MESSAGE FROM TAIWAN—TO AMERICA—WHEN THE 10 THINGS YOU LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN ARE NOT ENOUGH
By Kevin Stoda, an English Educator in East Asia
Over the past few weeks, I have been amazed by the particular textbook, which one first grade teacher in Tang Qi Elementary School has been busily browsing through. That bilingual book is entitled, A SELECTION OF USEFUL ENGLISH SENTENCE[S]. I cannot tell who the publisher is but on the front of the 200 page book is a neoclassical painting of Socrates and other philosophers in Athens.
This bilingual textbook starts out with a vocabulary and grammar review in English. It has very short chapters—and translations in the back of the book in Chinese. After the first 24 tiny chapters on vocabulary and syntax, Part II of the book focuses on English idioms. Part III then focuses on classical and modern Western quotations—from Plato to Jefferson to Emerson to Rockefeller.
I’m not really certain if this entire book is originally aimed at elementary school or secondary school (or at both educational levels). However, I do know that the first grade teacher and several of her colleagues in Tan Qi here on Beigan Island have been busy writing down phrases in both Chinese and English over the past several weeks.
Two days ago, larger print formats of several of the bilingual quotes have been produced in many colors and have been being placed around the elementary school—most notably on each step of the many stairwells of Tang Qi Elementary School. Apparently, this project of posting famous western proverbs and quotations around the school is part-and-parcel of the “internationalization” of the public education process here in this rural corner of Taiwan.
The Ministry of Education in Taiwan—like ministries in Japan and Korea before it—has determined that the East Asian form of multicultural education (known here as “internationalization”) is to be most strongly emphasized through foreign language education, i.e. most particularly through “English” and foreign language education. In order for my blog article readers to fully comprehend what is being imparted to students on this island—located 7 kilometers from Mainland China, I will share a variety of quotations and proverbs from the book.
The topics I have selected to cite from the book (and which are also soon-to-be pasted on my school’s walls and stairwells) include: (1) Freedom, (2) Love, (3) Struggle and Success, (4) Ideals and Life, (5) Virtue, (6) Health, (7) Friendship, (8) Education, (9) Law and Justice, and (10) Society and Culture.
By no means is this an exhaustive list of topics covered from Western philosophers, writers, and politicians over the millennia. Nor is this an exhaustive list of what the textbook actually covers. For example, it covers satire and proverbs of warning and good fortune. Moreover, topics on family, parents, and religion are covered—along with topics of irregular verb usage in English.
The point I am making as I write this blog and remind readers of a great Western Heritage in literature and philosophy being now considered by Chinese (Taiwanese) educators as worthy of their students interest and potential thought of internalization by their own elementary students over the coming year(s), is that the ten most important things we should have learnt in kindergarten need to be extended and expanded upon. Moreover, they must be integrated into various facets of our lives and educational subjects over a generation if they are to sink in.
Allow me now to share a few dozen of the thousands of quotations to be shared with Chinese or Taiwanese students through such internationalization in education, i.e. if teachers can find enough teachable topics and carry out enough teachable moments over the coming year(s).
From Chapter 59, FREEDOM:
“The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time.”—Thomas Jefferson
“Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.”—G. Washington
“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”—Ben Franklin
NOTE: I am not sure that neither USA Congressmen nor recent USA Presidents have internalized Franklin’s quote, have they?
From Chapter 60, LOVE:
“Without respect, love cannot go far.”—Alexander Dumas
“Love thy neighbor as thyself.”—Jesus
“But now abideth faith, hope, and love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”—St. Paul
Comment: Why try to totally keep religion out of school when it is part of multicultural or internationalization education?
From Chapter 53, STRUGGLE & SUCCESS:
“Where there is a will, there is a way.”—Thomas Alva Edison
“I know no such thing as genious; it is nothing but labor and diligence.”
“It never will rain roses. When we want to have more roses, we must plant [trees].”
–Thomas S. Eliot
Comment: I, personally, had never learned in my schooling that Edison—a non-scholar—had made that quote. Had you learnt that?
From Chapter 52, IDEALS & LIFE:
“Other men live to eat, while I eat to live.” –Socrates
“Living without an aim is like sailing without a compass.”—A. Dumas
“Ideals must work through the brains and the arms of good and brave men, or they are no better than the dreams.”—Ralph W. Emerson
Comment: I bet some youth, parents, and congressmen today think that Socrates was simply a character in BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE.
From Chapter 52, VIRTUE II:
“Courage without conscience is a wild beast.”—Robert G. Ingersoll
“Often the test of courage is not to die but to live.”—Alfieri
“It is always time to do good.”—K. Gibran
NOTE: I think that the phrase (above) from Ingersoll should be stamped at the edge of every mirror and equipment issued in the military.
From Chapter 42, HEALTH:
“Health is like money, we never have a true idea of its value until we lose it.”—Billings
“One cannot help being old, but one can resist being aged.”—Samuel
“Diseases of the soul are more dangerous than those of the body.”—Cicero
NOTE: Before there are any more healthcare, Medicare, or Medicaid cuts cuts, each of these quotes should be studied for their social–and sometimes explosive or deadly—implications. Moreover, Cicero’s quote clearly should make it illegal to have any pre-existing conditions clause or any reductions in access to mental health assistance in the USA—otherwise innocent congresswomen will get shot (like in Arizona this past January).
From Chapter 40, FRIENDSHIP:
“Treasure is not always a friend, but a friend is always a treasure.”—Francis Bacon
“No road is long with good company.”—English Proverb
“Admonish your friends privately, praise them openly.”—Syrus
Comment: Too often we ignore teaching students how to be friends and maintain friendships, i.e. in our test-driven schools these days.
From Chapter 37, EDUCATION:
“Better be unborn than untaught, for ignorance is the root of misfortune.”–Plato
“Men learn while they teach.”—Seneca
“Only a nation of educated peoples could remain free.”—T. Jefferson
NOTES: Many Americans—like those who have ruined or kept back better developments in my home state of Kansas and elsewhere—have put down teachers by misstating Seneca. They have turned his quote on its head and said, “Those who can’t, teach.”
Meanwhile, nearly 10% of all Americans have a graduate degree but many of these 10% have far too little say with what goes on in their state and national capitals. This needs to change. That is my caveat to Jefferson’s quote (above).
From Chapter 38,WORK & LEISURE:
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”—W.D. Howells
“Every man’s work, whether it be literature or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself.”—Butler
“Leisure is the time to do something useful.”—Elias Howe
“Leisure is the mother of invention.”—Thomas Hobbes
Comment: In America—as in Taiwan—leisure has been underrated.
From Chapter 67, LAW & JUSTICE
“In justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”—Martin L. King, Jr.
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it.”—Voltaire
“Man’s Capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”—R. Neibuhr
NOTE: America has recently had a spate of judges—including federal and Supreme
court ones—who do not know how to recues themselves. Do they even understand justice?
From Chapter 68, SOCIETY & CULTURE:
“Civilization is the making of civil persons.”—John Ruskin
“ The kinds of greatness which our society produces over the years ahead will be the kinds of greatness we inspire, and will have to be securely rooted in our values.”—Rockefeller Report on Education
“How many things, both just and unjust, are sanctioned by custom!”
“The dead govern the living.”—August Comte
Comment: I think Americans need to go back and read Ruskin, the Rockefeller report and August Comte more often, wouldn’t you agree?
All American generations should follow the Chinese (Taiwanese) examples on moral and international education. Stop fighting it. , our foreign policy, our justice system, and our military, the USA could still be the shining beacon on a hill that our founding fathers aspired for us to reach out and strive for.
Robert Fulghum wrote All I Really Needed to Know I Learned In Kindergarten. But darn it, we need to learn after kindergarten, too. So, I thought I’d share these thoughts from Taiwan with you today.