Today I Learn… I make a point of learning something new everyday. This is what I learn each day

1, Dec 5, 2010

The Hyatt Skywalk Collapse and the Professional Responsibility

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:19 am

Yesterday morning we went to Union Station as part of their Saturday science seminar for students. Yesterday’s topic was on the collapse of the Hyatt Skywalk on 7/17/1981 in Kansas City, Missouri, causing 114 death, the then deadliest structural collapse in U.S. history. This happened nearly 30 years ago, hence most of these students had not heard of this tragedy.

The speaker gave a detailed analysis of the serious flaws in the design and engineering of the architecture. These flaws are the root cause of the collapse.

I think it a very good lecture for the young people in that they could learn what professional responsibilities means and the deadly consequence of the irresponsible behavior on part of some professionals.

1, Dec 4, 2010

Build Your Nest While You Can

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:21 am

On 11/23, a very cold Tuesday afternoon, I took my daughter to Border’s to get some closing sale. From there, we went to Costco to buy a bag of pomela, a giant citrus fruit. When we left the store, we rushed into our highlander, feeling very cold. At this moment, both of us thought of this verse and began chanting it aloud, as if it could drive away the coldness.

I am pretty sure I have dwelled on this topic many times before so much so that even my daughter can recite it. This was on an elementary school textbook. So many years have passed and with so much goings-on, I can never forget the story of Hanhao bird. The story goes like this.

When the sun is warm and bright, all the birds are hard at work, with the exception of Hanhao Bird. When a bird reminds Hanhao of getting ready for the cold weather, Hanhao said, “The winter is still far away. I will enjoy myself in this sunny day.”

Hanhao plays all the way until the winter arrives. At night when other birds are resting in their cosy nests, the shivering Hanhao regrets not to have built one for this moment. He keeps chanting this verse. The next day when the sun is out and Hanhao starts playing again, forgetting all about his nest. Thus, eventually he dies in the midst of cold winter night– a lesson for us all.

1, Oct 23, 2010

The Pathetic Case of Shopaholics

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:09 am

This is from reading on 9/18/2010 an article on shopaholics carried in Psychology Today. There are three types of shopaholics.

(1) Emotional shopaholics, “Shopping brings me out of a depressed mood,” said one of them.

(2) Bipolar shopaholics. When certain people with bipolar disorder hit a manic high, the first thing they think to do is shop. “When I was high, I couldn’t worry about money if I tried so I don’t…”

(3) Obsessive shopaholics. If you feel an urge to buy the same top in eight colors or to replace your coffee maker monthly because you keep finding “better” models, you may be an obsessive shopaholic. They must shop to feel that everything is OK.

When you reach to such a deplorable state, obviously something must be wrong with your life or with your feeble mind. Either you need to have a worthy goal to reach or a meaningful engagement to make you feel worthy and proud. I surely wish my children and my dear readers never fall this low.

1, Oct 22, 2010

Read to the Babies, as Early as You Care

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:24 am

This is from my reading of Psychology Today on 9/18/2010. There is an article reporting a research on the factors that contribute to the success of high schoolers. There are three findings.

(1) Word perfect. Babies raised among books obtain an average of three years more schooling than book-free children. That mean babies should be read to as early as possible.

(2) Boys chase girls. Boys score low in class that girls dominate. I don’t have convincing explanation on it. Probably, girls tend to bring out their best when they compete with other girls. And boys lack of the drive to compete with girls.

(3) Clique here. Seniors with more close pals have high GPAs. This is very much understandable when classmates serve as study buddies and help each other to reach their common goals — good grades.

1, Aug 31, 2010

What LA Public School Really Needs in Order to Completely Turn around

Filed under: American Culture,Education — admin @ 12:26 am

On the Sunday of 8/22/2010, I read an article by CHRISTINA HOAG, Associated Press writer, “LA unveils $578M school, costliest in the nation.” Here are some facts that make the whole story absolutely ridiculous.

(1) The new building will house the same old group of teachers who have created 50% dropout rate and one of the lowest performance schools in the U.S.
(2) Schools with worst performance are often rewarded with the highest funding – New York City has a $235 million campus; New Brunswick, NJ, a $185 million high school.
(3) This came in the time when nearly 3,000 teachers were laid off, with many needed programs slashed.

The assumption behind this colossal spending is people attribute the poor school performance to lack of good facilities, instead of honestly confronting the real issues of parental responsibilities, the student’s lack of interest and any much-needed work ethics, and on top of its all, the whole culture that breeds the main student body .

I don’t have ready data to back up this but I strongly believe on the average the U.S. public schools spend far more than the average schools in China, yet the performance and achievement are depressingly lower here in the U.S.

Let’s face this simple fact: education is not something you can buy. Emphasis on education is inherent in a culture. You find it in most of Asian and Jewish cultures. Without a thorough cleaning of the whole culture involving predominantly Hispanic and black student body, this bleak situation will remain stubbornly hopeless, regardless how many millions are poured into these schools. It will only get worse as this student body grows bigger.

1, Aug 18, 2010

Avoid Rush Hour the Night Before

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:14 am

On the Monday morning of 7/12/2010, after one week break, my daughter started the first day of the second session of summer school. She got up at 6 AM, busy getting things ready. Finally we hopped on the car at 6:34. By the time, we got off highway 35, it was 6:47. Five minutes later, we passed Quivira and had less than 1/4 miles to go. Normally we have reached school by 6:52. Today, because we were about 5 minutes behind, we had to wait for 7 minutes before we could reach the dropping spot. It was 6:59 when she stepped out of the car.

I don’t know where the classroom is and how much she has to go before she enters her classroom. But I know clearly we could have avoided all the morning rush if she had got her clothes, school notes, and school bag ready the night before. The next morning we left at 6:30 AM and arrived at 6:49. I hope my children can learn a lesson from what happened on this morning.

1, Aug 11, 2010

History Should Make One Wise

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:08 am

Next year my daughter is going to take European history class. Meanwhile, we just learned that a high school friend of my son majors in history at Wash-U. My daughter asked me what was the use of learning history. I told her of the word of Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626).

“Reading makes a full man; conversation a ready man; and writing an exact man. And therefore, if a man writes little, he needs to have a great memory; if he converses little, he needs to have a present wit: and if he reads little, he needs to have much cunning, to seem to know, that he does not. Histories make men wise ; poets witty; the mathematics subtile; natural philosophy deep; moral grave; logic and rhetoric able to contend.”

You may be wondering why history makes one wise. When you study history, you have to be able to think in term of time and space and understand events and their relationships, then search for the answer for why event happened the way it is. History enhances your research and critical thinking ability and of course writing ability, too. Plus, it is so much fun reading about history. After all, don’t you want to know the rise and fall of Roman Empire?

1, Aug 10, 2010

Family Rules from an Ancient Chinese Father

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:58 am

During fourth of July long weekend, I grabbed a book on ancient Chinese teaching and bumped into this piece. To be sure, it is a fairly long one. I refrain from torturing my daughter into memorizing the whole piece. Instead, I asked her to learn a tiny part of it.

The main idea of the first part is the following.
(1) Get up early. Clean around and put things in order. Go to bed early. Make sure the door is locked and the windows are closed. The key point is to do something useful after you get out of bed as opposed to watching TV or playing games or surfing the net mindlessly.

(2) At each meal, you should alway remember they don’t come by easily. There are lots of works involved in the making of your clothes. The main point is: nothing comes by easily. Do not waste anything.

(3) While you prepare for the rainy days, you should start digging well before you feel thirsty. The message is self-explanatory, that is, you save for the time when you need it urgently.

To be sure, this is not the first time that I drill these messages into their heads. I know repetition always works.

1, Jul 24, 2010

Don’t Disregard Study Environment

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:53 am

My daughter’s summer school schedule goes from 7 AM to 12 noon. During the first session, she returned home right after school and didn’t start doing homework until late in the evening. During the second session, her brother suggested that she go to the library right after school and try to get all homework done there. It helps her to focus on her work. It is also good to be away from refrigerator and other type of junk food.

It has been two weeks since she started going to the main library. Yesterday, on the way home, I asked her if she got more things done at library than at home. “Oh yea,” she quickly replied.

This reinforces the idea that I had before, that is, the environment and the atmosphere are the factor that parents should consider if they intend to develop a good study habit in their children.

1, Jul 23, 2010

Don’t Shortchange Your Children By Depriving them of Being Bilingual

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:14 am

While I was walking early on the morning of 6/27, I was listening to a book on confronting business reality. When the book hit the topic of outsourcing to China, I thought of some incidents related to Chinese language.

First, I learned of a Chinese parent talking about making his children learn Chinese. “They are going to work here in U.S. Unless they will work as Chinese interpreters, what’s the use of learning Chinese?” This is the first time I hear of such an excuse of not bringing bilingual kids in a Chinese family here in U.S. I have seen cases where Chinese parents painfully struggle to communicate with their adolescent kids in English, being shamefully looked down upon by the children whose only means of communication in their Chinese family is English. The children have every reason to shame their parents, because the parents’ English is so embarrassingly outlandish, after having stayed in the country for so many years.

Second, I heard some internet software companies started turning to China for outsourcing their developer job. It would be a big help if the company can communicate with the Chinese developers in Chinese. In other words, Chinese are gradually becoming both partners and colleagues of the American companies. How can one say knowing Chinese is not relevant to one’s job. You can say the same thing to people working at any fast food restaurant in KC but cannot speak Spanish because most of his colleagues speak Spanish.

Finally, language is an instrument. The more instruments that we have mastered, the better positioned we are in facing the global challenge. It is especially attractive when children can master this instrument effortlessly by simply growing up in this language environment.

I deem it a waste of resource, an opportunity lost and even an unfair shortchange to the children if their Chinese parents fail to bring up bilingual children. Alas, by the end of the day, it takes some wisdom to be a good parent.

1, Jul 3, 2010

Teaching More Than the Language to Chinese Children

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:34 am

On May 8, a beautiful Saturday, we went to a friend’s house for a dinner gathering. As usual, we parents were chatting over dinner table while the kids had their fun upstairs.

One topic that struck me as very interesting, that is, teaching Chinese to the next generation and enhancing parent-children relationship.

Many Chinese parents, in an attempt to assimilate their children into mainstream American culture, insist on English-only environment at their Chinese homes and thus deprive the youngsters the opportunity to learn Chinese while they were young.

I learned of the wretched experience of a Chinese father. He is one of those unwise parents, engaging in nothing but English with his daughter when the girl was little. Now his teenager daughter turns away from him because she cannot speak Chinese and his English sounds too outlandish, rudimentary and outrightly embarrassing to her. The combination of generation gap and cultural gap tears the two apart to an irreparable point. Now vainly the sad old dad cries over spilled water. It is not funny to witness the scene.

Their first home provides the only Chinese language environment for these ABC children. With a large part of their waking hours being exposed to English environment, the Chinese parents really don’t have much chance of raising bilingual second generation ABCs.

Here’s the key to keep in mind — if Chinese parents do not go out of way to teach Chinese to their youngsters, they not only deprive the kids of the chance of being bilingual but also run the risk of alienating themselves from their English-speaking children. Remember it is no use to cry over spilled water.

1, Jun 13, 2010

Where Will 99 Percent of Graduates Go?

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:04 am

Continued with yesterday’s posting on American education and elite society. I was reading SMS year book of this past year, the 2010 Heritage Supplement and noticed this interesting phenomenon. There are about 250 high school graduates from SMS who are heading for colleges this fall. Among them, one will go to Northwestern University, one to Washington University in St Louis, one to Cornell University, and one to Columbia University. They make up about 1% of the graduates, the rest 99% go to either JCCC or K-State or KU or anywhere outside the top rank. This is the crowd. This is the flow. Thus the rudimentory hierarchical structure is taking shape with a tiny 1% on the top, sitting far above the 99% mass of society. There will certainly be change in this structure, as some might drop from the top and others climb to the summit.

For my children, if you want to be one of the crowd, you follow the 99% of the folks. Otherwise, stand above 99% of your peers. While life is easy for one staying with the crowd, it is never easy to be one of the top one percent. The road to the top is especially difficult for Asian Americans as there are so many over-qualified applicants for so limited places in top-ranking institutes of higher education. Tough decision and rough road ahead.

1, Jun 7, 2010

Money Cannot Buy Things that Really Matter

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:53 am

We all know that money, though important, cannot buy things that really matter to us, home, time, sleep, knowledge, health, respect, love and life. Here it is again from a friend of mine. I want my children not to lose sight of big picture and essentials of life while pursuing success in life.

When you have money–
You can buy a bed but cannot buy enough sleep;
You can buy a book but cannot buy knowledge;
You can buy healthcare but cannot buy health;
You can buy a house but cannot buy a home;
You can buy position but cannot buy respect;
You can buy clock but cannot buy time;
You can buy sex but cannot buy love;
You can buy blood but cannot buy life.

1, Apr 17, 2010

Attention, Power of Focus, and Intelligence

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:50 am

Last week, my son forwarded me a blog entry by Jonah Lehrer on this topic.

Lehrer introduces in his blog a recent experiment by neuroscientists at Rutgers, which demonstrated that general intelligence is mediated by improvements in selective attention. The results of these experiments “provide evidence that the efficacy of working memory capacity and selective attention may be causally related to an animal’s general cognitive performance and provide a framework for behavioral strategies to promote those abilities,” and “that intelligence is really about the ability to control the spotlight of attention. After all, having access to facts doesn’t matter if we can’t focus on the facts, or figure out which facts are actually important. (Herbert Simon said it best: ‘A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.'”

Think about internet and ocean of information together with so many kids with study problems. It all boils down to one problem, not intelligence but lack of power to focus and to concentrate their attention for long.

1, Apr 12, 2010

Challenges Facing Parents and Public Schools

Filed under: Education — admin @ 1:57 am

Last Monday, 4/5, I heard of this news about Blue Valley school district board decision. The board, faced with a significant budget shortfall, “will save $1.8 million by allowing a slight increase in class-size guidelines. Student activity fees will be doubled. The district will save another $2.6 million through a variety of other budget cuts.” It has to cut here and there in order to trim $3 million.

The news reminds me of the result of a Saturday’s state competition on 4/3. I learned that in recent years private schools have been the leading teams going national.

With budget cut in recent years, I am not surprised to see the decline of public schools. Both parents and public schools across the board are facing unprecedented challenges in keeping their quality and competitive edge with shrinking budgets.

1, Mar 20, 2010

Money Cannot Solve Problems with Public Schools

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:54 am

Kansas City (KCMSD) spent as much as $11,700 per student on a cost of living adjusted basis, much more than many large districts in the country, bringing student-teacher ratio to 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of major school district in the country.

You think you would get the expected result? Wrong. School performance, social integration, achievement gap, and graduation rate remain stubbornly unchanged. Even with tremendous amount of money pouring into school, it is still unrealistic to expect any miracle from a school district whose students come from poverty-stricken areas with most of families headed by low-educated single-parents.

Education starts first and foremost from one’s family where a child spends two-third of his day and has most interactions and influence. Family is where one’s aspiration, dreams, motivation to rise in society, and vision of future are cultivated and encouraged. Family is the root of all for every one of us.

This is as much a social problem as an educational one. Perhaps, instead of giving money to school or trying to get a new crop of teachers by laying off the old ones, we should turn our eyes to parents and invest some resource in educating parents in any poor-school-performance district or at least get their cooperation. Nothing can be done until you get to the root of all education problems — the culture and the family.

1, Mar 15, 2010

The First Golden Rule is to Follow the Rule

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:58 am

On the way from her school to gas station on 2/10/2010, I was thinking of going home directly because my daughter was going to have a test the next day, but I needed to get gas for the car and also get something else from grocery store. I told my daughter, “Sometimes I am really torn between the desire to make you happy and the need to make you work hard so that you can have good grades and get to place of your dream. I know grades are not important and there are many things in life that are more important than grades. But still we need good grades because that’s how people measure you when they don’t know you.”

“Well, we have to go by the rule. Plus, I won’t be happy if I don’t have good grades and not be able to go where I want to go,” said she. I am glad she is so much mature now, at least more mature than some of my adult friends.

To certain extent, socialization process is one of learning and following the rules of the society. Most of successful individuals are good at playing by the rule for their advantage. For example, they realize what is needed to get into a school or a company, so they adapt themselves so that they present themselves as exactly the kind of person for that school or the company. I am not sure how much individuality is preserved in the process and how happy or unhappy they are, but success will guarantee one more freedom to break the rule. A nice thing to look forward to. Until the day we become the ones who make the rule, we have to follow the rule laid off by other rule-makers.

1, Mar 14, 2010

When Children Fail at school, Parents Are the Real Criminals

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:10 am

On last Monday morning, 3/8, I heard on my way to work news on education again. “The Education Department is launching 38 investigations into possible civil rights violations by schools and colleges in more than 30 states. Secretary Arne Duncan makes the announcement Monday in Selma, Alabama, where he will join civil rights leaders to commemorate the 45th anniversary of one of the bloodiest clashes between protesters and state police.” Next we learned more news about the achievement and education gap between white and non-white, that is, black students trail far behind white in math and English, etc. Of course the system and the teachers with prejudice were blamed for this black failure in school.

I lost my patience hearing talks like this when people presented the gap of achievement together with the role of school and teacher. Why wasn’t there any talk on the role of the parents in students’s failed school performance. It is ridiculous to expect teachers to dispense discipline instead of imparting knowledge. As responsible parents, we all know very well that no real learning is possible with proper discipine. Teachers are to teach not to discipline bad-behaved children.

We will never be able to narrow this school achievement gap if we refuse to confront honestly the problem that is rooted in the culture, the one that has failed to raise good students and succeeded in supply most to the U.S. prisons. Without a thorough cultural shakeup, we can get nowhere no matter how much money we squander into the system.

1, Jan 25, 2010

Tips For Children with ADD Discipline Issues

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:33 am

On Sunday afternoon, 1/24, I was in Xi Dan Beijing Booktore looking for some books for my children. Oh boy, what an ocean of books and people, pressing breathlessly around you from all directions. I got hold of a translated book originally written by Eric Jensen on brain enrichment. What a glorious goal! I never allow myself to miss a chance to rake my brain. So I bought the book, even though I am sure I won’t have the time for it.

There are a few pages on children with ADD (attention deficit disorder), which I found interesting. I realize there are way too many children in the U.S. being diagnozed with ADD when in fact it is more a matter of discipline than physical problem. The book partially confirms my prejudice.

There are many treatments for ADD children. Instead of using drugs and other similar chemical therapies, the book recommends that the best therapy is management and development of certain techniques. This is nothing but applying some disciplines on children, to which I agree without any reservation

Here are some therapy tips.
(1) User planner, stick notes or calendar as a reminder for deadlines and anything that need your care.
(2) Make a list of to-do-task when you feel overwhelmed by the amount of work that need to be done. Manage each task from this list.
(3) Use key words to help you focus on task on hand
(4) Divide time into small chunks and allocate tasks for each small timeframe. Strictly complete each task without given time.
(5) Use plan instead of impulse

Good luck to both children and parents.

1, Jan 23, 2010

Developing Good Habit, Key to Good Parenting

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:11 am

My mother shared with me an article on children education, entitled “Habits determine a child’s destiny” written by some expert in education. Below are some notable notes from the reading.

Children without exception want to do well at school. The trouble with those not-so-good children is they are bedeviled beyond themselves by some bad habits. On the other hand, the key to good students is their good habits. Habits are certain stable and automatic behavior that links the stimulus and reaction. A habit is initially formed when a behavior is repeated and maintained in at least 21 days and become stable after 90 days.

A habit is restricting on the surface but liberating in essence. You seem to be restricted from doing the undesirable things, yet it liberates you from ever thinking of not doing it at all. That is, you avoid doing thing of low value without ever thinking of avoiding! Isn’t that wonderfully energy-liberating!

Good habits bring you many unexpected good opportunities while bad ones ruin you without your knowing it.

A Russian educator once said something like this. Good habits are an asset deposited in one’s CNS (central nerve system), which will continuouslly appreciate over time, enabling a person to benefit from its endless interests. On the other hand, bad habits are moral debts which will continuously accumulate and augment to an uncontrollable mass pressing on your nerve till your last moment. As the result, you will never be able to pay it in full in your lifetime and eventually it will lead you to total bankruptcy. In my mother’s own word, a bad habit will push you over a thousand-depth cliff. What a horrible nightmare!

1, Jan 21, 2010

The Purpose of Education

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:05 am

What a boring topic, as if I did not know it! I am sure people from background can come up with different understanding on this question.

The question popped up in my mind when I was chatting with my relatives in China. The more they talk about schooling, the more I feel lost. They spend so much time on preparing for the exams, all kinds of them, so much so that you feel exam preparation is the center of gravity, the core of education, leaving you wondering what, in the end, we want to get out of education, other than good grades.

Einstein was once quoted saying something like this. “What is education? It is whatever left after we forget all that were taught to us.” Educational process is like water flowing through our brains; the deposit is what we eventually get from this process.

Grade reports are rather superficial and temporary when comparing to a person’s ability to think, analyze, search and research, persistency in goal-setting and pursuing, personal integrity, responsibility and reliability, and all the fine qualities that will accompany and benefit a person in the long years to come.

Alas, I just realize there are so many things that are more important than a mere good grade. Still, for now, I love good grades. The more, the better.

1, Jan 7, 2010

Treat Others as Others; Self as Self

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:38 am

An old man gives a youth four pieces of advice:
(1) treat self as others
(2) treat others as self
(3) treat others as others
(4) treat yourself as yourself

Following the first advice, you will be able to better endure whatever sadness or happiness that you have when you imagine how others feel in your situation. With the second one, you will be able to feel the joy or the pain that others experience. The third one emphasizes the fact that each individual should be accepted and respected on his/her term, that no one shall impose his/her will upon others. The last one is this — we are responsible for our own lives.

It is so easy to forget accepting others and treating them with due respect, especially within family members or between intimate relationship. And very often we fail to be responsible for ourselves and our commitment. We would be much wiser and happier if we could take to heart these advices.

1, Dec 30, 2009

Everything will End up in Bubbles if We Always Wait for Tomorrow

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:32 am

A day before the eve of New Year.
On Monday after I got back from work, I asked my daughter what she had accomplished in a day. “Oops, I have not thought about it, but I will think about it tomorrow,” said she. My son said, “You should always think about what you should do at the beginning of the day instead of at the end of the day. Otherwise, you will think there is always a tomorrow to get things done.” His words reminds me of a poem called The Song of Tomorrow. It goes like this, “Tomorrow after tomorrow, with endless tomorrows. Everything will end up in bubbles if people always wait for tomorrow…”

1, Dec 24, 2009

A Sad Combination: Big Temper and Weak Character

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:01 am

An acquaintance of mine started his Ph.D program and had to give it up after over a decade. I know of many people who can be characterized as having a big temper but small character, steel-strong in trivial fight but cotton-weak in the will to rise up. When he is expected to complete a task within a certain time-frame, he fails again and again and has to push back this time limit. For all people like this friend of mine, it is mostly because they are not strong enough to break out of their comfort zone and do what they have to do. A loser has to break away from his/her loser habit in order to cease to be a loser.

I always tell my children, “A man got to do what a man got to do” and “Tough it out if toughness is needed.” If you lose, there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever. You can get back to your comfort zone only after you have fulfilled your commitment to yourself and to others. If you make one commitment or set one task for yourself, stick to it until the job is complete. If you start a journey, like that lovely tortoise, don’t stop until you reach the end.

I have seen too many cases where a person so ridiculously fails simply because he/she cannot tough it out, all being the direct outcome of a weak will and character, the ruin of it all. Therefore, the building of a strong valid character should be on top of all parenting efforts. With that, everything else should fall in their right place.

1, Dec 17, 2009

Starting Extracurricular Activities As Early As Possible

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:53 am

A friend of mine asked about college application. Here’s one important success ingredient.

I can never overemphasize the importance of extracurricular activities. I identify this as one of the essential components in college application. These non-academic experiences throw more light than GPA and SAT on your personality, passion, interests, potentials, maturity, ability, and leadership. A sustained commitment to a well-chosen activity is a rare quality found among high school students. If GPA and SAT tests your academic power, extracurricular activities expose the human side of you, making them to see a whole person with full spectrum.

Very often extracurricular experience is also rewarding and life-enhancing, yielding more fruit in the long run than you realize at the moment. These experiences provide unique material for essay and interview topic.

Back to the practical side, the more extracurricular activities you get involved, the more admission index points you accumulate in your favor, the greater chance you will have for thing to go your way. This is especially written for my daughter.

P.S. I just read this quote from a book that my son recommended me during his Thanksgiving breaks — “The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.” Herbert Spencer.

1, Dec 12, 2009

English Proficiency: Critical to Success after Graduate School

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:22 am

Last weekend, I talked with a friend of mine over the phone about young Chinese students over here for graduate education. She was glad to report to me that her nephew, the son of her brother, went back to China and got a teaching position at Shanghai Shifan University (an institute for bringing out teachers). The young man stayed in US for a year and 5 month for his master degree in economics and went back after graduation. He first got a job teaching English at New East Institute teaching English, later landed this job, teaching economics in English. She told her nephew to find American roommate while he was in US and he did. See how much progress in English he had made in this short period of time.

I applaud for the young man’s success in his job-hunting. Indeed, it all fails, one can always pick up a job as an English language teacher, using his/her language skill. On the other hand, I have learned of many cases where young Chinese students still cannot communicate well with ordinary Americans even after three or four years of living in America.

The first step toward real language learning is to break out of one’s comfort zone by living with non-Chinese-speaking roommates, soaking yourself in this language as much as possible. Thus, you are forced to think and speak English whenever you open your mouth. Just as there is no excuse to trifle away your life, there is no excuse whatsoever to waste this opportunity to enrich yourself in this English language speaking environment.

As with everything else in your life and as I always say to my children, it is your life, your choice and your responsibility.

1, Nov 19, 2009

Kick a Habit — the Great American Smokeout

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:59 am

“Every year, on the third Thursday of November, smokers across the nation take part in the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout® by smoking less or quitting for the day on the third Thursday of November. The event challenges people to stop using tobacco.” — Thus, I was told.

I read something on the subject and share its insight here. “Many experts believe smoking is only about 10% physical addiction and a whopping 90% psychological addiction. Your body will recover fairly quickly from nicotine withdrawals (the worst symptoms usually abate in three days or less), but your psychological dependency on cigarettes can be much more difficult to defeat.”

So well said! Smoking is actually like all habits, like computer gaming, internet surfing. Habits are hard to break because of our strong psychological addiction and dependency. In fact, all of our deeply-rooted habit has psychological base which makes so stubborn to break.

Experts on it suggest doing a self-analysis before taking any habit-changing moves. Make a list with two columns. Label column one “Why I Do it” and label column two “Why I Want To Quit Doing it.”

In column one, list all the reasons and benefits you can remember as to why you started doing it in the first place. In column two, list all the benefits and advantages that you can think of if you quit doing it.

The more reason and benefits that you can think of for column two, the more mental and will power you can harness and the more motivated you are in breaking from the old habit. I think this self-analysis is very important for anyone to break any undesirable habit. I shared it with my daughter — we all live through each day, driven mostly by habits. Some habits lead you to succeed, while others lead you to the opposite direction. Be watchful of your habits if you care where you are heading.

1, Nov 1, 2009

A Chinese Jewish Mother Wrote of Her Experience in Israel

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:25 am

A friend of mine in Los Angeles sent me a writing by a Jewish mother of three. Growing up and being educated in China, this Jewish mother immigrated to Israel early 1990s, with her three children.

The main idea of her writing is to proudly demonstrate how Jewish children are taught to make money, pay for what they get from earliest years of their lives, starting from their home. Before long, all of them, mother and her three children become shrewd business Jews. There is no free service even at home — the writer/mother gets paid for her household work done for the children, the youngest child receives payment from her two brothers for a Jewish drink. The children made egg-rolls at home and sold them at school. I’m wondering if the young children pay their rent for living at home.

It gives me a rather uneasy feeling after reading her writing, as if the whole gravity of living weighs on making money, the more, the better. Is it supposed to be this way? Have I missed anything in my upbringing of my children? To be sure, I have done so much for my children and have not charged them a penny. Or should I?

I used to believe home is the place where we work, like it or not, and don’t get paid in term of money, as long as it is our own home. It is more like a volunteer work, where we do for free, except very often we don’t do it willingly. Because household work can be backbreaking, especially after a day’s work. Still, for some reason, I find it hard to accept the concept that our children pay us for the service we render out of parental love and responsibility. In fact I don’t think it a desirable practice to charge children for our service as parents. If that were the case, I don’t really need to go out working, simply serve my children and get paid. I told my daughter of this, she thinks the practice goes too far, “It’s not like a family any more.” Well, certainly not a Chinese family.

On the other hand, we have to do household work, endless of it, much as we don’t like it. It seems unfair for parents to do them all while the children are capable of helping out. How can we make children pitch in voluntarily at home, if not using Jewish way? I don’t think I have done a good job in this area as my children never lend a helping hand when I expect them to.

Get a taste of Jewish teaching below,

1, Oct 20, 2009

Original, Unconventional and Success

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:14 am

It has been nearly two years since I first talked to my daughter about getting some work experience either by working for others or starting her own company. We all agreed that work experience was very crucial to her future success. At first, money-making is not the concern. Yet, so far nothing has happened.

Yesterday evening, I raised the topic again. “How about setting up a business that helps students with SAT preparation?” I threw out this suggestion. I said we all tried to capitalize our own assets, that is, what service we can offer others. Since you have worked on SAT preparation, you can reflect upon this experience and try to make it valuable to others.

My daughter thought the idea not feasible, “People would hire someone much older than I am,” said she. She thought people had prejudice regarding the age of people they would hire for help.

Indeed, prejudice does exist when people prefer older and experienced tutors as if younger ones were not qualified. Prejudice is not right. It is up to us to wipe any prejudice of this kind. If we don’t do anything, we actually feed in and thus perpetuate this prejudice.

Moreover, keep in mind this. When you set up a business, it does not mean that you do all the job. You can always hire someone to do what you cannot do. You have to rake your brain and be able to come up with solutions when you have your own business.

This I keep telling my children — if you want to be like everybody else and end up being mediocre, follow the convention. If you want to be successful, be original, unconventional and resourceful in your thinking, your planning, and your action.

1, Oct 7, 2009

Task-Oriented vs Time Oriented

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:04 am

I often heard parents mentioning how much time the children put into this or that activities. For some times I employed the same method on my children — you need to practice piano at least half an hour everyday. This does not necessary yield desired result.

Lately, I discover we might be better off if we can be flexible in imposing rules of study. From my past experience, I have seen failure in both methods if not employed properly.

For example, when you insist on children’s devoting one hour on practicing piano, what you often see is children play around the piano for an hour without getting anything done. When you ask children to complete homework, they would spend the whole evening on 10 math problems which they could very well get it over in 30 minutes.

In reality, task-oriented method works best on piano or skate practice when quality is top concern; time-oriented one works best on homework when you need to get it over in the smallest amount of time. I told my daughter, “Never mind how much time you put into practice, as long as you reach the goal you set for yourself.” With her math homework, I ask her to find out how much time one problem will take, then multiple that number with the number of your math problem is the total time needed for you homework.

For myself, I use task-oriented method at home doing my own amateur plus hobbies. At work, I often use time-oriented method, trying to get the task done as soon as possible.

Now, everybody, including the children, is happy with the correct study rule now.

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