February 24, 2010

Lessons from Vietnam? Or just about any Third World country?

Signe Wilkinson in today's Philly Daily News sidetracks from his her usual [liberal] cartoons to write a supposed "thought-provoking" column on learning something from communist Vietnam. I didn't know exactly what to take from it -- Wilkinson says we can "learn something" about capitalism from the bustling port vendors so prominent in Haiphong Harbor ("they don't seem to be turning any of them into parks or casinos"); however, with Philly's ridiculous crime problem (and that of other big cities), how productive would such a hypothetical market be? The city can't even control rampaging youth through its inner city malls, yet Philly should consider 'Nam's version of capitalism? Uh huh. Maybe if communist dictatorships have the crime problems of democratic societies (that is one of the banes of being "free," after all) there might be a logical comparison. After all, it's easy to make crime rare when people can be arrested at the whim of any government official, for virtually any reason.

Where Wilkinson makes some sense is when he she brings up education. He She writes:

And if Philadelphia parents wanted to see what urban education looks like where kids come to school on time and pay attention, they, too, should visit third-world Vietnam.

Looking into schoolyards in the early morning, the neatly uniformed children were busy doing exercises (sometimes led by another student), singing or listening to school programs.

But this is hardly unique to authoritarian societies like Vietnam. Many Third World countries' parents take a lot more pride in getting their children an education than we do here in the most affluent of nations. Take Costa Rica, for example, where I've lived and traveled to many times. CR is a democratic nation much like our own (capitalist with a strong two-party political system), yet their education system is very akin to what Wilkinson notes about 'Nam. I think what Signe fails to realize is that since Third World nations -- any of them -- lack much of what we're fortunate enough to have here in the US, they're much more serious about doing what it takes to improve their "lot in life." Our problem in many areas is that there is a sentiment of "being owed" something that really only can exist in affluent societies. In "richer" areas, parents think their children should get their way/what they want because, well, they're rich. (This hassle is probably more evident in private schools, I'd imagine.) In "poorer" areas, so many things have been subsidized (transportation, breakfast, lunch, school uniforms, materials) that there's no real feeling of responsibility left for anything (like behavior and academic achievement).

Over the years I've had the pleasure of teaching students that had come from different countries, and several things are usually evident. One, they're initially ... appalled at the classroom and hallway behavior of the typical American [public] school student, and two, their parents are saddened -- and surprised -- at how way too many American students disdain education and could care less about the so very much they have available to them in their teachers and their schools.

Posted by Hube at February 24, 2010 04:47 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

I don't have to go to Vietnam to learn stuff. I can just talk to the Vietnamese Mom, an immigrant who became a citizen in 2008 [she cuts my hair]. Her oldest daughter is going to Drexel to be a doctor! They value education!

FYI Hube - Signe is a middle-aged woman.

Posted by: AJ Lynch at February 25, 2010 12:29 PM

Thanks, AJ. Noted and fixed! :-)

Posted by: Hube at February 25, 2010 06:43 PM


She actually looks a bit like one of those 1960's hippies so you did not have to fix it.Heh.

Posted by: AJ Lynch at February 25, 2010 07:43 PM

LOL! That doesn't surprise me in the least!

Posted by: Hube at February 25, 2010 07:44 PM

I concur with your comment about students of foreign origin. I was a substitute teacher for several years. The "bilingual" students from Mexico were much better behaved than those born in the USA.

Posted by: XLiberal at March 6, 2010 01:10 AM

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