kongfuzi).

This insight was followed up shortly thereafter with yet another, when I was visiting the Foreign Studies College at Northeastern University, just after the beginning of the semester in September. From several blocks away I heard a chorus of hundreds of voices singing a martial anthem. As I walked onto the large concrete square in front of the twelve-story Administration Building, I saw arrayed there at least two thousand students dressed in the drab green of military uniforms. Some were marching, some were standing in large cadres on the building steps, and other were engaged in military hand-to-hand combat tactics, all under the direction of regular Chinese Army instructors. Later I came to find out that all college freshmen, at every college and university around the country, are required to receive a full three weeks of military training before they even begin their classes. Some of the teachers I talked to explained how that requirement was purposeful in helping the students prepare for the rigors of college life and studies; others said it had come out of the Tiananmen Square incident and had been implemented to prevent university students from engaging in anti-government organizing and activities. Again, the differences between the students of China and those of America are often stark.

But the restlessness and impatience of youth is universal. In China the imposition of Western influences, brought about by the rise of capitalism and the driving force of commercialism and advertising, movies and videos, the Internet and other glimpses of outside cultures, have generated a rising sense of not dissent, but perhaps discontent… maybe uneasiness with the status quo. The Chinese youth of today are not the same as that of twenty or even ten years ago, and this groundswell is probably most noticeable in education. Though still hard-working and conscientious, contemporary students are progressively coming to expect more than just a passive exchange of information and knowledge during the course of their learning; they are, I think, gradually asking for a more participatory role in their education, which might, in the end, spill over into the broader social and political realms.

This need for change in educational methodology is exerting growing pressure on the teaching profession in China to change. The Chinese teachers and professors I worked with were equally industrious and eager to help and learn. And though the teacher remains the center of authority in the classroom, they are continually asked for much and given little in return; they for the most part are underpaid, making a fraction of their American counterparts, while doing more with less. And they sense the limitations of their traditional methods of teaching… those that have been ingrained into the culture since the time of Kongfuzi. With the new generation of students coming into their classrooms, the old methods prove to not be working so well. The twenty-first century is requiring people who can do more tha just memorize; instead, abstract thinkers are going to be needed and the teachers and professors are looking to the West, strangely enough, to provide them with the teaching tools to accomplish this goal. And just as with their students, when exposed to new and different ways of teaching, such as collaborative learning and independent thought, Chinese teachers are slowly finding out that melding innovation with tradition brings success.

At the risk of over generalization, I can say that the students, and certainly the faculty members, are extremely different from those I have grown accustomed to in America. Because education is not a right, but rather a privilege in China, both groups for the most part take their studies, educational mission, and teaching responsibilities quite seriously. As a result, I submit that both the American and Chinese cultures and educational systems can learn a great deal from each other.

Note: The above article has been excerpted from a photo narrative entitled An American Academic in Li Bai’s Court: China Photos and Reflection, created and written by John H. Paddison. Copyright 2010, Paddison-Orvik Publishing.

Copyright 2011 Paddison-Orvik Publishing.