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Unit 1

Text A

Howard Gardner, a professor of education at Harvard University, reflects on a visit to China and gives his thoughts on different approaches to learning in China and the West.


Learning, Chinese-Style

Howard Gardner 1 For a month in the spring of 1987, my wife Ellen and I lived in the bustling eastern Chinese city of Nanjing with our 18-month-old son Benjamin while studying arts education in Chinese kindergartens and elementary schools. But one of the most telling lessons Ellen and I got in the difference between Chinese and American ideas of education came not in the classroom but in the lobby of the Jinling Hotel where we stayed in Nanjing.




2 The key to our room was attached to a large plastic block with the room number on it. When leaving the hotel, a guest was encouraged to turn in the key, either by handing it to an attendant or by dropping it through a slot into a box. Because the key slot was narrow, the key had to be positioned carefully to fit into it.


3 Benjamin loved to carry the key around, shaking it vigorously. He also liked to try to place it into the slot. Because of his tender age and incomplete understanding of the need to position the key just so, he would usually fail. Benjamin was not bothered in the least. He probably got as much pleasure out of the sounds the key made as he did those few times when the key actually found its way into the slot.


4 Now both Ellen and I were perfectly happy to allow Benjamin to bang the key near the key slot. His exploratory behavior seemed harmless enough. But I soon observed an interesting phenomenon. Any Chinese staff member nearby would come over to watch Benjamin and, noting his lack of initial success, attempt to assist. He or she would hold onto Benjamin's hand and,

gently but firmly, guide it directly toward the slot, reposition it as necessary, and help him to insert it. The "teacher" would then smile somewhat expectantly at Ellen or me, as if awaiting a thank you ─and on occasion would frown slightly, as if considering us to be neglecting our parental duties.


5 I soon realized that this incident was directly relevant to our assigned tasks in China: to investigate the ways of early childhood education (especially in the arts), and to throw light on Chinese attitudes toward creativity. And so before long I began to introduce the key-slot anecdote into my discussions with Chinese educators. 我很快意识到,这件小事与我们在中国要做的工作直接相关:考察儿童早期教育(尤其是艺术教育)的方式,揭示中国人对创造性活动的态度。因此,不久我就在与中国教育工作者讨论时谈起了钥匙槽口一事。


6 With a few exceptions my Chinese colleagues displayed the same attitude as the staff at the Jinling Hotel. Since adults know how to place the key in the key slot, which is the ultimate purpose of approaching the slot, and since the child is neither old enough nor clever enough to realize the desired action on his own, what possible gain is achieved by having him struggle? He may well get frustrated and angry ─certainly not a desirable outcome. Why not show him what to do? He will be happy, he will learn how to accomplish the task sooner, and then he can proceed to more complex activities, like opening the door or asking for the key ─both of which accomplishments can (and should) in due course be modeled for him as well.



7 We listened to such explanations sympathetically and explained that, first of all, we did not much care whether Benjamin succeeded in inserting the key into the slot. He was having a good time and was exploring, two activities that did matter to us. But the critical point was that, in the process, we were trying to teach Benjamin that one can solve a problem effectively by oneself. Such self-reliance is a principal value of child rearing in middle-class America. So long as the child is shown exactly how to do something ─whether it be placing a key in a key slot, drawing a hen or making up for a misdeed ─he is less likely to figure out himself how to accomplish such a task. And, more generally, he is less likely to view life ─as Americans do ─as a series of situations in which one has to learn to think for oneself, to solve problems on one's own and even to discover new problems for which creative solutions are wanted.



8 In retrospect, it became clear to me that this incident was indeed key ─and key in more than one sense. It pointed to important differences in the educational and artistic practices in our two countries.



9 When our well-intentioned Chinese observers came to Benjamin's rescue, they did not simply push his hand down clumsily or uncertainly, as I might have done. Instead, they guided him with extreme facility and gentleness in precisely the desired direction. I came to realize that these Chinese were not just molding and shaping Benjamin's performance in any old manner: In the best Chinese tradition, they were ba zhe shou jiao ─"teaching by holding his hand" ─so much so that he would happily come back for more.


10 The idea that learning should take place by continual careful shaping and molding applies equally to the arts. Watching children at work in a classroom setting, we were astonished by their facility. Children as young as 5 or 6 were painting flowers, fish and animals with the skill and confidence of an adult; calligraphers 9 and 10 years old were producing works that could have been displayed in a museum. In a visit to the homes of two of the young artists, we learned from their parents that they worked on perfecting their craft for several hours a day.



11 In terms of attitudes to creativity there seems to be a reversal of priorities: young Westerners making their boldest departures first and then gradually mastering the tradition; and young Chinese being almost inseparable from the tradition, but, over time, possibly evolving to a

point equally original.



12 One way of summarizing the American position is to state that we value originality and independence more than the Chinese do. The contrast between our two cultures can also be seen in terms of the fears we both harbor. Chinese teachers are fearful that if skills are not acquired early, they may never be acquired; there is, on the other hand, no comparable hurry to promote creativity. American educators fear that unless creativity has been acquired early, it may never emerge; on the other hand, skills can be picked up later.


13 However, I do not want to overstate my case. There is enormous creativity to be found in Chinese scientific, technological and artistic innovations past and present. And there is a danger of exaggerating creative breakthroughs in the West. When any innovation is examined closely, its reliance on previous achievements is all too apparent (the "standing on the shoulders of giants" phenomenon).


14 But assuming that the contrast I have developed is valid, and that the fostering of skills and creativity are both worthwhile goals, the important question becomes this: Can we gather, from the Chinese and American extremes, a superior way to approach education, perhaps striking a better balance between the poles of creativity and basic skills?


Text B

Finding a way of teaching children to appreciate the value of money can be a problem. Yet the solution, David Owen suggests, is simple -- just open a bank. Easier said than done? Well, it turns out to be not quite so difficult as it sounds, as you'll discover in reading about the First National Bank of Dave.


Children and Money

David Owen 1 Parents who decide that the time has come to teach their children about money usually begin by opening savings accounts. The kids are attracted at first by the notion that a bank will pay them for doing nothing, but their enthusiasm disappears when they realize that the interest rate is tiny and, furthermore, their parents don't intend to give them access to their principal. To a kid, a savings account is just a black hole that swallows birthday checks.




2 Kid: "Grandma gave me twenty-five dollars!"

Parent: "How nice. We'll put that check straight into your savings account."

Kid: "But she gave it to me! I want it!"

Parent: "Oh, it will still be yours. You just have to keep it in the bank so that it can grow."

Kid (suspicious) : "What do you mean by 'grow'?"

Parent: "Well, if you leave your twenty-five dollars in the bank for just one year, the bank will pay you seventy-five cents. And if you leave all of that in the bank for just one more year, the bank will give you another seventy-five cents plus two and a half more cents besides. That's called compound interest. It will help you go to college."







3 The main defect in such saving schemes is that there's nothing in them for the kids. College is a thousand years away, and they probably think they'd just as soon stay home anyway. Indeed, the true purpose of such plans is usually not to promote saving but to prevent consumption.

(1) Appalled by what their children spend on candy and video games (or, rather, appalled by the degree to which their children's overspending seems to mimic their own), parents devise ways to lock up their children's resources. Not surprisingly, kids quickly decide that large sums aren't real money and that all cash should either be spent immediately or hidden in a drawer.



4 To avoid this problem with my two children, I started my own bank. It's called the First National Bank of Dave. I set up an account for each child, using the same computer program I use to keep track of my checkbook. Because I wanted my kids' deposits to grow at a pace that would hold their attention, I offered an attractive interest rate-five per cent a month. (2) Compounded, that works out to an annual rate of more than 70 per cent. (No, I don't accept deposits from strangers.) Allowances are deposited automatically on the first day of each month. The kids can make other deposits, or withdrawals, whenever they like.


5 The Bank of Dave, which has been in operation four years, instantly turned both my children into keen savers. My son still comes to me with change he has found on the floor of the car, saying, "And credit this today." Both kids' accounts grew so fast that after two years I had to roll back my monthly interest rate to three per cent. The kids protested when I announced the change, but they nodded solemnly when I explained that the law of supply and demand applies even to the supply of money. The kids help me calculate their interest -- a useful lesson in averaging and percentages. (3) I give them unlimited access to their funds, no questions asked, and I provide printed statements on demand. 戴夫银行经营了4年,一下子就把我的两个孩子变成了热心的储蓄者。至今我儿子在车里找到零钱仍会来找我说,“今天就把这个上账。”两个孩子的存款增长很快,两年之后,我不得不将月利率降至3厘。我宣布调低利率时两个孩子反对,可当我解释说供求法则同样适用于货币供应后,两人严肃地点头赞同。两个孩子帮我一起计算他们的利息——这可是学习计算平均值与百分比的颇为有用的一课。他们使用自己的资金我不加任何限制,不作任何询问,我还根据要求随时提供打印的账单。

6 The high rate of interest is not the only attractive feature of the Bank of Dave. Equally important from the kids' point of view is that their accounts belong to them. When they save, they harvest the benefit; when they want to spend, they don't need permission. Children who have no control over their own funds have no incentive not to beg for money and then spend every dollar that comes into their hands.


7 The way to help children become rational consumers is to give them more control, not less. Before we go on vacation, I'll usually give my kids an extra twenty bucks or so, which I deposit in their accounts. I tell them that they can spend the extra money on a T-shirt, save it, spend it before we leave, or do anything else they want with it -- but that while we are on vacation, they won't receive any additional pocket money from me (except in the form of communal purchases

considered by custom to be vacation entitlements, such as candy, ice cream, movie tickets, and so on). Because any money they spend starts out as theirs, not mine, they think twice before throwing it away. In a souvenir store on Martha's Vineyard a couple of summers ago my son quietly studied the unpromising merchandise while a friend of his loudly cajoled his parents into paying five dollars for a toy gun, which fell apart almost before we got back to the car. My son ended up spending thirty-three cents for an unopened geode, which he later cracked open by hitting it with a hammer -- a good value, it seemed to me. If he had been spending my money instead of his, he undoubtedly would have wanted a toy gun instead.


8 "Children are instinctive capitalists. If given enough leeway, they quickly become shrewd managers of their own finances. When parents fail in their efforts at financial education, it's usually because for reasons of their own they have managed to make saving seem painful and dull. Money is fun, and it's almost entirely self-explanatory. (4) The only way to teach kids to adopt a long-term perspective is to give them a short-term incentive for doing so.


Unit 2

Text B

Does being rich mean you live a completely different life from ordinary people? Not, it seems, if your name is Sam Walton.



Art Harris 1 He put on a dinner jacket to serve as a waiter at the birthday party of The Richest Man in America. He imagined what surely awaited: a mansion, a "Rolls-Royce for every day of the week," dogs with diamond collars, servants everywhere.

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