Posts tagged U.S.

Fenced in Wild Pigs in the U.S.

The following story is tragic if it becomes true.  I’m watching things become dismantled as fences are being put up…read on.

There was a chemistry professor in a large college that had some exchange students in the class. One day while the class was in the lab, the professor noticed one young man, an exchange student, who kept rubbing his back and stretching as if his back hurt.

The professor asked the young man what was the matter. The student told him he had a bullet lodged in his back. He had been shot while fighting communists in his native country who were trying to overthrow his country’s government and install a new communist regime.

In the midst of his story, he looked at the professor and asked a strange question.

He asked: “Do you know how to catch wild pigs?”

The professor thought it was a joke and asked for the punch line.

The young man said that it was no joke. “You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come every day to eat the free corn.

“When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming. When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again and you put up another side of the fence. “They get used to that and start to eat again. You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up with a gate in the last side. “The pigs, which are used to the free corn, start to come through the gate to eat that free corn again. You then slam the gate on them and catch the whole herd. Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They run around and around inside the fence, but they are caught. Soon they go back to eating the free corn. They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity.”

The young man then told the professor that is exactly what he sees happening in America.

The government keeps pushing us toward Communism/Socialism and keeps spreading the free corn out in the form of programs such as supplemental income, tax credit for unearned income, tax exemptions, tobacco subsidies, dairy subsidies, payments not to plant crops (CRP), welfare, medicine, drugs, etc., while we continually lose our freedoms, just a little at a time.

One should always remember two truths:

There is no such thing as a free lunch, and you can never hire someone to provide a service for you cheaper than you can do it yourself.

If you see that all of this wonderful government “help” is a problem confronting the future of democracy in America, you might want to send this on to your friends.

If you think the free ride is essential to your way of life, then you will probably ignore this warning.

But, God help us all when the gate slams shut!

Quote for today: “The problems we face today are there because the people who work for a living are now outnumbered by those who vote for a living.” — Anonymous

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Effects of Chinese Collectivism and American Individualism

A young Chinese girl who is currently studying at a Minnesota university this fall wrote the following essay. She has many talents and she was especially good at doing origami (Japanese paper folding).  I was amazed at the giftings of many of my former Chinese students from this past summer.  This particular student wrote this insightful piece about what she had already observed about collectivism and individualism after just several weeks of living in the U.S.

“We all know that there are many countries in the world. China is a country of large population. And it also has a long history. But the history of Chinese individualism is not very long. Ordinary, most Chinese are tend toward collectivism. To some extent, this is decided by the traditional culture of China.

As a Chinese, when I was born, I started to live in a collective life. This is very common in China. If someone goes to China, he or she will see that there are many boarding schools in China. And parents seem to be willing to send their children to boarding schools. They think that boarding schools will help their children to learn to look after themselves well. Also, Chinese parents like to send their children to top schools although there are many students in schools. “I will send my son to the foreign language high school,” a father may boast to his friends and family. To some extent, this action is a kind of collectivism.

In Chinese schools, the questions that students do for the homework always have standard answers. Open-ended questions seldom appear on the homework. Even when students have different answers to the open-ended questions, the teacher will tell these students to write in the standard way instead of his or her own answers. We (students) cannot say that what teachers do for us is wrong, because this educational system in China has been lasting for a long time. If we write our own answers to the questions, maybe the reviewers will think we have not achieved or reached to the requirements. So teachers often hope students have the same thought, or the answers to the questions. I know it is hard to express the thing like this, but it is happening in Chinese schools actually.

I know that in America, teachers are glad if students have different thoughts. “They are trained from very early in their lives to consider themselves as separate individuals who are responsible for their own situations in life and their own destinies”(American Ways p5). So this may be the difference between Chinese culture and American culture.

Furthermore, in China, people like to eat together by getting food in one plate by chopsticks and eating it. “In a Chinese meal, most dishes are shared in the center of the table.……If there is a large group a rotating glass disk (or a Lazy Susan) is placed in the center of the table. It is turned constantly so that all the dishes are easily accessible to people sitting around the table.” (CultureShock! China P131) But in America, people prefer to eat in one’s own plates, even while eating with family members. I do not know how Americans think of this. But in China, people believe that eating together is a good way to promote harmonious feelings. So sometimes people may take food by chopsticks for each other.

Every culture has its own effects to people. So I think the effect of traditional Chinese culture is collectivism. It can be also said that collectivism has a great influence on the Chinese for many years. Otherwise, Americans maybe pay more attention to individualism. Every coin has two sides, so I cannot say which culture is better than the other.

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Highlights from Kazakh Readers Comments (Part II)

These are comments over the past year that I cherish because they are written out by Kazakhs who read this blog.  I originally thought that it would be for westerners to gain insights into this difficult culture.  Apparently I have erudite, Kazakh readers who are very competent in English. How I wish there were more true, historical stories written for more westerners to know and understand Central Asia.

‘They DO have stories, just not in the written form!!!’

Wrong. A nasty stereotype that even many a Kazakh were led to believe… The problem is, and I mean a major problem, that the modern-day historians are either half-professional or not interested in researching the real history that IS available for those willing to dig deep enough.”

Another Kazakh woman who lives in Arizona wrote the following and I blogged about it earlier.  I value what she wrote and wish more Kazakhs who live in the U.S. Canada or U.K. would write more about their beloved country so we, as westerners, can understand what happened in the past.

“I’m pleased to find at least 1 article in whole web net from Kazakh person about Kazakh art and history through Kazakh rugs. I can’t believe how much Soviet law and specially dominating Russians forced Kazakhs to forget their own history, lifestyle, art. Yes, Soviet law& KGB prohibited any kind of private business in USSR. Kazakhstan was tiered apart between Russia and China. East Turkestan became colony of China and now has new colonial Han’ name SinZsyan. Best Antique Kazakh rugs were stolen by communists in USSR and China. Kazakhs couldn’t make money by weaving rugs anymore. Since all Turkic countries became a colonies of USSR or CPR(Chinese People Republic), and no westerns were allowed at our Silk Road markets; Turkey became a major market of all Turkic rugs, Kazaks, Yughurs, Uzbeks, Altaics, Turkmen, Azeri, Kirgiz, Gagauzs, and etc. Kazakhs were still weaving some of kilims, but no rugs anymore. Pakistan became major producer of Kazakh design rugs now. My grandfather weaved flat rug; Klem or Kilim. After taking part of World War 2 he tried to feed his big family in Kazakh village on Russian territory near Zhyaik (Ural) river. He had ships, horses, goats. He was hunting and selling fur skin. KGB put him to jail in 1982 where he starngely died in 2 days. He was 50 y.o., his youngest kid was 14 y.o. his widow had no job, raising 2 kids and still doesn’t speak Russian. We still keep kilim by my grandfather. We used it once: on his funeral.

Correction to my previous post: at the time my grandfather died, my grandmother was raising 4 underage kids and had 3 more students. She never worked, she was helping my granddad to wash shipskin, fox, rabbit furskin, weaving wool for kilims, sawing, knitting, making felted wool for “valenki”. In one word she made Kazakh hand crafts and tried to sell it sometimes. She stayed true Kazakh, spoke Kazakh, prayed to Allah, had big Koran at home, even though it was strictly prohibited by Russian Federation law. Unfortunately new generations, her kids never were encouraged to learn her skills, since they wouldn’t be able to live on this. I do remember a little, but can’t do even 100th part of what my grandparents did.”

Various and Sundry Comments

The other day I was volunteering with players from a major league football team at a construction site of an affordable housing project. Apparently they were sent by the club owners or something to do this ‘humane work’ as they didn’t show any desire to do real work. Those young footballers were as strong as one can be but they were unwilling to do any heavy physical labour. The site manager had a hard time convincing them to do roofing and framing instead of painting, which was assigned to volunteer ladies. The IQ of the players seemed to be, well, below average. I was also reading that the untreated brain injuries are pretty common as the team owners don’t like the players to be on hospital beds but out in the field playing and earning them $$$.

Bottomline: I will think twice before sending my sons to play (American) football.

Final comment from a Kazakh reader makes me wonder what books he has been reading.  There certainly are a lot of anti-American type books written by non-patriotic Americans themselves.  But then that is what “freedom of expression” was so hard fought for by our early founders of this nation of the U.S.:

“With all due respect, I only disagree with your statement “all the challenges that the U.S. has overcome to be where it is today”. I wouldn’t like at all for Kazakhstan to be where the U.S. is today. The economy is very close to total collapse. Moral degradation. Crime rate has gone through the roof. Censorships of all media. Military aggression for natural resources and political dominance. And the list goes on and on.”

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Teaching in the Trenches, Shooting from the Hip

Since October of last fall, my ten students in the Professional Development program (PDP) have enjoyed listening to many qualified speakers (besides those on Ted.com).  I am thankful to all those professionals who took time out of their busy schedules to respectfully answer my invitation to talk to my students.  In two cases we only had a very short time due to scheduling limitations, but even so all these speakers need to be recognized.  I want to thank the following people who impacted and influenced my PDP students who are actually busy teachers themselves.  They are the following:

1) Marinka Franulovic, author of “Two Kyrgyz Women”

2) Anne Lonsdale, from Cambridge University

3) Harold Samuels, Regional English Language Officer, U.S. embassy

4) Alan Ruby, from University of Pennsylvania

5) Glen Tosaya, Toastmasters – public speaking issues

6) Hanaa Singer, UNICEF representative – KZ statistics related to youth

7) Jon Larsen, U.S. embassy – language and reading issues

8 ) Chad Harris, UCL teacher – Kazakh language issues

9) Josh Lange, UCL teacher – multiple intelligences

10) David Kemme, economist from University of Tennessee – writing issues

11) Annemarie Bechert, Goethe Institute – teacher and KZ culture issues

The following thoughts are taken from my rough notes concerning Annemarie’s visit to our classroom.  My PDP students clamored to have her come back because of her very astute contributions when she came last week with other expats to watch my students’ Powerpoint presentations.  She delivered more salient points for my teachers to think about because we are ALL in the trenches trying to figure out how to do our job more efficiently in Kazakhstan.

Many obstacles are put in the path of truly dedicated teachers in Kazakhstan who are not respected for their profession and are paid so low in salary.  (No wonder Kazakh teachers moonlight with extra English lessons or in some cases accept bribes from their students).  Small wonder, the younger teachers are often asked to do so much translation work for their sometimes older, clueless or inept administrators because of the three language policy in Kazakhstan.  Who has time to come up with creative lesson plans that are stimulating to the students if the teachers are required to know three languages PLUS their subject matter?  Okay, I’m shooting from the hip now, on to what Annemarie discussed with my students.

Annemarie is German but has impeccable English, a kind of British English. She has lived in many countries besides German, Canada, U.S., Ukraine and other places in the world.  She is well travelled.  She started off by saying what was obvious to all of us educators in the room, “Tremendous challenges await us as teachers to pick up the latest in methods of teaching because we live in a globalized world.” She asked, “What are the teachers’ roles besides being the meta teacher?”  That means being above and knowing all across the curriculum.  The relationship of teacher and student is shifting where Kazakhstan is on the road to becoming more like Europe, not in a geographical sense but taking on what is known as “enlightened society.”  Teachers in Kazakhstan need to cope with globalization and modernization and becoming more “student-centered.”

The Germans, as early as the 14th century, had merchants and free citizens and were independent from any czar, king or ruler.  (Economics and education go hand in hand and that is an important point to keep in mind.) The same cannot be said about Kazakhstan’s past.  The Germans had a strong understanding of self-government, roles and responsibilities of governance.

Annemarie admitted that she knew more about Kazakhstan with its recent Soviet past and didn’t know as much about it as a country, as a Kazakh civilization before Russian intervention of the tsars.  She boldly stated there was no real Kazakh government that ruled over this massive territory yet it functioned as a civilized society during nomadic times.  Therefore, what we know as “civilization” from a western approach is completely different from a Kazakh perspective.

Her strongest point was “Astana is not Kazakhstan.” I would wholeheartedly agree with that because of what I witnessed in a village school just 30 minutes outside of Astana.  Her concern is about carrying the knowledge that is in the “elite” schools of Astana out to those places in the rural areas of Kazakhstan.  This country is the ninth largest in the world.  Landscape and geography does matter and greatly influences the kind of people who grow up and are educated.  How can education be evenly distributed to ALL the people who live in Kazakhstan? That is one of the questions that Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Education is grappling with now along with the many issues attached to the three languages that are required to be taught to the young people.

Pity the poor Kazakh teachers who are in the trenches yet need to know all three languages (Russian, Kazakh and English) PLUS their specific subject!  Where are the programs to give them a leg up to do this impossible task?  We have money from the Kazakh government being poured into the youth with our elite schools, but I believe if you invest in the young teachers (who are too busy kowtowing to the older Kazakh administrators) then the ripple effect would be even better for the young people in the classroom.  Can the money be more evenly distributed throughout this vast land, to the rural areas?  Where are the incentives for qualified teachers to go out to the outbacks of this great nation?

(to be continued)

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Photos from Astana, Kazakhstan and Bucolic Yurt Scenes

My dear readers have probably read enough of my blog text with my recent three different series each in four parts of 1) why we work overseas in Kazakhstan, 2) why we love the U.S. and 3) finally Irving R. Levine’s “Big Red Schoolhouse.”  I’ll show photos I’ve saved out depicting scenes from Kazakhstan’s past from oil paintings or what still exists in the countryside and also Astana’s present reality.

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