Authoritarian schooling in Shanghai vs. the American approach


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Lenora Chu discusses her new book, Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve.

When American journalist Lenora Chu moved to Shanghai, she faced tough choices about where and how to educate her kindergarten-age son. She chose an elite state-run school down the street, but soon found that its authoritarian teaching style offended many of her sensibilities of how to nurture a child. At the same time, she found herself appreciating the discipline and mathematical ability that the system was instilling in Rainey.

She embarked on an investigative mission to answer the question: What price do the Chinese pay to produce their “smart” kids, and what lessons might Western parents and educators learn from this system?

Her book, Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve, tells not just the story of Lenora and Rainey, but also the story of China’s educational system as a whole, backed up by research and interviews with a variety of students, teachers, and experts.

Jeremy and Kaiser sat down with Lenora to discuss the Chinese educational system and the range of pros and cons it presents, and to compare that with the dramatically different American system.


Jeremy: A Washington Post article titled “To deter North Korea, Japan and South Korea should go nuclear,” written by Bilahari Kausikan, formerly the permanent secretary of Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It’s an interesting and compelling argument, whether or not you agree with it.

Lenora: Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change, the new book by Ellen Pao, a woman trying to pull back the curtain on gender discrimination in Silicon Valley.

Kaiser: He recommends that residents in his town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, vote for Hongbin Gu, a woman running for the Chapel Hill Town Council who is a quantitative psychiatric researcher originally from Shanghai.