On Her Way

When talking about China, many people are astounded by its enormous and mysterious performance in recent decades. Since the implementation of economic reform and opening-up policies in 1978, China has become one of the world’s fastest-growing economies with the GDP growth rate averaging between 7% and 8% a year, despite a bit slowdown in recent two years. Nevertheless, standing as the world’s second biggest economy in terms of its nominal total GDP, China successfully inspires the world’s curiosity. What kind of government and/or policies that make China such a huge turnover immediately following the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which is a sociopolitical movement that paralyzed China politically and economically? How it significantly reduces the desperation of hunger and poverty not only in its own homeland but in many other countries’ land? What is the role of education in playing to inspire its people to reconstruct the nation as well as the economy? To answer these questions, let’s start from overviewing the education in China.

Being a country of the world’s largest population, China organizes and operates the largest education system with almost 260 million students and over 15 million teachers in about 514,000 schools, excluding graduate education institutions (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2014). China’s education system is not only immense but diverse. If you compare the education in rural areas and urban areas, in poor families and rich families, in northern regions and southern regions, in interior cities and coastal cities, you will get dramatically different conclusions about what is China’s education and how it performs. Education in China is always assigned a high value by the government, holding the belief that it is the fundamental of national development and modernization. In recent years, the share of government expenditure on education has grown to more than 4 percent of national GDP, reaching the goal set by the National Medium and Long-Term Educational Reform and Development Programme (2010-2020). Education is state-run, with little involvement of private providers in the school sector, and increasingly decentralized. The Ministry of Education is the agency of the State Council that oversees the education throughout the country. At the provincial level, there are departments of education or commissions that are in charge of education. At the county level, bureaus of education are in charge. The responsibility of basic education lies with county-level administrations, hence efforts are made to integrate the development of education and the labor force with the development of local economy and the advancement of culture, morals and living standards.

The Law on Nine-Year Compulsory Education, which was enacted in 1986, stands as a milestone in China’s education reform of achieving the mission of universal primary education for all citizens. According to the Law on Nine-Year Compulsory Education, all school-age children with Chinese nationality have the right to receive at least nine years of education (generally, six-year primary education and three-year secondary education), and parents are responsible for enrolling their children in school and making sure they complete nine years of compulsory schooling. The Law was revised in 2006, and it now stipulates that all students in compulsory education are exempted from tuition and miscellaneous fees. According to UNESCO-UIS3 2016, the gross enrolment ratio for primary education in 2014 was 103% compared with 104W% in 2006, while for secondary education gross enrolment ratio was 94% compared with 64% in 2006. Up to 2014, China has progressed to allow over 140 million students to get the basic education.

The reform of higher education was not that reassuring. In the periods of political upheavals, such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, ideology was severely stressed over professional or technical competence. Universities were forced to shut down as college students were out for political activities. A whole generation of talented people was ruined at that time because of political repression. In 1977, prominent Chinese political leader Deng Xiaoping made a resolute decision to resume China’s National College Entrance Examination (NCEE, also known as Gaokao) across the country. Starting from 1978, the examination was uniformly designed by the Ministry of Education and all the students across the country took exactly the same examination.

Reforms on the content and form of the examination have never stopped, among which the permission for individual provinces to customize their own exams has been the most prominent. Permitted by the Ministry of Education in 1985, Shanghai took the first step in employing an independent exam, following by Guangdong, Beijing, Tianjin, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang. Till now, there have been 16 provinces and municipalities adopting customized exams. In 1970, less than 1% of Chinese people had attended higher education, far behind the world average level. In 2015, more than 40% of Chinese people had attended higher education. Though it is still quite low compared to the percent attendance of higher education in the Western developed countries, China has made its amazing progress of surpassing the world average.

Needless to say, with such a crowded population, the fierce competition for getting into universities never stops. In 2015, there are 9.43 million students across the country registered for the NCEE. According to the 2015 report from the Ministry of Education, the college gross enrolment is about 74.31%, meaning that 2.42 million students were not recruited to get the higher education. If take a further look at the provincial/municipal situation, it is even worse in the more populous provinces and municipals, such as Henan, Shandong, Anhui, Beijing, Shanghai. Acknowledging its life-influential consequence, both teachers and students have undergone tremendous pressure in preparing for and taking the exam. Because of the social focuses on the university admission rates, teachers have to pay more attention to each student’s ability to take the exam by training them with tons of tests and exams. Students are told that their destiny is made by the score that they can achieve in the NCEE and if they fail, so as their life. This is a really painful must-to-go experience. There is no other choice but to fight it with all efforts.

However, few teachers and students realize that Gaokao is not just a simple entrance test for Chinese students and their families, which might determine their happiness for life, it’s also a huge investment in learning and studying that lasts years. In fact, Gaokao perfectly explains what it means from quantitative outcome to qualitative outcome. Though we ourselves call our learning for exams as cramming, we know that this is more than simply cramming. A study conducted by researchers at Stanford University found that Chinese freshmen in computer science and engineering programs began college with critical thinking skills about two to three years ahead of their peers in the United States and Russia. Yet Chinese students showed virtually no improvement in critical thinking after two years of college, even as their American and Russian counterparts made significant strides, according to the study. This is to say, the biggest problem is not Gaokao, it is our rigid and obsolete higher education that may really alter Chinese students’ life track.

Somehow, we ignore it. We ignore the role it plays as a huge investment in learning and studying that lasts years. Take myself as an example, the saying I heard the most when I was in senior high school is, “Try every effort and try harder. Once you win the Gaokao, you win your life and all the rest is whatever you want to do and enjoy.” What an inspiring promise. As long as I endured the Gaokao, I would win back all my freedom of doing whatever I like to do. Is it really the truth? Ironically, it never is. After getting into college, I suddenly realize that teachers just paper over the cracks – they just forget to tell (or they actually forget the real truth) that Gaokao is only one of the important challenges in our life and after getting over it, we still have to fight for the next and the next and the next challenges. We still have to keep fighting for what we dream of and care about.

Without realizing the reality (or more possibly, without accepting the reality after realizing it), many students lost their control of themselves and drown in wasting their valuable time in college. This is, as in my understanding, a consequence of many kinds of reasons. Years ago, students that graduated from universities were easy to get a job as there were not too many people holding a higher education experience. Now, things are different. With the fastest growing and opening economy, holding a graduation certificate with a degree is no longer enough to make oneself qualified for a job. More other personalities and experiences are taken into consideration. Things change, so as our vision of what the higher education should give us.

In changes of the forty years. You may see it a mystic surprise, but we see it a step-by-step progress. Not yet enough to get rid of everything rigid and obsolete, but it keeps making its way. China has experienced miserable periods as well as flourishing eras. China has gone through peaks as well as troughs. China accepts the defeat in the last century and China takes its time to revive in the coming century. China holds the belief that, as in The Work of Mencius, Mengzi, Gaozi, part II,

“Whenever Heaven invests a person with great responsibilities, it first tries his resolve, exhausts his muscles and bones, starves his body, leaves him destitute and confounds his every endeavor. In this way, his patience and endurance are developed, and his weaknesses are overcome.”

In changes of the forty years. How many can you expect from it? Using exams as standards for selecting qualified experts in various vocations has been a Chinese tradition for more than one thousand years (The imperial civil examination in China, the earliest civil service examination in the world, was established and developed in Tang Dynasty). It is never easy to abandon the tradition even though it’s of little use in the current era. We respect our tradition, that why we’d like to spend more time figuring out a better way to revise our higher education in the contemporary context but still in align with the traditional moral.

The suffering generation of the Cultural Revolution gradually recovered from the terrible experience. They also moved out of the historical stage. Now, the new generation is moving forward. They realize the importance of open dialogue instead of suppressing various voices. They must uncover the hideous political-social-ideological disentangles and uncover the suppressed voice. Only in this way, can they straightly face the truth and deal with it. This is a tough task, especially in this ever-changing era. Not only need we keep in eyes with the historical leftover, but also with the emerging technology and opportunity. Thanks to our devoted leadership as well as our hard-working citizens, we make it a great starting remark.

During these years staying in America, I really enjoy its culture of openness, diversity, and inclusiveness. I enjoy its education of various voices from various groups of people. I enjoy its authentic and sincere relationship among each other. I enjoy the mindstorm inspired by all kinds of differences. While enjoying them, I understand that some of them can never be set the same in China. Like I may not understand why religion is so important in America, you may not understand why family is so important in China. That’s why we are Chinese and you are Americans. We have lots of misconception and misunderstanding for America, so as you have them for China. When we come to America to resolve our misconception and misunderstanding of what is America, I’d hope you can come to China to take a close look at what is China. The reason I bring out this point is that, though I don’t want to admit, I see many Americans hold their pride and prejudice over Chinese. Massive media report the misleading fact of China, ignoring the real truth. I remember that we once discussed in class about bias and prejudice. When we each hold our pride and prejudice over others, can we take a moment to think, how about we learn more histories or facts before we make our conclusions?

To the end, as time goes by, China goes on. Through peaks and troughs, through ebbs and flows.


1. Education in China, China Highlights, updated March 30, 2017.

2. Education in China: A snapshot, OECD 2016.

3. Overview of Education in China, Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China, updated December 19, 2016.

4. UNESCO – World Data on Education, International Bureau of Education, 6th Edition.

5. Javier C. Hernandez, Study Finds Chinese Students Excel in Critical Thinking – Until College. The New York Times, July 30, 2016.

6. Javier C. Hernandez, Weighing the Strengths and Shortcomings of China’s Education System. The New York Times, August 6, 2016.

7. National Centre for Education Development Research, National Report on Mid- Term Assessment of Education for All in China, Beijing, China, 2008.

8. Guodong Wei, On the Reform of China’s NCEE since 1977. Dissertation, Hebei University, China, 2008.

9. Lichao Sun, Gaokao or Bust. Office of International Affairs, May 1, 2013.

10. Lan Yu and Hoi K. Suen, Historical and Contemporary Exam-driven Education Fever in China. KEDI Journal of Educational Policy 2005 Vol.2 No.1, p17-33.

11. Benjamin A. Elman, Civil Service Examinations, Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, 2009 by Berkshire Publishing Group LLC.

12. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – Institute of Statistics, 2016.

13. Development of National Education Report, Ministry of Education, China, 2016.

Not A Final Summary, But A Progressive Reflection.


“We are an intentional community committed to developing a pedagogical praxis using inclusive pedagogy and problem-based learning to support active learning across a broad range of contemporary teaching sites. We come from diverse disciplines, backgrounds, and orientations to consider how we might leverage the passion that drew us to our academic fields of inquiry to ignite the curiosity of our students. As 21st-century educators we use a broad array of teaching technologies, and are especially attentive to the power of networked learning environments to amplify our work. We are committed to the transformative potential of education and to using our compassion and expertise to make the world a better place.”

— GEDI S2017 Syllabus, by Dr. Amy Nelson

Before I decided to register this class, I was told by my friend (senior grad) that it would significantly impact my view of high education and teaching job. I didn’t take her words very serious as I actually didn’t mean to be a teacher. I mean, at that moment.

Why I would choose this class. Partially because I’m always told by many people that my personality is suitable for being a teacher and I can be a very good teacher. Another reason is that I want to see if I am really competent for being a teacher. I want to see if I can really handle this ordinary but sacred job.

It was the first time for me to have such a big class at Virginia Tech. Students from all kinds of departments or disciplines sit around to talk about what is higher education, network and technology, inclusion and diversity, authenticity and responsibility, philosophy and pedagogy, learner-centered syllabus, problem-based case learning, and the most importantly, what it means to be a teacher/educator in the 21st century.

Honestly, I was astounded. My head was installed by so many stuff that I would never get a chance to think deeply about. To put in this way, I thought that I’d understand most of the things that discussed in class. However, every time after class discussion, I had to say that I was far from the spiritual of higher education and educators. I acknowledge that my (Eastern) education is drastically different from Western education and, honestly, different in a worse sense. I acknowledge that we need to put determination and effort to reform our education so that we can be in accordance with the call of the new century. However, I feel very upset that I don’t know how to put my determination and effort to make a difference. When all (most of) the students talk about how to change the student, change the class, change the university, change the system, change the world, all I see is that is it really that easy – is that really easy to say I can make a change and do things that really make a change?

As I ask myself many more times, I’m more confused and lost. I don’t understand what kind of role can I play to change the world. It feels so big to me and I don’t think I can handle it. I talked with my friend, and she said to me that, “I totally understand your feeling as I went through all the struggles in that class. In fact, the real gain for me during that class wasn’t about how to teach a class. It was all about how to teach ourselves.” YES! That is exactly what I’ve struggled with. I always try to figure out how to be a teacher or how to teach a class. The fact is that I never try to figure out how to teach myself – how to decompose all my views, thoughts and experiences, to figure out what constraints myself from deeply reflecting the past and envisioning the future. If I can’t understand myself, how would I understand the education that made me who I am? Then, how would I understand the way that I could use to make the education better?

I feel that I’ve complained my education a lot. However, after getting surprised once and once again during the class, I realize that I myself (we ourselves) should be blamed as well. We use the “our education is rigid and complicated” excuse to defend ourselves, ignoring that we are the ultimate reason that makes the education “rigid and complicated”.  If we truly want to make a difference, we have to truly know ourselves and change ourselves. Have said to this point, I really want to say THANK YOU to you, Dr. Amy Nelson. Thanks for all the efforts that you’ve made to this class and to us. Every course arrangement, every reading material, every class discussion, everything you said and made is awesome. It has significantly impacted me, as is what my friend just told me beforehand.

Education is a huge system that covers not only the education itself, but the whole society. It covers not only about the educators/learners in school, but every single person in the society. It is a public good that desires our determination and effort to make it a positive externality. Though we might be the tiny pieces of the whole system, we are undoubtedly the pivotal parts that make it functioning as a spacecraft to explore the great and bright future.

I hold my belief that we will make education better, make tomorrow better.

Future Of High Education

I am so inspired by Parker Palmer’s article that I can’t agree more of his saying. Here I cited two parts that I was resonated the most.

…… Institutions are us. The shadows that institutions cast over our ethical lives are external expressions of our own inner shadows, individual and collective. If institutions are rigid, it is because we fear change. If institutions are competitive, it is because we value winning over all else. If institutions are heedless of human need, it is because something in us also is heedless.

…… The fact that we have schools does not mean we have education. The fact that we have hospitals does not mean we have health care. The fact that we have courts does not mean we have justice. We need professionals who are “in but not of their institutions, whose allegiance to the core values of their fields makes them resist the institutional diminishment of those values.

I’ve heard from many people complaining how terrible our education system is and how we should reform as like the Western system. I was ever one of them. However, more recently, I began to think about what ultimately went wrong in our education, why we still can’t figure out how to figure out.

I find myself very interesting. I always hold a self-justified standpoint of how education forces me to do this or that instead of wondering why I would have such a standpoint. For example, I tend to be quiet in class. If I had a question to ask, I would first consider whether this question made me stupid. Why would I have such a weird thinking? Because I did think in this way when other students asked a question that I could answer. Still, why would I have such a weird thinking? Because teachers tend to discourage students when they asked a question that they should be able to answer. Oh, no wonder why I don’t like to ask questions but like to pretend to know the answers.

For example, I tend to differentiate courses based on their importance in the exams. In fact, I had to learn all classes such as physics, chemistry, biology, history, politics, geography, Chinese, English, Mathematics in high school. I didn’t like them all but I had to work hard to learn them. Why would I need to learn them all? Because I need to get a high score for college application. Although I was required to learn all of them, I was acknowledged to focus more on science-oriented learning. Because at the end of the first year I chose to join the science-oriented curricula instead of liberal arts-oriented curricula. I only need to take a unified examination of the first-year learning of the liberal arts-oriented curricula, but I had to take the National College Entrance Exam (GaoKao) which including the all three-year learning of science-oriented curricula. The point here is that I didn’t treat every course equally and neither did I establish any personal interests in learning it. I guess I’ve had this habit since I was in primary school and middle school and it seemed that I still had it before now.

I still have so many examples. Three days and nights may not be enough to write all down. For example, I like to memorize the answers instead of questioning the questions. I prefer to take exam exercises instead of reading the books. … I was surprised that I had so many interesting things that I never have a deep look and thought. Have been used to mentally mute myself and think that it was the education that forced me to do in this way and all else were also forced to do in this way. I was surprised that how could I say that all of these were due to the terrible education system, as I was actually a part of the education system. I had actually been able to think something different and do something different. But I had just constrained by myself, not the education itself.

…… Institutions are us. The shadows that institutions cast over our ethical lives are external expressions of our own inner shadows, individual and collective. If institutions are rigid, it is because we fear change. If institutions are competitive, it is because we value winning over all else. If institutions are heedless of human need, it is because something in us also is heedless.

…… The fact that we have schools does not mean we have education. The fact that we have hospitals does not mean we have health care. The fact that we have courts does not mean we have justice. We need professionals who are “in but not of their institutions, whose allegiance to the core values of their fields makes them resist the institutional diminishment of those values.

I can’t stop but to second the quote here. I can’t excuse myself anymore. I can’t shirk responsibility anymore. Future education is us. Either high or low, it depends on us. Whether it is teachers or students, never stop reflecting ourselves. Don’t just wait for the teachers to provide us an alternative to seeing the world. Also, don’t just wait for the students to change the world. Education is a dialogue with teachers and students, with youngs and elders, with men and women, with new and old.

I always believe that everything has a reason. And there is a reason for a reason to be a reason. Try to push ourselves out of the comfort zone that has been established by the seniors or the formers. Try to figure out the reason. Try to defend the reason with critics as well as appraisals.

Parker Palmer, A New Professional: The Aims of Education Revisited, 2007.

Dan Edelstein, How is Innovation Taught? On the Humanities and the Knowledge Economy, 2010.

“Shall we accept the change that caused by the Internet?” vs “Shall we accept that the change is caused by ourselves?”

I have a lot to say about this week’s topic, “Attention and multi-tasking”. Frankly, I’ve got lost in the reading obstacle for a long time. I used to be a book reader, either lecture books or literature books. When I was in undergrad college, I often went to the library and read. I was once honored as the top reader of the library who borrowed the most books to read. Now, I’d bet that I would not be in the library for more than ten times for reading. Having easy access to the Internet makes us more dependent on the knowledge provided by the Internet and less dependent on the thinking by our own mind. This is sadly true.

Last week, something went wrong with the net cable in my office. I was very upset about not being able to connect to the Internet. Though actually on that day I could do part of my work that was not related to the Internet. But I just couldn’t calm down and focus on it. Getting used to working with the Internet, I’m easily uncomfortable without the Internet. However, this also causes me easily distracted from work. It’s very disappointing as I clearly see myself changing because of the Internet. Before I read Nicholas Carr’s essay “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, I though it was totally my own change and fault. Realizing that there are many people struggle about the distraction caused by the Internet, I am lost in thought, in real thought.

Recently, I’m reading a book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari. In this book, Harari proposed his thoughts of how did Homo Sapiens evolve from an unexceptional savannah-dwelling primate to become the dominant force on the planet, emerging as the lone survivor out of six distinct, competing hominid species? One of his ideas is really striking to me. He wrote that “because our talent for gossip allows us to build networks in societies too large for personal relationships between everyone, and our imagined realities – such as religion, money, governments, companies, laws and institutes – keep us in line.” I’d say, it is still how we connect with each other in the current century – through gossip and gossip.

The Internet makes us easily gossip with each other, and the anecdotal stories, news, and other information on the Internet provide us with enormous things to gossip. Too many online temptations distract us from concentrating on what we should do if have to do via the Internet. People are social beings in words that people tend to talk with each other about things they find funny, interesting or astonishing. Also, considering the easy access to information online, more and more people tend to surf online so as to keep in line with others around themselves – to know what others know. It is, in fact, a cycle of stimulus. People are eager to find more interesting (either positive or negative) things online and easy to be attracted by things with gimmicky titles. With more and more clicks on these hyperlinks, search engines (Google, Yahoo, etc.) are (re-)programmed to provide more and more information of these types.

This comes to a question. Is it really that the Internet changes our behavior of thinking (reading) or it is ourselves that change how the Internet deliver information to us?

We create the Internet and the Internet creates us. We change the Internet and the Internet changes us. If we want to enjoy all the benefits that the Internet has made to us, we have to endure all the costs as well. No doubt, those who know how to use the Internet will benefit more. Those who are subdued by the Internet will suffer more. There is no one-for-all answer that can determine how the Internet affects us. However, I always believe that education is an effective tool to guide people (from the very beginning of life) to understand and balance the complex relationship of human and the Internet.



Nicholas Carr; Is Google Making Us Stupid? and the comments (2008)

Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2015)


Teaching Philosophy

Developed for more than two hundred years, economic literature has significantly changed the way people thinking about the economic behaviors, events, societies, and the world. Most of the economic issues can be examined as fact based on economic theories and methods – which is called the positive economics. In the meantime, more and more issues are reflected as value based on economic principles and ethics – which is called the normative economics. Economics provide us with the objective understanding of what the world economy is like as well as the subjective reflection of what the world economy should be like. Having Studied economics for almost seven years, I am always fascinated by the life philosophy that I learned from economics. And I hope to incite my students’ passion for learning economics and discover their value and meaning of life through learning of economics.

The world economy is complicated as it involves 7.5 billion people and 195 countries. To be able to understand the world economy comprehensively and detailedly, we will start learning from the microeconomics (such as individuals, households, and firms) to the macroeconomics (such as countries, continents, and the global world). We will have lectures with textures as well as discussions with dialogues. We will represent different groups of people in analyzing the economic activities as well as different views of ethics, morality, and fairness in improving economic welfares. We will develop a learning environment of inclusiveness and diversity as well as a learning atmosphere of heuristics and critiques.

Throughout the teaching, my commitment as a teacher is reflected in the three principles:

  1. to nurture positive and inclusive learning;
  2. to inspire creative and critical learning;
  3. to develop a solid foundation for lifelong learning.

To accomplish this, we are obliged to follow the educational ethics and professional norms and maintain our mutual respects in and out of classes. In addition, we are all encouraged to make efforts to encompass these principles through individual and collaborative learning, diversity and inclusive discussion, problem posing and solving, and peer and self-assessment.

Individual and Collaborative Learning: Considering the different background of all students, I will design preliminary activities, such as first-day class survey and brief bio introduction, to help me identify the preliminary cognition of each student and tailor the instructional plan accordingly. After identifying individual background and preference, I will then suggest all students create small learning groups for collaborative teamwork (exemption cases are considerable but may require additional discussions). As an experienced student, I recognize that the best approach for learning is through a healthy and balanced combination of competition and cooperation, which can benefit classroom learning and management at all levels. To promote this learning process, I will prepare constructive lectures, assignments, and projects in concert with the curriculum schedule.

Diversity and Inclusive Discussion: Being an international graduate student, I’ve fully acknowledged the diverse existence of individual values, social norms, cultural ethics, religious beliefs, nurturing environments, etc. And this experience has contributed a lot to the development of my inclusive, respectful, open-minded personality. So in my class, I embrace all efforts that make our learning environment full of inclusiveness and mutual respects. However, inclusiveness does not necessarily mean consensus. In other words, I encourage every student to speak out their understandings, concerns, agreements and disagreements in a mutually respectful manner. By establishing a diversified and respectful learning environment, we can learn more than we may expect otherwise.

Problem Posing and Solving: While lectures and discussions are useful in helping students memorize and understand the course contents, they may be not enough for students to thoroughly apply, analyze, and extend the knowledge materials. Problem posing and solving exercises provide students with great opportunities to bring out a real-world economic issue, to apply what we have learned to make a professional analysis and find the feasible solution(s). Not necessarily has it to be an unprecedented or splendid issue, but it is suggested to be extensive and creative. For examples, it can be a study with a novel method of analyzing and modeling the previous findings, or a critical assessment of the previous literature. Throughout these exercises, students will develop the way of thinking and understand the economic issues as an economist.

Peer and Self-Assessment: Lion F. Gardiner once wrote that “Assessment is essential not only to guide the development of individual students but also to monitor and continuously improve the quality of programs, inform prospective students and their parents and provide evidence of accountability to those who pay our way.” To make these assessments, we will implement a set of peer and self-assessment basics, such as individual portfolios (assignments and exams, etc.) and teamwork projects and presentations (problem posing and solving exercises, etc.) to measure student mastery and evaluate the overall performance that students have accomplished according to the course objectives and anticipatory sets.

For these years of study, I have shown my enthusiasm and effort of learning and teaching. Following the above basic principles, I am confident of being a professional teacher and have well prepared for being a professional teacher. I understand that teaching is the toughest work in that it may shape a student’s life enormously. And I hope that teaching with passion, efforts, responsibilities and sincerity will ignite my students’ desire for life-long learning.

This is a draft of my teaching philosophy. Any useful suggestions (such as words, paragraphs, or grammars) are welcomed.

A deserved pain?

Once I saw a question on ZhiHu (a Chinese website, similar to Quora), “How much will poverty affect people’s mind and body?” There are over 9 thousands of answers and most of them have over thousands of upvotes. I read most of the answers and fell into musings. Poverty is crucially related to inequality, minority, and diversity – those topics that are of great importance in the context of education. Move from the ZhiHu question that I put up in front, today I want to discuss how I come up with my inclusive pedagogy in a seemingly implicit point of view through the poverty question. There are many reasons that can lead to poverty. One possible reason is that one is born with poverty. In other words, one is born in a poor family. Because of the “disadvantage”, this person may unconsciously develop his/her outlook on the world, life, and values that are inevitably tied up with money. There never exists equality. If you understand why people want to immigrate to Western countries or North America countries from middle east countries or African countries, you may understand inequality somehow.  Inequality is the fundamental reason for poverty in that there is no alternative choice where one can choose to be born in a rich or poor family. Due to this irresistible inequality, one may suffer from poverty in all cases of life. Such as education, which is naturally lean to those who are not restricted by poverty. The fact is, however, how can education be so unfairly distributed to treat these poor people just because there is no choice left for them besides poverty? Do they deserve the poor education, poor teachers, or poor facilities? According to the most recent estimates, in 2013, 10.7 percent of the world’s population lived on less than US$1.90 a day (World Bank). By comparison, we may call these 10.7 percent of the world’s population minority, those who may rarely meet their daily subsistence. This “poor” minority is mainly measured by income (or consumption). They may live in a different way as most of them are concerned about being alive instead of being living. Think about other minority that defined by race, color, religion, ethnicity, gender identity, sex orientation, etc. They all be possible to live in a so-called “absurd” way (in the perspective of the majority) as they just take great care of their meaningful way of living. Do they deserve the vicious abuse, the weird scan-looking, the cruel denial? The existence of poverty and minority is one proof of diversity. We can’t ignore diversity, and we actually never ignore it. As is pointed out in Shankar Vedantam’s book “How ‘The Hidden Brain’ Does The Thinking For Us“, besides the conscious conversation, we sometimes are heavily dominated by their unconscious mind of thinking. We tend to define people by their appearances even though we are reluctant to admit it. We tend to underrate the minority population even though we may not realize it at all. We tend to express that we love diversity even though we, in fact, disrespect its existence. We unconsciously show our priority when facing those who are in poverty, defined as minority, or just merely different from the universal definition. We unconsciously put them in pain. However, do they deserve the pain? Do we really care about poverty, minority, and diversity? Do we really take them into consideration when we talk about education? Yes, we do. However, care and consideration are not even close to enough. Pain is still there for them. What we need to do is to invite them to expose it, to examine it, and then to really heal it. We can’t just discuss inclusive pedagogy within the majorities. We should hear from their voices and let them express their concerns. We should bring the contradictory arguments to the table so that we can understand their underlying rationale. We should nurture and express our inclusive attitude in a sincere way that all of us truly believe in (consciously and unconsciously). We should understand that inclusive pedagogy is a collaborative effort of everyone.          
Citation: Shankar Vedantam. How ‘The Hidden Brain’ Does The Thinking For Us Katherine W. Phillips. How Diversity Makes Us Smarter Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens. From Safe Places to Brave Spaces Brittany Ford. Cyberbullying must be prevented at its roots

Objectivized education system

Have struggled for a long time, I decide to write it out.

I feel at a loss. After taking the class for a month, I can see clearly my distance with the general students. Every time when I blog, I am struggled with what kind of things to write, what kind of attitude to present, and how deep can the thinking and writing would be. It is hard for me, I have to say, to write to the public. I feel mixed and I don’t know what to blame, except myself. I feel like, the time is coming for me to make decision on how should I go on. And I should really make a careful reflection on my whole life up to now.

I am fragile, to some extent, that I care about other people’s opinion on myself. I tend to be easy-going, positive, and quiet on comment. Sometimes, I may have my own opinion and I may think in mind how to express. But I seldom speak it out. Some other times, I just really can’t understand the saying and can’t follow. I feel bad of myself for my poor understanding of English and cultural difference in some aspects. When I speak less, I tend to think less, as I’m dominated by my subconsciousness that I will not say it out. I try to hear other people’s saying and feel like I may (or may not) think the same way as them. I feel like I don’t have to think on my own as there is no need for me to express my own opinion. However, the more I think in this way, the more I realize how dangerous I am in such a dumb situation. If I speak less, I would think less. And as I think less, I would have less and less to say. Realizing this, I began to think, how did I put myself in this situation and why did I do so.

Why don’t I like to say things/opinions out? It seems I don’t have such a custom to say things/opinions out. I remember since in my early education, I was told to be quiet on class. I knew that every question/problem that the teachers asked would follow with correctly standardized answers. And I knew that I just need to “literally” remember the answers and I could get a good score on exams. Grades were always the unique assessment of students’ performance in my early education. It seemed I didn’t have the motivation to ask new questions or give new answers. “Practice makes perfect” – a golden rule for studying. I kept memorizing book contents and practicing exam questions. I left no time for creative and critical thinking as in my mind it was just a waste of time and made no use for exams. I was told (can’t remember exactly, maybe I was just self-proceeded) to study whatever useful for getting higher scores. I kept this kind of studying experience and went to a decent university. Still, life in university wasn’t full of creative and critical thinking as majority of the students were spending time on tested study and experiment. The way of passive thinking seems to root deeply in my mind, and in the mind of the major society.

Study is an important way to create and promote thinking.Thinking is a skill that needs practice. However, such exam-base assessment of study has severely impeded the purpose of study, which is to facilitate individual’s deep thinking. Once students fail to get the chance to exercise their thinking rationale, they tend to be more passive, more indecisive, and more easily affected by other people’s saying. This situation is how I have seen from the general society. People in my nation tends to mute their thinking and saying in front of the public. They consider themselves too trivial to have other people hear their voice. And they think their voice may have little possibility to make any difference to the things/events and to the society. In the end, they turn out to be more conservative in expressing themselves as they never think of themselves to be unique to the society and to be contributable to the society if they can just speak out their desire and thoughts. Majority of them are immersed in their own circle, waiting for the minority to change the society and accepting any results that left to them.

It seems that something went wrong, either the societal culture, or the education system. I can’t decide which leads to which. The education system has been objectivized to fit the societal pursuit of money and power, instead of humanity, science, arts, and beliefs. People tend to pursue whatever useful to make money/make a living, to buy house, car, to educate the second generation, even with the same system of objectivized education. They may realize how skewed the education system has been to deprive their desire on learning things they really enjoy. However, they don’t think their voice can make any change except their own anxiety. they turn out to be silent to endure the secular life.

The society is cruel. It distorts what is really valuable and what is merely trivial. The objectivized education system has led to little critical and creative thinking but obsolete and sophisticated way of living. To make real change, we have to reshape the society’s value perspective. We have to reform the education’s evaluation and assessment to be able to reflect and inspire extensive and intensive learning. We have to give students the opportunity to achieve their dream in their desired and valued way. We have to show them how important, unique, talented they are to the society and how they can lead the society and the world to a bright and prosperous future by their effort and their voice.

Now, after all these words, I feel really a relief. I’m glad that I realize how I was affected by the objectivized education system. And I realize how important I can be to speak out my thoughts to the public, to inspire the majority to express their thoughts, and to make actions together to change the status quo.

Contemporary Assessment in Authentic Learning

When I read this from Marilyn M. Lombardi, “Making the Grade: The Role of Assessment in Authentic Learning”:

“If we want learners to engage with ambiguous and complex problems, including those drawn from real life, then we need new forms of assessment that document the higher-order thinking and problem solving that students demonstrate.”

I just want to say: “RIGHT!” As a student, I am really tired of those standardized tests and meaningless exams. With the flood of new knowledge and technology, we do need new forms of assessment that can reflect our students’ authentic learning and mastery. Memorization and repetition turn out to severely impede students’ desire of deep and extensive learning. Most of the students are able to repeat/recite what they have learned when they at school. However, when they graduated, what else can they remember and for how much can those memories be useful. I heard a lot that graduated students are complaining about the sophisticated education system and how badly they realize that what they’ve learned and tested are, in fact, made little use for their future career.  When working as newcomers, they are panicked as they seem to be used to follow instructions for routine tasks and have no idea how to address real-life unknown challenges. Such a tragedy of education.

If we want students to fully involved into the learning environment and actively push themselves to master and develop the innovative knowledge, we need to appropriately incentivize them both extrinsically and intrinsically.  Traditional assessment of student performance is apparently outdated from the contemporary learning environment. It is still important, though, as a supplementary tool for assessing students’ mastery of course required knowledge. Part of the reason for me to reconsider the importance of traditional assessment is that, it is a fairly standardized tool to give the lecturers a peer-evaluation of students’ performance compared with others. However, more creative assessment in inquiry-based learning is, without no doubt, increasingly pivotal to be called for the contemporary education system. We have spent lots of time discussing how to incentivize students for creative and critical thinking. But if we are fail to process authentic assessment in their authentic learning achievements, the revolution of education can never reach its ultimate goal.



How do we develop Mindful Learning from very beginning?

People are nature learners. Since they were born, they were exposed to a society that they have not (have not been able to develop) a single idea what is what. They naturally learn from their environment through observing and mimicking. They naturally update their learning through others’ reaction they get from their own action. And while learning, they begin to ask “What is …?” A quick answer is given by their parents. Then, they begin to think “Why is …?” A simple reason is given. As they learn more and more, they begin to figure out “How is …?” Mindful learning is naturally developed through the growing-up.

I can make a bet with you that, parents are always surrounded with children’s questions and questions and questions, just like the famous book “Wonder Why”. Some of the parents are patient. They reply with considerable delicacy as they recognize their children’s cognitive level and they try to mentor their children with a fair mind. Some may not. They reply in a perfunctory manner as they don’t value the important role they are playing in nurturing their children from the very beginning. The attitudes kids have received from their parents either promote their learning, or discourage it. The learning process thus get revised (upgraded or stagnant) based on their family environment.

Without extreme cases (hopefully), parents are always the first educators to get involved in children’s learning process. Then, kids go to school for formal, basic, and higher education. It seems that people are talking more about higher education and how it can change life and society. To be honest, I take more consideration of the parental nurturing and basic education. I do not mean that higher education is not important. What I want to say is basic education is, at least, as important as higher education that should deserve more devotion. I think mindful thinking is an ability of making logical and critical thinking that can be and should be developed from the very beginning of education and it should be strengthened throughout the learning process.

Mindful learning is a process to build up one’s belief of thinking the world in a logical and critical perspective. Belief, on the other hand, is something that once established, can hardly be altered. The establishment of one’s belief is most likely based on one’s family background, personal experience, and societal culture, in which case the preliminary education makes an important role. If we don’t provide an open-minded environment for learning from the very beginning, any higher education based upon that may end up with malfunction as unexpected. If the root deepen inside is not well nourished, it still suffers, even as a tall tree.


Essence of higher education

Before I came to America, I might never systematically think about what is the essence of higher education, how to establish it, and to what approach to realize it. Although, ironically, I’ve been studied in schools for eighteen years. This is a rather common phenomenon, to some extent, in the system of China’s high (and higher) education.Despite that there are several educators who care about the essence of higher education, and try every hard to make a difference in the distorted system of education. Massive educators and learners are still in an old-fashioned way of cramming teaching, especially those who are remote from cities and metropolitans. Web-sources are said to be complicated (generally harmful) and should be prohibited for the sake of protection. Textbooks are prepared for learning the uniformed answers for tests and exams. It seems that the students are just receivers of knowledge, or more crudely speaking, receivers of words that may make little sense to them. I don’t mean to demean the educators and learners of my country. With the increasing openness and development, more and more attentions are paid to promote the structural reform of China’s education system. However, problems are still existed, and we still need to face them and overcome them.

From China to America, I find myself really change a lot. Learning is no longer one-way process and words that make up for knowledge are making sense. As I learn from primary school to graduate school, from domestic class to international lecture, from paper contents to online resources, I realize what is the essence of higher education and how the higher education should work. Just like the saying in the video “From knowledgeable to knowledge-able” (Michael Wesch), it is not about meaning-SEEKING, it is ultimately about meaning-MAKING. Given the cheaply easy way of searching knowledge nowadays, higher educators and learners should take the responsibility of, not only spreading pieces of knowledge, but inspiring ways of creation, through connecting, organizing, sharing, collecting, collaborating, and publishing.


To the end:
I remember in my old days, I was scared of pronouncing my opinions. I always phrased my standpoints in mind but didn’t try to say it loud. And as time went by, I was more scared of saying and even less involved in thinking. I realized that this is a vicious circle that I need  to get rid of. Now, I am trying to be more active, think critically and talk properly. This is my first time blogging and expressing my thinking and opinions, I’m so excited that I start my blogging life. Let’s go, Xin!