Chinese Education and Learning as a Process

Learning is the process of generalizing.

I can’t think of how much damage the Chinese education has dealt to me over the years as how I treat and view knowledge overall.

I was constantly tormented by the reality of tests and getting higher scores.

The reality of the academia in China is that they have formed an approach specifically towards academic excellency, a certain way of getting high scores without the applying of knowledge. Well, I’d coin this academic excellency in China as, communist academic excellency, it’s an abomination.

Now since I am heading towards a school whatsoever, let me carefully examine this peculiar fear of mine.

Our school system has produced a certain way of dealing with tests.

The questions shall be answered “in this specific way”, and the answer should be written “in this specific manner”.

And we were programmed to do things in those ways because we were TOLD that those were the solely proper way of doing things.

Like for example, when you need to take a reading test. Go look at the questions first instead of the article. Because… in that case you will know what needs to be answered. Instead of understanding the whole article comprehensively, you start to select specific paragraphs to quickly answer those questions. This way in reality doesn’t exactly make you know, it makes you know nothing. And techniques like this were revered by teachers and students as they made them better at scoring.

Sometimes, we were asked to simply just memorized the content on textbook so that we can rewrite them down on test papers. The brain does not take a single part in this process. It’s quite mindless to be frank.

We underlined important passages on textbooks, however, to a point where we completely ignored what those words meant actually, and to the fact that we were underlining for the sake of just memorizing them.

I found that, on countless occasions, the essence of learning was completely skewed and distorted.

It was and solely was for getting good grades in China.

And most of the times I knew I could not generalize when I was in school back in the days.

What does it mean when you can not generalize?

Learning is as much as the process of generalizing. When data scientists are trying their best to teach machines to learn, they start to ask how a human learns?

We learn by selecting the essential part of some information, and discarding the rest. It’s like when you try to remember the paint of Mona Lisa, your brain only catches the glimpses of her smile and the structure of her overall figure. You don’t remember anything else on that paint, like the river background, like the depth of shadow etc. But when you look at the picture of that paint again, you’ll be like “Aha!”. That’s the power of generalizing, and that’s exactly how you learn.

And the problem of learning mostly lies in the fact that a person can not generalize. And that’s extremely detrimental to his learning development.

There is a saying in Physics by some physicist in early 20th century–if you can’t tell your theory in a simple understandable manner, or that you can not resolve it into a few sentences, then you don’t know your theory very well.

And I’ve seen countless examples of students taught by the Chinese school system who can not generalize at all. From the past, and at the present.

I couldn’t, in the past, sometimes.

But ever since I regained my freedom four years ago, I seemed to be able to study properly again.

The concern that I need to take a test in order to justify my learning had completely gone, and my learning status started to skyrocket as I learned through doing whatever.

Exactly, I learn by doing whatever.

If something interests me, I dig into it and do extensive research onto it. There is never a limit onto how much I need to learn, but to the end that I KNOW. And this is a philosophical denotation.

Specifically, teachers in high school would refuse to answer your questions because those knowledge were “in university”. And how strange was that!

And the shittiest part of their teaching was that they taught you “by the book”.

However, to learn from the book is never practical in many ways.

For me, the process of truly “knowing”, or learning, is a process of 5 phases.

Debunk the process, it’s like this:

  1. Observe
  2. Analyze
  3. Deconstruct
  4. Understand
  5. Apply

And typically the last phase is extremely crucial in actually understanding something. You won’t fully understand until you apply. You understand in phase 4 on a completely theoretical level, you don’t know how that is actually applied in reality. Thus knowledge gained in this level needs to be testified by reality in order for it to be “true”.

To me, much of the Chinese school system was just a bunch of useless craps that hinder a student’s true potentials of knowing.

And the fact that students under this system seems to be lifeless is exactly due to the physical constraints they live upon every single day.

The test papers they need to answer, the “efficiency” asked by the teachers, the good scores they need to have in order to be “excellent”. And boil it down to a miniscule level: the underlines you draw on a textbook; the questions you need to answer not matter how skewed they are; the strange imagination you need to do when teachers are basically pointing blank……..

There were so many, so many, little things that summed up to become the “status” of knowing nothing as a student in a Chinese high school. And such status was actually applauded at the time.

I still remember when I asked my politics (propaganda) teacher for why students did not know anything in the school. And he replied to me as, “The status of knowing nothing is definitely a good thing when it comes down to study.” So that more garbage and bullshit can be injected into students’ brains without much resistance. There wasn’t a single chance of letting the kids become “woke”, become awakened, open their eyes.

As if, everybody was sleeping underneath. And at day, they work like lifeless robots, programmed specifically for the tasks given to them without questions asked. I am appalled to write down the horrendous fact we were enduring at the time of schooling, it’s like an emotional scar that I can not tear off easily.

Sometimes I do feel like a robot as well. When I am not free.  

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