[Susan notes: There were a lot of responses to Nicholas Kristoff's column. Here are three notable ones.]
Published in New York Times
Re "Chinese Medicine for American Schools" (column, June 27):
There's no doubt that our public education system is in serious if not critical condition (especially in our urban centers).
But I have watched my children occupy themselves during these first few weeks of deprogrammed, 100 percent structure-free summer vacation.
I have witnessed the conception, planning, design, manufacture and playing of an original board game; the design and assembly of a fictitious animal made from ordinary household material; the planning and development of a community service project; scientific self-study of the actions of toothpicks as they float down a stream of water — and on and on.
The Chinese may know how to foster highly productive repositories of knowledge, but I still think a less regimented approach is the ticket to true creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit — the engines of economic as well as personal growth.
New Providence, N.J.
To the Editor:
I'm an American high school student. My summer assignments at my private school consist simply of a medley of required and recommended readings, a majority of which I will never discuss in class.
But I cannot imagine what would put me off learning faster than "several hours of homework a day" during a shortened summer vacation. I value my few months of respite to regroup and explore all of my interests — yes, even the academic ones.
Not all American students will fill the coming months with dating and TV-watching. Some will find internships, enroll in classes or get jobs. Others will apply themselves to reading, writing and practicing math exercises with the same rigor that characterizes the Chinese.
The difference between American and Chinese students is that we must often be creative and resourceful to receive a top-notch education. Information is not force-fed to us, hammered into our skulls or squeezed through our ears; the highest achieving students are the ones who seek their education willingly.
La Jolla, Calif.
To the Editor:
I went through the Chinese education system from elementary school to university. I have a niece in seventh grade in China. My son is about to start kindergarten this fall in the United States. Our experience is quite different from that portrayed by Nicholas D. Kristof.
While Chinese students may spend much more time in school and studying, Chinese students are not learning. Studying and learning are two very different things.
I do not believe that Chinese students know how to learn. In most cases, they study for tests and prepare for furious competition, but they have a lot less love and passion for knowledge or acquiring knowledge.
In contrast, my son, who is in the American education system, loves to learn. Before he turned 5, he asked me to Google something on the Internet. He watches good public TV programs designed for children and has learned a lot from them. He loves music and loves learning how to play the piano, even though he complains when he has to practice a piece of music the sixth or seventh time.
I am not saying there is no room for improvement in the American education system. But I also don't think that the Chinese education system is superior to ours.