Thursday, October 14, 2010

Teach English in Asia: Eric and the eight-year old Taiwanese intellectuals

As I say Eric had had a reaction from hell to the idea that all westerners can think independently and the Taiwanese couldn't. On one occasion he had been substituting for me at my school.
“Hey, Dan, what is up with the boss at your school?” said Eric while we were having lunch.
I didn't need to ask him what exactly the problem is. “Yes, Eric, I need to talk to you about that...”
Apparently he had been teaching them the sentence: 'What do you like? - I like music.' And it had turned into: 'Do you like....?” And when the kids answered, 'No, I don't', he had asked, 'Why?' And of course they didn't know why...and it was pointless and stupid and not part of the repetition exercise, but he had stood there for 10 minutes repeatedly asking why until all the energy from the room had dissipated away and the kids started climbing on the chairs. Unfortunately, this had happened more than once.
It was necessary of course because Asian education system was based on rote learning and memorization, and so they needed his help to teach opinion forming and the ability to think abstractly.
“Eric,” I said. “They are eight years old. No education system in the world believes eight year-olds can debate politics. And frankly it is not an admirable skill as most politicians are full of shit.”
Still, I knew it was pointless - he was sure that when he was 11, in between reading comics, playing on his skateboard and sniggering over a pack of cards of naked women he kept in his underwear; cards that he coveted, took out and pawed over and examined so often if he could use them in Vegas he would be a billionaire, he could debate with lawyers and politicians. So what if the entire education establishment – western and eastern - believed kids of that age needed discipline, repetition and order, he knew better.
Man, I am doing you a service here. Get these Asian thinking when they are young,” he replied.
“Well, you will have to do a service at another school if you continue as my boss doesn't want you back,” I replied. “Again, if you want to eat sometimes you have to keep your mouth shut.”
“Man, this culture,” said Eric, pulling this big offended face because: why were these people again stifling his creativity.
We paused for a moment both taking a breather from our frustrations at each other.
John was the next to speak. “Look at that guy in the suit,” he said. “More specifically the ass pant of his trousers. Now that is an Asian cultural difference.”
“What are you talking about? I asked.
“He has been in that toilet for twenty minutes and it is a squat toilet – I know because I was there earlier; in and out in less than a minute, precariously trying to support myself over the bowl by putting my hand on the back wall – still it killed my thighs in seconds and at the end I had to check the back of my trousers hoping for no accidents. That guy went in there in his best suit, read a newspaper, did his business and hasn't even broken a sweat. Man, these people can squat.”
“It is beautiful when they are on top,” mused Pierre.