Spoiled and Confused — China’s new urban generation – Part 1/4

A special (guest) report from the front lines of teaching English in China
By Chris “Foreign Monkey” Bewley

When I first arrived in China as an English teacher, I had lofty scholastic goals: I wanted to try a creative variety of class activities and apply a broad spectrum of teaching methods that my students could benefit from to make them competitive in academia and, later, the international job market.

Almost 1 year later, my primary responsibility as a “Foreign Expert English Instructor” has been distilled down to little more than babysitting a bunch of spoiled, undisciplined children who for the most part want nothing to do with English.

At my crowded primary school in a small, semi-urban city in East China, there exists what I have coined the “20/20/20” split in each of my classes (60 kids per class): 20 eager/20 indifferent/20 bad. Basically, I’m teaching 20 while trying to control 40.

To make it fair for everyone, I have to dumb-it-down/ fun-it-up every class. Instead of actually teaching, I find myself playing games with them and jumping around for them like a monkey, which is the only way to retain their attention.

On the positive side, of the eager 20, there are several extremely smart students who I expect one day to be quite successful in what ever they do.  Unfortunately, whenever those eager 20 are trying to learn, the other naughty 40 will try just as hard to spoil it for them.

Continued on May 26, 2011 in Spoiled and Confused Part 2 or discover China’s Future Political Divide Revealed

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Chris Bewley has taught English as a foreign language for the past 10 years all over the world, including Japan, Korea, Mexico and Brazil.

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5 Responses to Spoiled and Confused — China’s new urban generation – Part 1/4

  1. I’ve been thinking about your 20/20/20 ratio and how lucky you were to have at least 33% of your students that were interested.

    My experience as a classroom teacher for thirty years in the US was worse.

    It would have been great if a third of my students had been interested in getting an education. I was lucky to have 3%.

  2. Zhang says:

    China’s government has tried so hard to turn China into a wannabe western society that the new generation has lost all identification with Chinese culture, including an utter lack of Confucian respect for parents, teachers and elders. Add to this the fact that China’s unnatural 1-child policy has resulted in millions upon millions of disgustingly-spoiled children who have no desire to study or work hard at anything because they know their nouveau-rich parents will provide for them. China is no longer China; it is some kind of unrecognizable mutant hybrid culture. Good for Chris Bewley for having the courage to point this out in a public forum; let’s hope he doesn’t get deported for it.

    • I don’t see why he would be deported unless one of those middle class permissive parents or spoiled little emperors or empresses that have some money and political influence decides to apply pressure because they don’t like how he feels. After all, he is not advocating political change and he will clearly state in Part 4 that he enjoys living in China. He is just pointing out examples of the kind of moral degradation and individual lifestyle corruption in parenting that has already taken place in America. I suspect that he may have moved to China to escape that trend in the West, and is disappointed that it followed him across the Pacific to spread its fast food, car culture, Western style, debt ridden consumerism to China.

      However, I get the idea that he probably wouldn’t care. I’ve had responses from other Chinese citizens that are not happy with what is going on as China metamorphosis into a as you say a “wannabe western society”.

      And the Western society of today is not the Western society of the 19th century of even the early 20th century. The decay appears to be a cancer born in the 1960s in the US when the self-esteem parenting movement got started and is the norm today in America.

      After I was introduced to China in 1999, I hoped that wouldn’t happen there but it is mostly in urban China where the new middle class has the largest numbers. I hope that in rural China many will hold on to healthier cultural values that have roots in China’s history. There must be a way to find a balance between a modern middle class lifestyle and healthier cultural values that are not dominated by the the corruption taking place in the West.

      However, I don’t see that we can blame the Party for what it is attempting to do. Look back at China’s history since the Opium Wars and you may understand that to survive and have any semblance of a cultural identity, China had to change or be swallowed totally by Western culture and “ALL” the rot that comes with it.

    • Zhang,

      Let’s not forget that China’s one-child policy mainly applies to urban China such as Shanghai and Beijing. Many rural Han Chinese were allowed to have two or more children and the 56 minorities (more than one hundred million people) in China have no restrictions. However, they are encouraged by a form of family planning to keep the numbers down.

      That may also play a role in how rural China and the minorities respond to the negative Western influences in China since each minority is encouraged to retain (some) of its cultural heritage. Hopefully, this will be a good thing.

  3. When I first read this series before posting and scheduling it, I thought, China is becoming more like American everyday. The children Bewley describes sounds like many of the kids in the US. If I had not known he was writing about China, I’d have thought it was taking place in the US.

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