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What's the Difference Between Children's Books in China and the U.S.? (npr.org)
124 points by shahocean 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 108 comments





I work in publishing, and tangentially with children's books published inside and outside of China. My main observation is that the Chinese market for children's books (read: parents) is totally uninterested in books produced in China. 99% of children's books published in China are imported and translated from other countries, mostly the US.

In other words, the (politically-influenced) Chinese publishing industry is producing didactic children's books, but Chinese consumers are not interested in those books at all.


What's published in China is amusing. Current events are touchy politically, so there's a vast amount of wuxia. See any Chinese drama site. Novels about business success are popular.

China has explicit political movie censorship. The golden dragon logo at the beginning is the "passed by censor" label. The Chinese army even produces an occasional feature film. "Sky Fighters", is a ripoff of "Top Gun", but worse. The USAF, especially the Strategic Air Command, used to do stuff like that in the 1950s. See "Strategic Air Command"[1], with Jimmie Stuart (considered good) or "Bombers B-52" (not so good).

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGjyH2ulsCk


There are always a tons of fans for Wuxia in China for probably hundreds years. Supply follows demand. And Internet-literature is a big thing in China. There are also a lot of Wuxia or quasi-wuxia published online. I wonder which country don't censor movies? China actually has quite a few political-metaphor movies up. Not to mention recently one filmed by Feng XiaoGang. I am not saying China bureau of movies production are doing a good job. In fact they have been complained quite a a lot. China still hasn't implement a good classification system. Quite a few films got cut because it has to suit majority(including children) which really annoys people. As your last film example, many Chinese viewers don't think that film is good.

> I wonder which country don't censor movies?

The USA, for one.

The MPAA does rate movies, and most theater chains choose not to run movies rated to contain extreme violence or sexuality, but anyone can privately film and distribute a political (for example) film that might embarrass the US government.

Many such movies also run in theaters- see Fahrenheit 9/11, Citizenfour, All the President’s Men, etc.


Interesting enough, media that has to work around censorship is often more interesting. Restrictions breed creativity: East German (political) jokes were far more spicy than West German (political) jokes.

There was a French group, Oulipo, that imposed weird restrictions on themselves in order to reproduce this effect. See eg 'A Void', a novel without the letter 'e'.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oulipo

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Void


What about The Forecaster, a film about Martin Armstrong? It's critical of banks, government corruption and was effectively denied viewing in the US short of downloading pirated copies for years despite being successful globally. Initially, Netflix was set to stream the documentary but suddenly reversed that decision, yet other movies you list were not blocked.

Censorship in the US may be more subtle than elsewhere, but it is present. Banks and governments have their methods which have become disturbingly effective. Also consider SJWs who effectively drown out or ostracize anyone with a differing viewpoint - you are free to think whatever you want, as long as you agree with us!

http://imdb.com/title/tt4103404/ https://www.armstrongeconomics.com/world-news/corruption/cen...


> Also consider SJWs.....

"SJWs"? Really? Does HN really need to devolve into KiA, TRP or T_D?


I find it hard to believe that the reason it was dropped was due to criticism of banks and allegations of government corruption, given there is copious amounts of other films with the same subjects available, including on Netflix.

You're right, it isn't just the criticism.

Armstrong advised Reagan, Thatcher and numerous other administrations over the past few decades. He has been behind the curtain.

His computer system has been accurately forecasting long-term socio-economic trends and their apices since the eighties. This is what the banks wanted.

When Armstrong turned the banks down, they sought to forcibly acquire the software and utilized government to squeeze him. The story continued on with illegitimate confiscation of billions and civil rights transgressions as Armstrong was jailed for years over contempt of court because there were no legitimate charges that could be brought against him.

So yes, there's definitely a history that makes Armstrong a target. The deeper you dig, the more it makes sense why The Forecaster was effectively blocked in the US and others have no problem.


It's on iTunes, Amazon, and Vimeo. It's a pay-per-view documentary.

Yes, within the past few months if I recall correctly. It was unavailable in the US on any streaming service before that.

Not censorship per se, depending on how you understand censorship, but three letter agencies in the US often have an "advisorial" function in the production of many movies, particularly war movies. Most of the time you will even find them credited.

Their influence usually shows itself in how america/troops/wars are portrayed, such as negative language being replaced by neutral statements - but sometimes there are bigger changes.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/hollywood-cia-washington...


In the U.S., participation with these agencies is entirely optional. My understanding is that they offer access to government locales, equipment, and consultants in exchange for a positive portrayal. This would seem to me a fair trade, and one which the audience is able to perceive and assess.

In China and similar countries, good luck portraying the army in a negative light, whether you ask for their cooperation or not.


> In the U.S., participation with these agencies is entirely optional.

If you want your film to include footage on a warship, or with tanks, or etc you'll need the armed forces to cooperate, and they only cooperate on films that make them look good.

Better CGI and good set design is making this less of a problems.

This isn't really a problem of censorship, but it is propaganda.


That's a better example to follow, China lacks of a sensible rating system for long time.

I've been thinking about this lately.

Even though our government doesn't censor us, our society does censor a lot of unpopular opinions. For example, the neo-Nazis who were publicly shamed and then subsequently lost their jobs. And the Google employee who was fired after writing that email about sexual harassment. I've seen other cases, too, but can't think of them off hand. And I should point out that I'm not defending those views (I think they're shameful), I'm pointing out that they were publicly humiliated and punished for sharing them.

Practically speaking, is there much difference between government backed censorship and online mob justice censorship? Each one will ruin your life, just in a different way.


> Practically speaking, is there much difference between government backed censorship and online mob justice censorship?

1. You can't sue a mob for justice

2. You can't convict or fire a mob.

3. You can move to somewhere where the mob isn't.

More neutrally:

4. Mobs are crowd-sourced. Government censors are appointed experts of some sort.

5. One rouses and incites a mob. One lobbies and corrupts a government.

6. Mobs aren't constrained by things like double jeopardy. The U.S. government is.

7. Mobs tend to be more situational than government rules. Mobs don't care about boring things, niche things, technical things, or sympathetic perpetrators.


You can’t sue the power structure of the PRC.

Ditto for 2, and certainly 3 unless you have resources, luck, and manage to get away.

4. Experts. In what? Toeing the party line?

5. True, although mobs are easier kick off than new patterns in govt.

6. Neither is the PRC.

7. True.

Edit: typo correction of “can” to “can’t”


You can petition the PRC power structure (e.g. complain about your local government in Beijing). If you are lucky, you won’t wind up in a black jail.

And didn’t the term “Human flesh hunt” start out as a chinese one?


My bad, that was supposed to be a “can’t”

Ok got it. You can try anything in the PRC, it’s just that the results are either unpredictable or perversely predictable.

You can petition the PRC power structure (e.g. complain about your local government in Beijing). If you are lucky, you won’t wind up in a black jail.

Online mobs can make you lose your job if you're working for a company with sufficient media exposure and insufficient backbone, but governments can make you disappear whenever they please. Practically speaking, that's a huge difference.

Governments can disappear you if they’re weak, if they’re strong they vilify you and toss you in prison.

> Online mobs can make you lose your job if you're working for a company with sufficient media exposure and insufficient backbone, but governments can make you disappear whenever they please. Practically speaking, that's a huge difference.

That's the traditional explanation, but does it apply any more now that we have the internet?

With the internet, any screw up or faux pas can cause worldwide publicity for any business. They can theoretically stand up for their employee's free speech, but in reality it's so rare that it's almost not worth considering.

At the same time, it's more difficult for the government to silence people due to the Streisand effect.


The online mob doesn't really have the resources to get publicity to more than a few things at a time, so although some people will always be hit, most will be safe. I'm not saying that mob censorship is harmless, just that it doesn't reach the scale of governments, who have actual boots on the ground.

The Streisand effect happens when you try to make people shut up about something but don't actually have the power to make them shut up. So of course they'll just talk about that unsuccessful attempt, after all there's no downside. House arrest/public humiliation/bullet through the head? Try talking about that in any way critical of the censors and you could be next. That won't actually inhibit "dangerous" ideas, of course, but it's pretty effective at making everyone stop talking about them.


One big difference is that the unpopular opinion can still be allowed to exist.

In other words, it is still possible to find neo-Nazi social media in the US. (Yes, there's been some issues on this front with some of the more visible sites due to certain Internet corporate CEOs getting "caught up in the mob", but organizations like the EFF are allowed to push back with counter-opinion -- https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/08/fighting-neo-nazis-fut...). It is still possible to find the Google employee manifesto online, as well as social media both sympathetic to these opinions and completely disagreeing with them and anything in between.

In many cases of government censorship, unpopular causes and opinions simply disappear. They for all practical purposes don't exist. You are not allowed to talk about them at all, at least in public.


> I wonder which country don't censor movies?

Almost all democracies. I'm sure someone can point to a little "censorship" (e.g., children can't watch porn), but that's not the same thing at all - just like a cough isn't the same as lung cancer. When Disney released a film that was complementary of the Dalai Lama, the Chinese government banned all Disney movies - that's censorship.

The claim that 'everybody does it' is an old ploy for dictatorships.


> I'm sure someone can point to a little "censorship" (e.g., children can't watch porn),

The US censorship model is sneaky; instead of official state censorship, we have “voluntary” “private” censorship by industry groups, but when government isn't satisfied with the results, it threatens official regulation (either directly of content or at least marketing of certain content, or punitive regulation of other aspects of the relevant industry’s business), drags industry execs in for public shaming, and engages in similar pressure tactics until the industry aligns censorship practices with government preferences. In this manner, it imposes censorship, satisfies the segment of the electorate seeking government action on unwelcome content, but mostly maintains a façade of refraining from government censorship.


Again, not at all the same thing.

UK and India does censor movies. I think perhaps very many democratic countries do.

Internet literature is so big in China the most recent IPO is Tencent's e-book department.

https://qz.com/1123570/china-literature-ipo-tencents-e-books...

Not children-specific, but just to illustrate the amount of domestic production for domestic consumption.


That’s a literal Gish Gallop of propaganda, especially: I wonder which country don't censor movies?

Tu Quoque is boring.


Okay, Sorry for my `Gish Gallop`. I am not trying to deny the censorship, in fact it's to blame. And there are better examples to follow. many people dislike that and I pointed out problems in censorship and regulations of movies production in China. But I have seen quite a few directors in China who can't produce great films then just blame the system while others successfully put political metaphors in films which is more artful than name-calling.

The American military outsourced their feature films: they happily lent equipment for filming to movies they approve of.

(Not saying it's the same as China. It's just an interesting system to subtly get sympathetic portrayals.)


You can see this in England, with shows like Top Gear constantly featuring the latest and greatest military equipment for wow-shows.

Clarkson's Top Gear is not a movie where the story has military elements, so that's not quite the same (for example Independence Day is about the US military fighting aliens, so they do need military elements).

For (old) Top Gear I wonder if they have some sort of patriotic elements, because Clarkson is a friend of David Cameron. Maybe the government/military offered them access to make a boys' show, with the unmentioned quid-pro-quo of making the show a bit of propaganda for the UK government/military.


I'm pretty sure they don't lend the equipment out for free. Does it work differently in other countries?

Not quite free, but not anywhere near cost either. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/25-years-later-remem...

I know the U.S. military sees it as marketing and actively participates. I don't know if that includes free equipment.

Strategic Air Command's cold war propaganda is pretty campy but the porn shots of the B-36 and B-47 are an aviation buff's wet dream. That youtube video is just a small taste.

Also that movie taught me the proper pronunciation of "Thule" (it's too-lee).


> Jimmie Stuart

'Jimmy' or, preferably, James Stewart. With a more than decent real-life airforce career alongside all the movie stuff. And when war came, used his Hollywood connections to get into, not out of, active duty.


What's really interesting about SAC is that it's less than 10 years away from "Dr Strangelove" (1964). I think the thought of another "1960s" keeps most governments of the world up at night.

> The Chinese army even produces an occasional feature film.

The US Army just has a target audience with different cultural tastes, so it makes FPS video games, instead (as well as supporting favorable movies.)

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/America's_Army


Our military also funds movies and sports to promote patriotism and nationalism. They paid the NFL to add the pledge of allegiance before games... we do lots of creepy stuff.

America's Army is for recruiting. China still has a draft.

China has conscription but doesn't use it. It’s force is completely volunteer ATM (you do have mandatory military training for college students, but it isn’t militarily useable). The PLA has to recruit also, many Chinese movies and TV shows are produced to that goal.

There are many great children's books written over the centuries by authors around the world so it is great that Chinese children read them. Also stories from a foreign land are particularly stimulating to children's imaginations.

Can you justify your claim "99% of children's books published in China are imported and translated from other countries, mostly the US"? The claim seems exceedingly silly. Not only is the 99% number impossible I am also pretty sure US is not the majority source of children's books in China. See http://www.shuku.net/novels/mulu/ert.html . The only US book on the list I recognize is "The Wizard of Oz".


> The claim seems exceedingly silly. Not only is the 99% number impossible ...

The silliest thing ever is to treat obvious hyperbole as if it is a precise, literal assertion.


Should I read "mostly the US" as hyperbole as well? I would not hold the exactitude of 99% against the original poster but what is the non-hyperbole number I should be taking home from the quoted comment? Or is it your opinion that there is no way to dispute a claim because hyperbole is involved and anyone who comments with hyperbole gets an automatic pass?

> I would not hold the exactitude of 99% against the original poster but what is the non-hyperbole number I should be taking home from the quoted comment?

I actually very much dislike hyperbole for this very reason; it prevents substantive discussion and the reader gains little for it. Hyperbole really expresses only the author's emotional reaction, and it's even vague about that; it charges the discussion with emotion. If I were benevolent dictator of my own forum, hyperbole would be banned.


May I ask you to elaborate on 99% part? Chinese parents are as anxious as other parents in many economies. That's why they buy books even their children don't read, they will read those for them... And buying children anime books from the West or Japan has little to do with politics, it's more about story-telling. Chinese editors still need to make their work more funny and engaging.

Yes, but parents and kids are interested in classics like Journey to the West, of which there are endless versions for every age group.

As someone with a kid in China, kids TV is far more formative than books. Why? Books in Chinese are not read by kids, they are read by parents since it is impossible to learn enough Chinese characters to achieve literacy while young! In my observation, most Chinese parents are very busy and do not spend much time reading with their kids.

> In my observation, most Chinese parents are very busy and do not spend much time reading with their kids.

Grandparents and Tiger Moms don't read to their kids? Grandparents lived with their grandchildren in China as a whole. My wife teaches English to Chinese children through the internet and the sessions cost them about $20 US dollars. There is always an adult close at hand and seems much more active in their children's lives.

Now for your daily dose of Chinese Propaganda 88% of parents read 23 minutes everyday. Also there is no link to said "study." http://www.china.org.cn/china/2011-04/21/content_22412555.ht...

One big take away. In the US we push all Kindergarten students to read (age 5 or 6). In this paper 77% read at age 8 grades 2 or grade 3 in the US.


What makes you think that Tiger Moms and predominant child raising style in China?

> What makes you think ...

I follow the money that is spent on education in China by the child's parents. We don't even come close in the US.

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2017-10/30/content_338809...

Just look at VIP Kids and the other English teaching startups where Chinese parents spend $20 for a 25 minute session twice a week. VIP Kids now has 30,000 US employees teaching these kids.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-23/china-s-v...

If they aren't the predominant style they still spend a ton of money on children's education.


> it is impossible to learn enough Chinese characters to achieve literacy while young

Interesting ... at what age can children begin reading children's books? Adult books? How do schools teach children who can't read?


There are books specially designed for different levels. Such as books with phonetic annotation,or book using only "easy Chinese characters" with pictures would be pretty easy to read by very young kids.

As for Adult books, I belive a primary school student at about grade 3 maybe "can read" with a little struggle. As they have learned enough basic word to understand the sentences, even if there are few "hard word" remain unknown.


And in fact, kids are busy too! I have seen it too often, while parents are busy working, their kid even at nursery school are busy having various kinds of classes.

I’m French, but spent a portion of my childhood living in the USA (South Carolina) due to my father’s work.

The one thing that my extremely French parents couldn’t stop making fun of at the time, and still can’t stop making fun of now 20 years later, is the American habit of praising children repeatedly, putting stickers on homework, giving participation ribbons for every event, etc.

It was actually an interesting dichotomy: I’d get my homework back from the teacher with it saying “Great job!” with a cute little star sticker, and then at home my mom would get mad at me because she thought I made dumb mistakes and would make me do it all over again.

Definitely a strong contrast between French and American values in schooling, at least in the 90s. I’m left handed, and in the 2nd grade I had a teacher who would tear apart any piece of paper I gave her that had any ink smudge on it (fountain pens are mandatory in French grade school - which also confused my parents when we moved to the US and I was expected to write everything in pencil) and make me do it all over again. I do have really neat handwriting now ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

15 years later, as a grad student in the US, teachers I TA’d for repeatedly told me I was too harsh in my grading and that I shouldn’t take off points for small mistakes, typos, etc. That’s another big difference between French and US schooling: in France, you’re graded out of 20; but at the high school/college level, if you have an average above 15/20, you’re most certainly in the top of your class. In fact, in some top tier universities the class average might be 8/20. In grad school in the US, I had a 90%+ average, and routinely got 100% on tests - something just completely foreign to me.


> The one thing that my extremely French parents couldn’t stop making fun of at the time, and still can’t stop making fun of now 20 years later, is the American habit of praising children repeatedly, putting stickers on homework, giving participation ribbons for every event, etc.

Basically: Gamification. This trend, especially in games, really really sucks; as a German I'm not really used to it either, although it has swapped over to us in the last years, possibly due to the rise of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, all of which use one or another form of karma points.


> 15 years later, as a grad student in the US, teachers I TA’d for repeatedly told me I was too harsh in my grading and that I shouldn’t take off points for small mistakes, typos, etc.

I am surprised that you got resistance on this in an educational setting, of all places. When I notice typos and grammatical errors, it almost always lowers my opinion of the material. It signals sloppy writing or possibly unclear thinking. It calls into question the meticulousness of the work as a whole. I expect more from a news outlet or a review journal with a copy editor. Professional writers and publishers should produce expert writing.

I should note a few things, for the sake of context: I had some years of private schooling early on; my father would make me write book reports during summer vacation; he self-published a book later in life and was very proud that others repeatedly complimented it for being free of typos and grammatical errors. (None of my peers had this experience growing up, to my knowledge.)

University standards should impose higher standards than what is typically expected in regular life. This is how writing is taught and reinforced. I think the internet, as a whole, dumbs-down writing skills by exposing readers to terrible writing on such a regular basis that they no longer perceive the difference. I don't know a solution to that problem.


It was a mid ranked state university, and the professors were not that great.

I had a professor who made me regrade an entire batch of homework because, in her words, my comments explaining the mistakes were unnecessary - the students just care about their grade. Eye roll.


Anecdotally, I find this same attitude when I deal with entry level candidates who are right out of US colleges. I'm 'too harsh' for demanding that they correct their mistakes, and 'mean' for correcting them. Their work has real world, monetary and time impacts on the company and my colleagues, but I can't seem to find any one in the bunch who is willing to strive for anything beyond 'good enough.'

Wow... yours is a team a sane person would do well to bypass.

Worth noting that in France, a perfect score (20/20) is extremely rare if the test has open questions. Not unheard of in maths, where precise answers are expected, but in literature, most teachers probably never gave a single 20/20 in their entire career.

There is this idea that nothing is perfect and as a result, there should be no such thing as a perfect score.


If the teachers never give a single 20/20, that just means there is grade deflation, right? Effectively, 18/20 or 19/20 becomes the "perfect score," since it's the highest possible to obtain.

> If the teachers never give a single 20/20, that just means there is grade deflation, right? Effectively, 18/20 or 19/20 becomes the "perfect score," since it's the highest possible to obtain.

"Perfect" means that there is nothing to improve - which is hardly ever the case. Hardly anybody is perfect, so hardly anybody can get a perfect score.


> in France, you’re graded out of 20; but at the high school/college level, if you have an average above 15/20, you’re most certainly in the top of your class. In fact, in some top tier universities the class average might be 8/20. In grad school in the US, I had a 90%+ average, and routinely got 100% on tests - something just completely foreign to me

For many years Denmark (where I come from) had an official grading scale from 0 to 11. And then 13, not the usual top grade, but reserved for rare occasions of unique, original, outstanding performance completely outside the norm.

Alas, some years ago this system was scrapped, officially because "abroad" (meaning to a large extent the US) didn't get it. When Danish candidates turned up with their perfect 11-scores, they were reportedly often handicapped by having not a single top grade.


As someone from the UK your experience sounds similar to my perceptions of the US education system. It's... quite strange.

This is quite baffling to some Americans as well (anecdotally speaking of course)

I cannot talk about China, but in Germany the classic children's book "Der Struwwelpeter" is to my knowledge still quite popular and often read to children:

German original: > http://sternchenland.com/downloads/unsortiertes/Der%20Struww...

English translation > https://archive.org/details/englishstruwwelp00hoffrich

(note that you should prefer to read this in German if you can, since lots of subtleties are lost in the English adaption).

Here is a movie adaption of this book (in German) - note that they added an epilogue at the end where all stories still come to a happy end:

> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpcPz-GvHYI

In particular consider the third ("Die gar traurige Geschichte mit dem Feuerzeug"/"The dreadful story about Harriet and the matches"; 16:54 in the video) and the sixth ("Die Geschichte vom Daumenlutscher"/"The story of little thumb-a-suck"; 13:38 in the video) story to see why this might be somewhat different from what I consider as a typical US-American children's book from my non-US perspective. :-)


Speaking of "The dreadful story of harriet and the matches". There is a wonderful band called the Tiger Lillies who perform a song about this story:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddcRDGgKVys

It's a retelling of the story from the perspective of the cat, who is watching Harriet burning to death. Good healthy black humor :)

If you ever have a chance to see this band play live, they are really weird, obscene, entertaining folks.


English children's stories were also quite dark before the industrial revolution. In fact, I have read, that there wasn't much of a distinction between the appropriate subject matter for children and adults.

After the industrial revolution, with nuclear families moving to cities, and education suddenly becoming more important and children being moved out of the labor force, the idea of "childhood" as a uniquely innocent period was invented.

A lot of the sanitized fairy tales we read have very dark origins.


> A lot of the sanitized fairy tales we read have very dark origins.

I still consider lots of fairy tales that I was told as a child as very dark (I don't mean the idyllic world "Disney" versions).

For example in the Grimm version of Cinderella the evil sisters cut cut away their heels and toes with a knife to fit in the shoe and at the end the pigeons peck the eyes of the evil sisters (see http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/buch/-6248/16).

Or in "The red shoes" by Hans Christian Andersen the little girl protagonist prompts the headman to chop her feet (wearing the red shoes) to get rid of the shoes.

Edit: or Snow White: At the end the evil stepmother has to dance in red-hot iron shoes at the daughjter's wedding until she dies (see http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/buch/-6248/16)


Yes, exactly. Those made it over to the English version in the old days.

It would be interesting to learn why the German version retains the darkness. Maybe its because Germans get to/are encouraged to read it in the original.


> It would be interesting to learn why the German version retains the darkness.

Because this is the version that the Brothers Grimm wrote down. I am nevertheless aware that there exist other (sometimes even darker) versions of the fairy tales than the versions written down by the Brothers Grimm. In this sense the versions of the Brothers Grimm are not "the original", but some version of the fairy tales (this is the difference between "Volksmärchen" (folk tales) and Kunstmärchen (literary fairy stories) - only for the letter one there exist some concept of "the original").

So I would say that Grimm brothers versions of the fairy tales conserved the zeitgeist of the beginning of the 19th century and there exists to my knowledge no other popular collection of German original language folk fairy tales. But of course today there exist translations of collections of folk fairy tales from different language areas.


My experience being a father is that children aquire and consume vast amounts of books. They reread them until they understand them and then they either discard them and never touch them again or they like them and keep reading them. I haven't been able to see a simple thematic pattern for my daughter but what I did notice us that she really hates it when you try to read books she but in the discard pile. I am quite sure that she would loose her intrest in books if I kept taking books she didn't like.

Instead I let her dicide what she wants and hope that this will let her develop and refine her taste.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that i suspect top down government of children's books will backfire in diminished interest and cruder taste for culture.


As a father of a 6 year old voracious reader, I agree. He is devouring books faster than I can find them. You expose them to lot of different books and then sit back and observe which one they pick up again and again to read. Talk to them about what they liked about the book, to discover what actually interests them.

Initially I tried to influence the books he would read, but after a while he refused to read them (he would read them in his own time). So now I just let him be and just track what interests him and periodically introduce him to new stuff.


Take him to the library and let him roam around and pick whatever he likes. I used to do this at the age of 9-10-11: I would go to the library once a week, pick about 5-6 books and read them all by the next week. Wish I had discovered the library when I was 6 :)

Cheung notes that children in China consistently score higher on academic tests compared to children in the U.S. and Mexico.

If we’re going to play this game, which culture’s children’s books teach kids more about honesty, I wonder?

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/13/world/asia/china-science-...

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/03/how-so...


Both of them are teaching children to be honest people. Chinese children scored higher just because they were trained earlier. That's it. And there are several minor reasons mentioned in book <Outliers: The Story of Success>. China has a lot of people, and there are cheaters to blame, it's not only about those cheaters' honesty, there are economic problems too. Try to generalize or portray all Chinese students as dishonest people are just not objective. If you wanted to play that game, who got more prisoner to citizen ratio? Given they read those cutie books taught them to be law-bide people.

> Chinese children scored higher just because they were trained earlier.

No, Chinese children scored higher because only a sample was taken from urban Shanghai and compared to the entire USA. Imagine comparing San Francisco to the whole of China, including its much poorer and less educated hinterlands.

There are false generalizations all around.


Are you talking about PISA? Alright, that test has sample problems due to Hukou system[0] and limited city participation, it may expand to more cities. In fact the U.S. didn't participate as a whole but 3 states.

I will put my argument more widely, East-Asian countries tend to train their children at a very young age, and their pronunciation of numbers helped them to learn arithmetic(stated in the book <Outliers>).

China has a basically working K-12 program, and there were a series of documentaries shoot in UK, not long later, UK imported elementary math books from Shanghai. But China still need to improve it's higher-ed system. Preferably learn from Russia, France and Germany.

[0]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programme_for_International_St...


China has a K-9 program, education isn’t compulsory after the 9th grade is completed, high school is optional. Whether you get a good education or not depends on your hukou, it is far from universally good, first tier cities having the best, rural villages having much much worse.

> The Foolish Old Man Who Removed The Mountain

This is a real story in India - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dashrath_Manjhi

There is also a good movie made on him - http://m.imdb.com/title/tt3449292/


...generally viewing intelligence as a trait that can be acquired through hard work rather than a quality that you're born with.

The first thing that came to mind when I read this was Lysenko-ism.


Why? Lysenkoism was an instance of a mistaken biological theory being elevated to political truth.

That quote just seems to be garden-variety "growth mindset" vs. "fixed mindset" self-motivation.


You could argue that the trait we call intelligence is about how quickly efforts to learn something new result in new capabilities, rather than whether effort to learn something results in new capabilities at all. And from my (admittedly shallow) familiarity with the field, that argument seems to be substantiated.

Problem is, even if that's true, it's not a particularly useful truth to most individuals. A growth mindset is useful -- unless you're particularly unintelligent, it's probably true that your efforts to learn will have results that make you more capable, and effort can compound on effort. You should probably act as if you can become more capable than you are, even if there are degrees of inborn intelligence.


Ostensibly it's about a cat that has an appetite for sloppy letters — "written too large or too small, or if the letter is missing a stroke,"

But the underlying point is clear: "This is really instilling the idea of effort — that children have to learn to consistently practice in order to achieve a certain level,"

My take on the underlying point of that story is quite different: conform or be exterminated.


> conform or be exterminated

You didn’t persevere to the end:

“And lest you've been worrying about the fate of that cat — Cheung has reassuring news. Once the kids improve their handwriting, ‘the cat feels very hungry,’ says Cheung. But then the kids take pity on him — and write a few sloppy letters for him to eat.”


It's about the fate of the letters, not the cat. At the end, non-conforming letters get made just so they can get exterminated. Great.

> At the end, non-conforming letters get made just so they can get exterminated

You’re overprojecting. They’re inanimate letters. The children are learning penmanship. In the end, out of compassion for the cat that was previously plaguing them, they bend the rules to be nice. It’s certainly cuter than the German fairy tales I was raised on.


> They’re inanimate letters.

Cats don't actually starve when they don't get to eat those.

And why only say that now? What does the "compassion for the cat" have to do with it it either way?

What German fairy tales about non-conformist things being destroyed were you raised on? And did your learning of penmanship involve any of that?

And they don't even bend the (part of the) rules (under discussion here), non-conforming letters still get eaten.


>What German fairy tales about non-conformist things being destroyed were you raised on?

Not fairy tales but media for children in general: Pinocchio and Thomas the Tank Engine.


The story upsets me too. There's nothing fun or happy about it. At the end they pity the cat, big whoop.

That's a silly thing to take away from that; the cat eats the mistakes, not the children.

This article annoyed me the last time I ran into it because when they go into possible effects they point to test scores to try and quantify the effect of dedication oriented children's stories but go to no effort to try and quantify the effect of happiness oriented children's stories despite it would be quite easy to note suicide is almost twice as common in china vs the united states.

There are so many differences between the US and China that statements like these ("children's books are raising test scores," "happiness-focused culture is lowering suicide rates") are completely silly. There are innumerable variables at play, and they're all adding to and canceling each other out in wild and unpredictable ways.

"it would be quite easy to note suicide is almost twice as common in china vs the united states"

What is your source? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_by_su... has US at 12.6 per 100000 and 8.5 for China, with the world average being 10.7. What stands out about China is the much higher ratio of female to male suicides.


Are you sure you're not mixing up China with other East Asian countries like Japan and Korea? As far as I can tell, China's suicide rate has sharply declined in the last decade or so and is now relatively low.

> suicide is almost twice as common in china vs the united states.

It's very hard to compare suicide rates across different countries.

That's because they don't have common definitions of what a suicide is (is it something a coronor has ruled on? Or is it something that's counted by statisticians from death certificate coding?); and because their definitions change over time.


And the hunt for the "magic sauce" in education trundles on...

> Cheung notes that children in China consistently score higher on academic tests compared to children in the U.S. and Mexico

But I doubt this is because of books. After all, children of chinese descent consistently score higher on academic tests everywhere in the world, including the U.S.

The elephant in the room is that ethnic chinese children have got more of what it takes, conditio sine qua non, to score high on academic tests.


I would like to read the paper but it is paywalled

sci-hub.bz

Doesn't work for me. Can you please suggest any others?



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