Two Worlds - One Goal

Wake up! 6:30 AM to 9:30 PM is class time and study. Then, if you are lucky, lights out at 10 PM.  Others put off sleep as they intensely study for life-long competitions that their fate and future rely on. In that case, you probably get about four hours of sleep a night. That's five hours short of what experts believe is necessary for an adolescent's proper mental and physical development. Not surprisingly, I just described the life of a Chinese high school student. They do not see the sun rise nor do they see it set. They study and they sleep. Though quite the extreme, it is very familiar to many students in The States.

Americans see China as a growing threat. It is a developing economic and military force. It is one of the largest owners of our debt. It is, some say, a super-power soon to overtake America as the world leader. I had the opportunity to speak with the future of China this past weekend. Its students, of course. This select group of students is in America to improve their English and become familiar with the American education system and American culture. Many of them are considering furthering their education here. That is because our higher education system is extraordinary; it is one that the rest of the world admires. The Chinese students clearly do. The students all came across as incredibly intelligent. Their favorite subjects are overwhelmingly physics and economics, but there clearly was a pique in their curiosity when discussing the opportunities that American students have to explore their interests. Unfortunately, they strictly study a core curriculum that hardly allows them to broaden their experiences. Some wish for the opportunity to study psychology while others are passionate about photography. Until we spoke, it never occurred to them that those were fields which they could pursue and in which they could be successful.

Is this really something that we are trying to beat? Is this really a country that we perceive to be "racing to the top" with? I hope policy makers and all Americans will agree that this is no system to try and emulate nor compete with. If anything, the Chinese are culture to work with and learn from. But we are Americans. For over two hundred years we have paved the way for other countries to follow in our lead with creative, imaginative, and innovative policies. Why should that change now? We do not need to invest more in our antiquated education system. As China and the rest of the world evolve, we need to evolve too. Americans are free thinkers. Sadly, the system at present does not recognize nor appreciate this. It inhibits the expansion of our minds, the growth of our curiosity as well as our country's future. Something’s gotta’ change.

Fortunately, we have a leg up. American students, after all, have an extraordinary level of self-confidence. Let’s not waste this chance. Let’s not lose our identity. Let’s not be afraid to be daring, to be innovative, to be revolutionary. Take a stand for a system that promotes the freedoms of a democracy. Take a stand for a system that will forge a brighter future and cultivate a better tomorrow. Take a stand for a system that in no way should try to beat others, but should build upon its core values. If not, I am afraid the American Dream will become an American pastime.


Zak Malamed

RTN Student Leadership Board Co-Leader