Two days into our new job, we were summoned to a meeting. Via a translator, we heard the encouraging words of the principle. He spoke of the "opportunities" that we English teachers should expect, and the "bright future" that the school has. After the principle left, we were left with the faculty. With the Chinese management on one side of the long, rather presidential, table, and us foreigners on the other, it was a little tense. The Chinese staff are young and inexperienced. They told us, much to my alarm, that we were obliged to come up with a curriculum, using the American text books they provided. "Hang on," I said, "didn't you say in the interview that you had a curriculum?" "They don't," came the American voice to my right.
The American voice continued. It was the voice of Tyler, who has been teaching here for a while and hence has some experience with the system and the material. He said that it was unfair to put this pressure on us new teachers. Uh, yah, thought I.
With Tyler having broken the quiet, nodding acceptance on our side of the table, the protests began to arose. Holly's was the most damning. In Holly's class is a young girl from America who, obviously, has a somewhat different capability from the local kids when it comes to Chinese class. Holly wasn't happy that the Chinese teacher didn't seem to appreciate this difference, and instead simply levelled some discipline at the girl. "That class is a waste of time," said Holly, "And all it will do is upset her."
That girl is the daughter of one of the teachers, Arizona Man. Another teacher, Austrian School Chris, also has kids in this school. He was late to the meeting because he had come across his daughter crying in the hallway. Upon hearing the Chinese teacher's treatment of one American girl, Austrian School Chris started wondering about the treatment of his own kids, and after seeing one crying, was beginning to put two and two together...
"Do you think this is a sound pedagogical methodology?" he asked. "That's a serious question."
The Chinese staff across the table smiled awkwardly, saying little until the vice principle said, "You have to understand, you're in China now, and there is some difference to how school works."
Austrian School Chris' hand slammed down on the table. He followed the slam by expressing himself at a high volume, threatened to quit, and left the room. Arizona Man and a few other teachers explained that the "China is different" explanation gets a little worn, and the teachers with kids should expect a decent education for said kids, as promised. This is, in name at least, an "international" school.
I got chatting with Austrian School Chris in the cafeteria only the next day, where he explained to me his take on monetarism and inflation, and how this relates to wage stagnation. He referred to Hayek rather than Friedman, and seemed to have problems with Keynes. After the financial crash in '09 Chris opened some economics books to try and make sense of things, and it appears that the ones he opened have been ones with what Foucault called "state phobia" as a general guiding principle. I do see some friendly arguments on the horizon, for it appears (but hasn't been stated) that Chris is a GOP supporter in the States.
"I once got into this argument with this guy back home," he said, "who, after I told him which party's economic policies make more sense, he started assuming all my, you know, social principles and beliefs, saying what an evil guy I must be, and I was like hang on, we're talking economics here. No, I say, give me your take on fiscal discipline and spending; all the rest don't matter."
Chris is certainly a nice guy. But,... Republicans...? Ouch.