One thing I’ve noticed about the more successful bŭxíbān owners I’ve worked with is a certainty that kids need their schools or else they’ll be ruined for life. I can understand how the idea that people who don’t learn English will never be anything more than garbage truck drivers would motivate a school owner to put more effort both into improving the education they offer and into marketing, but enough is enough. Learning English well does not guarantee financial success or happiness, nor is it the only way. The two Taiwanese people I’ve met who had the best English skills of all those I’ve met were both over-worked and paid less than what an engineering major would would make one year out of college in Taiwan. This situation isn’t constrained to Taiwan, either. Just look at Chén Tiān Qiáo (陳天橋), the founder of a computer gaming company called Shanda (盛大). He’s a 32 year-old self made billionaire, and he didn’t make it through his English skills. Driving garbage trucks, indeed.
I’ve thought about this issue for years, but what really brings it to a head is a boy who’s recently dropped down into my newest class. He’s been at the school for over a year and a half, but he just keeps failing. His former classmates are reading 45 page stories about Pocahontas and Aladdin. He’s practicing sentences like, “Can you swim?” and, “Yes, he is. He’s a boy.” I never imagined a kid could go for so long without making any real progress, and I feel his pain every time I have to grade one of his quizzes. He doesn’t really put any effort into his homework, and, as far as I can tell, he doesn’t want to be at my school.
Today, as my boss was going on about how it was irresponsible of this kid’s parents to let his older brother leave after failing a similar number of times and saying that he could just keep doubling the kid’s homework and flunking him down until he was a 19 year-old in a class of 3rd and 4th graders, I just felt sick. The idea that you have to break kids down until you “fix” them just doesn’t fit with my worldview. I don’t think letting the older brother quit or switch schools was case of bad parenting at all. Not every kid is going to respond the same way to the same school system. What works very well for most kids, doesn’t work at all for others. It wasn’t worth getting into a half hour debate consisting of little more than uhm-hums on my side, though, so I didn’t really disagree very vocally. Still, I hope the poor kid’s parents do let him quit. An unpleasant and unproductive year and a half can’t be redeemed by forcing him to continue along the same path for another two. The way I see it, he’s just getting used to failure, and few things are harder to watch a kid do.