In the West we increasingly hear about how we need our economies to be able to compete with China’s rising economy and how we need our students to be able to compete with Chinese students in the global knowledge economy. One of the reasons for this is that Chinese students generally test very high on the ever-important international test scores. (See for instance this infograph http://stateimpact.npr.org/ohio/files/2013/10/NAEP-TIMMS-Math-Comparison-WEB.png)
The Chinese education system is build around the country’s so-called socialistic ideals where the young are educated to join the army of worker bees that tirelessly slave away to support the country’s economy to continue rising, more and more resembling a capitalist economy, though with a communistic twist. The question is whether it is the best of either worlds or the worst?
To exemplify what I am talking about, read here the accounts of a Chinese student studying in America:
“Study in China is very hard. For most high school, students must wake up about 6 o’clock and arrive school at 7 o’clock. There is no school buses in my small city (Hubei). So I have to ride my bike to school even in the winter (temperature below zero degrees C). And I spend 13 hours in school, 11 hours for class and 2 hours for lunch block. There are 40 mins per class but I have 10 class everyday. The last class is a long class started at 6 p.m. and end at 10 p.m. We had two types of class you can choose in high school, One is more scientific, like biology, chemical, and physical; One is more about literature — history, government, and geography. But there are three subjects people must take, Chinese, math and ENGLISH. In my class, my friends all don’t like English because all of them will never had chance to go aboard. And maybe they will stay in the small city rest of their life. So they didn’t study at all. Same thing happened in all the subjects. So they hated school.
The test in China is not very good. The teacher didn’t care about do you learn in class or at home. The teachers just want to see your grades in the exam. So, as everyone know, some people cheat, and some people did very good job on cheating. Some teachers didn’t even notice that during the test! So the student who never study got very high grade better than other students who study very hard. So people won’t study hard any more. And the student’s life is depended on the final exam, the Entrance exam for college. No matter if you study befor, once you got a very high scored, you can go to the best college. That means your salary is two or three times than normal students after graduate.” (Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mercedes-schneider/chengs-views-on-chinese-a_b_4800192.html)
For those with profit-maximization as the highest priority, such as CEO’s of big companies but also increasingly politicians, imitating China might sound like a fantastic idea. Instead of moving production facilities to China we can simply move the Chinese mentality to our own countries and through effective education (read: indoctrination) ensure that our students will be competitive to take on China in the battle for the global economy.
From a certain perspective it would make sense to follow the countries that for example produce the highest test scores on international academic tests, because they must be doing something right, right? Or to emulate certain aspects of the Chinese economy to boost our own seeing that they have managed to produce growth in the economy while almost all other countries sack pitifully behind. Profit maximization and efficiency has thus become the highest common denominator with China taking the lead and therefore being seen as an example to all other countries following suit.
The problem with all of this is that economic models and strategies are artificial from the perspective that they are manmade structured systems. They aren’t natural or biological. In nature we see far more efficient systems of co-existence such eco-systems where all parts of an environment naturally assist and support all other parts and in turn are supported themselves. On the contrary, with the current system we are seeing an implosion happening where the system is collapsing in on itself. Increasingly we are seeing the consequences of the Chinese view of human beings and it is not to say that we in the West are necessarily that much better at being humane towards each other, but it is alarming to consider that Chinese system is the one we look up to as the master-example what it means to be an effective human being.
We need a new highest common denominator and to implement such a new highest standard in our society we must change our priorities. We must realize that the economy is a man-made constructed system and as such it can be changed. It is not innately optimal simply because that’s the system we have come up with. We must view the economy holistically in context to how all of society benefits from the way it is structured, academically as well as socially and certainly also on a physical level. We can learn from nature’s eco-systems where all parts support each other so that each part is supported and a balance is maintained. It is so simple and yet it is so advanced – making us as humans look barbaric and archaic in resembles. The proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System will indeed be an upgrade of the current systems to a far more advanced way of living together on earth and yet it is so utterly simplistic in its starting-point of making the highest common denominator that which is Best for All Life.