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The American Classroom – Get Ready to Speak Up!

Over three years ago at the American Embassy in Beijing, a fine gentleman by the name of Donald Bishop gave a lecture describing the entire educational situation for Chinese students in America. The Institute of International Education subsequently published this lecture online (www.iie-china.org/chinese/bishop_e.html), and it’s still just as good a read today as it was then.

One of my favorite points from the article was when Bishop generalized the following point: “But when I say that American education is innovative, I mean primarily that in every field at every level it emphasizes creativity, critical thinking skills, and the ability to challenge authority and prevailing paradigms.” Bingo! One could rephrase this statement as, “to be a good student in America, you’ve got to open your mouth.”

This is a key point for students preparing to leave for the US this summer…be prepared to open your mouth in class, challenge your classmates and even your teachers, and have some fun with what you’re studying. It’s a whole different kind of competitiveness beyond simply getting good grades. In fact, good grades usually depend to a great extent on how willing you are to discuss issues in class. The kids that talk the most always seem to get better grades than the kids who never say anything. That is, except when the talkative kid is the kind who just talks to be heard, and not to make a valid contribution to the class. I hate those kids.

Bishop goes on to point out:

The returned students are all unanimous in saying that — after the initial classroom shock — learning these creative thinking and presentation skills was the greatest reward of their time of study in the United States. At a time when China has embraced opening and reform, there can be no greater need.

This is especially important for those of you seeking high-paying accounting/legal/marketing/blah blah blah jobs with multi-national firms upon returning to China. Remember…it’s a degree from the University of Illinois Accounting program that gets you a job, but it’s your ability to effectively work with Chinese people and foreigners in an office setting that gets you promotions. Here’s a big piece of advice from me: don’t be one of those goofy kids that goes to an American school and never hangs out with anyone other than Chinese students. Those kids are losers and miss the entire point of an international education. Trust me, those people never go anywhere in their jobs once they return, because despite spending $60,000 on a US Master’s degree, they still can’t effectively communicate with international businessmen that have no time and patience for cross-cultural misunderstandings.

Definitely go look at this article by Donald Bishop, it’s a tremendous read and can greatly benefit anyone hoping to study in America. You may even want to translate it for your parents. In the end, I’ll let Bishop speak for himself: “Here’s my message for Chinese students. The United States remains the best place in the world to seek the benefits of higher education. Don’t let rumors and outdated facts keep you from applying. I hope you’ll find your way to an American campus.”



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