the homework battle: Shanghai, China edition

Peng Yijian, the missing boy. 
(Photo/ Shanghai Daily)
Shanghai police issue appeal for missing boy, 12 : "The boy's mother, surnamed Liu, told Shanghai Daily that Peng ran after being scolded for getting into trouble at school. 
"He was very upset and I feel guilty that I shouted at him," Liu said. Liu said she received a call from Peng's school on Monday morning. "A teacher told me he hadn't done his mathematics assignment and as a result would have to go home," she said.  "At home he got more upset, and then he fled," she said."
Blogs considered it a case of a bad mom who told off her son and the interesting thing was that he was found in IKEA. It is true that IKEA stores in China work differently than in other places. And the mother apologized.

Overlooked is the call from the teacher, pressuring the family about homework and virtually asking the family, if only by the implicit institutional nature of contact,  to take some kind of action. That's the way it works: family life is supposed to support the institution, not the other way around. The mother may have felt a huge pressure to conform to the schools' demands after punishment of her son. Accepting that kind of social pressure is not easy.

Peng Yijan was a student at Longyuan Middle School, a massive place that sounds well equipped, a school that supports students whose families have emigrated to the city from around the country and whose abilities are ranked and graded and found wanting and weak:
About our students:
At present, our school hosts nearly three quarters of students whose parents are non-native Shanghai residents, who are largely from other provinces and are looking for better job opportunities in Shanghai. Our school enrols all children nearby. Most of the students in our school are simple, natural and fond of sports. However, due to their poor family background and lack of educational support at home, many of our students face more difficulties in learning especially in English learning. For these reasons, our teachers are encouraged to give more care and love to each student and communicate with their parents regularly. Meanwhile, the teachers are encouraged to try their best to cultivate students' learning potential by setting practical teaching and learning objectives and working out effective teaching strategies in their daily teaching practice. Furthermore, we have also tried varied instructional strategies to cater for students’ different learning needs at different learning levels, in addition to individual tutoring.
About our teachers:
Most of the teachers in our school are, on the one hand, young, hardworking and energetic, but, on the other, they still lack experience in teaching and are in need of professional support and advice for effective teaching strategies, methods and techniques. Besides, the students' low competence and achievement in learning add to their difficulty in teaching and helping the students. Thus they can hardly enjoy a sense of achievement.
Mass schooling, a partner of industrial capitalism, removes a great deal of initiative, weakens families, and attenuates talents and gifts with its top-down imposition of a 12+-year curriculum that works to preserve class status in the long run. There is a big bump as the credential industry gets underway creating many get jobs within itself. But once in place, as the US system so clearly shows, this design can only grow top-heavy especially in large nation-states that will have trouble with the deep integration that supports families that smaller nation-states can sometimes achieve (Finland) and even these small states have issues.

In building a cob wall, one must grasp that it needs to breathe to be stable. This same concept applied to school systems that work from the top-down without the flow, the give-and-take between the people using the system. If this service were viewed as a way of providing services that families choose, we would have a very different outcome and we could avoid much of the huge, unmeasured waste and harm to a greater extent. Families would still be driven to choose economically viable paths but the decentralized decision making would allow far more flexible movement.

If we viewed the credential industry as a combination mass daycare, training whose ill effects are completely unmeasured, and a jobs industry, a highly centralized companion to our flagging industrial model, then we would see it more clearly. It is an industry that supports a small fraction of people and harms a great number to do that. We increasingly see the effects of peer orientation, easy acceptance of authoritarian structures, physical and mental health issues, poor quality social lives, fragmented community life, and immense amounts of wasted time.

And as we look around our polluted cities, misshapen buildings, traffic snarls, and lack of coherent public and private space, we see that the many human talents and gifts we ignore, warp and mangle, these vital talents and gifts are lost to us all. It is written on the very shape and design of our lives.

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