Summer Reading List: ‘Little Soldiers’

What happens when an American boy enrolls in a Chinese school?
(EWA Radio: Episode 175)

Around the time that China’s Shanghai province was drawing international attention for top scores on a global exam, U.S. journalist Lenora Chu and her husband moved into their new Shanghai home. They lived just blocks away from a highly-regarded primary school that she calls a “laboratory for Chinese education reform,” and managed to secure a spot for their young son. The next few years gave Chu an inside look into Shanghai’s elite school system, and sparked a deeper interest in education in China. In a new book, Chu explores her struggle to reconcile her “American” expectations for public education with her family’s experience at this Shanghai school. What are the tradeoffs for students when obedience and conformity are prized above individuality and creativity? What are the implications of an education system that uses rigorous exams to weed out low performers before they enter high school and later rewards stellar scholars with coveted university spots. How is China responding to criticism that millions of students in poorer, rural communities are being excluded from the kind of educational opportunities afforded to residents of the wealthier Shanghai province? Chu also explores why China is looking to the West – including the United States — for inspiration to help develop students’  social-emotional and critical thinking skills.

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