21 February 2007

To my colleagues who think Chinese are idiots

Some of my foreign colleagues in China shock me with their attitude.

I would like to ask my colleagues to:

1) To remember we are guests in this country. Many of the members on our list are Chinese. The way some of us talk on this list is highly disrespectful and at times downright offensive to our Chinese hosts and colleagues.

2) To remember we may not be as great as we think we are. Some of us are entertaining illusions that our own countries and cultures and education systems are perfect or certainly beyond the problems that China has.

Cheating, plagiarism, the evil exam system and more are all well represented in our own countries so we shouldn't be shocked to see it here as well.

It is the attitude that some of my colleagues have voiced that has been shocking. And such attitude has caused some of us to balance the argument with reminders that things are not so rosy in the west.

If I said that American teachers are good for nothing and that American books are only good for wiping our bottoms I suspect my message would not be well received by foreigners. It is bad enough that a couple of my fellow foreign colleagues say this about Chinese teachers and books but to make it even worse other foreign are not shocked or do not even notice.

Certainly we may have different viewpoints on methodology and certainly some teachers are better than others. But when you go to Chicago to get your visa that Chinese consulate employee you are conversing with so well behind the counter probably learned English the Chinese way. You'll be surprised how many millions are speaking English pretty well without ever having a foreign English teacher. The fact is, the Chinese English teaching method works. It's just that we think some of our western methods work better.

China is struggling under the double burden of huge population and relative poverty. I think we should cut China a little slack and quit complaining that they are not as great at things as we think we are. I think we should wake up and realize that we are not as great as we think we are and, frankly, some of us foreigners are idiots.

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