A piece by Alex Lew ’15 challenging Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and his praise of the Chinese education system landed on Kristof’s NY Times blog earlier this week.
Kristof reported that an international study ranked China first in school performance in math, science, and reading, while the United States ranked 15th in reading, 23rd in science, and 31st in math. The U.S., Kristof says, needs to make education a higher priority so our students keep pace with Chinese students, but “without relinquishing creativity and independent thought.”
But Lew doesn’t think that suggestion is plausible. He spent a gap year in China with a State Department program, and after seeing these top students in action, he says it’s not a love of learning that’s motivating students there to learn.
“But we cannot take those successes and implement them here. A cafeteria approach to Chinese culture – ‘I’ll take the work ethic, but not the stress-producing, creativity-killing exam, please” – doesn’t work; the baby is inseparable from the bathwater,” Lew wrote in his article. “Kristof often measures his praise with criticism of the Chinese model, acknowledging that it causes stress or stifles creativity. But these criticisms are more than disclaimers: they are inextricably linked to the model’s successes.”
Lew told the News that it was an honor to have Kristof himself publish his writing.
“I’ve admired Nick Kristof’s work for years, so no question it’s very exciting for me to have had him read this,” Lew said. “I just wanted to show that if you look at the successes of the Chinese model, which are really impressive, they’re not transferable to an American context. In fact, they’re all tied up with aspects of the Chinese system that tend to draw the harshest criticism.”
Read Lew’s article here.