Written by 4B Roye Wang’s Father
Since my daughter’s admission into SUIS QP more than one year ago, she has gained happiness from the abundant and diverse activities in her class, and she has absorbed elementary knowledge from the humanities and liberal arts education offered to her. To date, this has been the most rewarding part of her education.
She takes delight in the activities organized by the school – from the Asia-themed carnival held upon her admission to the Europe-themed carnival held this semester, from enjoying music and experiencing musical instruments in music class to playing the flute in her extracurricular class, and from having preliminary access to fine arts in the art class to drawing cartoons in her extracurricular class. That’s not even mentioning her inquiry class and PE class. Attending classes on basic knowledge puts her in high spirits.
“Learning cannot be regarded as learning in a real sense if it doesn’t bring happiness.” A child’s heart-felt happiness stemming from her learning is what I expect the most. This kind of pleasure, which unexpectedly appears from time to time throughout daily life, brings happiness to my family. For instance, my daughter might fall into deep thought for a moment when listening to a piece of music and then tell us that the piece was written by Beethoven or Vivaldi. This is what she learned at school. Likewise, she once told us that the video clip she had just watched was from a musical she had seen at school, after which she performed a dance from the musical. One day after completing her homework assignments, she happily told me, “Dad, I want to perform a magic trick for you.” She also spends half a weekend day attentively doing hands-on work, conducting experiments or drawing pictures. One day during my stay at the home of a friend in California a few years ago, I happened to come across my friend’s daughter who had returned from school at four o’clock in the afternoon. A third grader, the girl pushed open the door of the house and happily shouted, “Come and try the cookies we baked with the help of our teacher!” As her face burst into a smile, she brimmed with vitality. Now I often see a similar smile and a similar vitality in my daughter.
For nearly one year, what my daughter has experienced has met my greatest expectations for an ordinary 10-year-old child. I saw her make zongzi (rice dumplings) and moon cakes and celebrate her 10th birthday along with other children at the school. I saw her pick rice ears on a paddy under her teachers’ guidance. And I’ve seen her plan and rehearse various kinds of art and sports activities, as well as do scientific experiments. I saw how she attended pajama day, an interesting event, and I see how she is increasing her interactions with children of the same age. She is spending much more time reading and doing physical exercise, which is much to my pleasure. Young people should read and exercise often — undoubtedly the most valuable habits in my eyes.
Up until now, my daughter had not registered in any extracurricular classes for the Chinese language, mathematics or foreign languages. On this point, I share the same view with a small number of teachers and fellow parents. As my daughter becomes interested in more and more things, she takes the initiative to explore them more extensively. I agree with the following idea: “Instead of teaching her to study one thing after another, the key lies in cultivating her interest in pursuing learning. This is especially true of teaching her the ways of pursuing knowledge once she fully develops an interest in knowledge. She should not be made to learn certain things at the price of other useful things.” (This is just like what Picasso said: “Though I could draw as well as Raphael four years after learning how to draw, I nonetheless spent my entire life learning how to draw like a child.”) This style of learning will help her access extensive information during the stage of perceptual cognition, and it will help her to undergo the transition to the stage of rationally constructing concepts and making logical inferences. It may also prevent her from “becoming a ‘back-up’ talent,” “falling victim to cut-throat competition” or “being pushed from a ‘unique self’ to ‘another self’ of mediocre attainments.”
The members of two generations in my family have discussed children’s education. My family members of the elder generation stress the importance of actively getting children prepared for social competition in the future. Based on the fact that children need to be competitive in society, they deduce that children need to go all out to obtain satisfactory examination results each day. From an overall perspective, this way of thinking leads to the backwards deduction that an action is reasonable only when it conforms with the purpose it serves. By comparison, my family members of the younger generation prefer the idea that social efficiency should not be fostered at the price of the natural inclinations and present life of children and young people. Likewise, education should not be reduced to an appendage serving a purpose other than education.
The idea to “replace religion with aesthetic education” appeared more than 100 years ago and has helped facilitate a transition from the past to the future. After all, appropriate humanities and liberal arts educations can update habits that have been followed for generations. Historically, as inspired by Kant (1724–1804) at Konigsberg, Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803) began his travels in Europe, and upon his return to Germany, he met Goethe (1749–1832) who was then just a young man. Having completed his three-year trip to the Apennine Peninsula, Goethe initiated the “storm and stress” movement, becoming a pioneer of classical German aesthetics. It is our hope that this twinkling light may illuminate the many years of children’s education at Xiehe.