Something else you wouldn't see in the U.S.

Here's a song my kids taught me this weekend, roughly translated from Chinese to English:

The sun is up, the flowers are smiling at me.
A little bird says, "Good morning. Why do you have that backpack on your back?"

I'm going to school, I'm never late.
I love to study, I love to work.
When I'm big I'll make a great contribution to society.

It's the sentiment in that last line that I think is uncommon in the U.S. Or can you think of an English kids' song or poem that makes kids start thinking about what they're going to give back when they grow up?

Comments:

Wow. There is so much truth there. US education is so based on the individual-- on standards. Self-esteem was the big buzz word for awhile. There is very little focus on the relationship between the education you receive and what you give back for it. I find the focus of our colleagues in the IEC similar to what your children are being taught. I had a great conversation with one of our writers when I gave him back a ride back from Java One. I got a lot of insight into what drives them to work so hard and achieve so much.

Posted by Sue Weber on May 21, 2007 at 02:12 AM CST #

The whole self-esteem thing is overdone here, that's true, but as for individualism, that is a crucial aspect of American culture and society. We don't need to tell people to aspire to make a contribution to society: they will, provided they are law abiding. I'm curious as to the translation above: is "society" or "the state" that the student is expected to contribute to? I would expect such a song in a country with a communist background to be oriented towards "the state," rather than "society."

Posted by Nico on May 21, 2007 at 06:01 PM CST #

Individualism is a strong American value. I still think we need to work more on teaching our kids the value of community, society, or whatever we call it, and the importance of giving back to it for the benefit of all.

Posted by Sue Weber on May 21, 2007 at 07:55 PM CST #

I am just curious how much they are giving back. If I recall correctly no country does philanthropy better than the US, in spite of the fact that the society is individual focussed.

Posted by Shubho on May 22, 2007 at 02:47 AM CST #

These are all interesting points. Nico, the song literally says "I'll make a contribution to people". I can think of people who were law-abiding but didn't make the greatest contribution to society that they could have though. Personally I don't think 'giving back' comes naturally. Shubho, I think philanthropy and making a contribution to society are a little different. For example if your sister can't take care of her kids for whatever reason and you become their guardian instead of letting them become wards of the state, you made a contribution to society and probably preempted the need for someone's charitable donation to an orphanage. Do you see what I mean? Sue now I'm going to pay more attention to how Audrey's school might or might not be encouraging her self esteem. I don't think either China or America have it all figured out in this regard. But it's interesting to analyze how both countries are approaching things.

Posted by melanie gao on May 22, 2007 at 07:23 AM CST #

My kid has been watching music VCDs of Chinese children's songs. They don't really focus on the individual at all. Their all about expectations and being good. ie wash your hands before you eat, study hard because your parents sacrifice for you. Come to think of it, not that different from what my parents instilled in us since birth.

Posted by guest on May 25, 2007 at 05:57 AM CST #

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