MESSAGE FROM TAIWAN--TO AMERICA--WHEN THE 10 THINGS YOU LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN ARE NOT ENOUGH
By Kevin Stoda, an English Educator in East Asia
Over the past few weeks, I have been amazed by the particular textbook, which one first grade teacher in Tang Qi Elementary School has been busily browsing through. That bilingual book is entitled, A SELECTION OF USEFUL ENGLISH SENTENCE[S]. I cannot tell who the publisher is but on the front of the 200 page book is a neoclassical painting of Socrates and other philosophers in Athens.
This bilingual textbook starts out with a vocabulary and grammar review in English. It has very short chapters--and translations in the back of the book in Chinese. After the first 24 tiny chapters on vocabulary and syntax, Part II of the book focuses on English idioms. Part III then focuses on classical and modern Western quotations--from Plato to Jefferson to Emerson to Rockefeller.
I'm not really certain if this entire book is originally aimed at elementary school or secondary school (or at both educational levels). However, I do know that the first grade teacher and several of her colleagues in Tan Qi here on Beigan Island have been busy writing down phrases in both Chinese and English over the past several weeks.
Two days ago, larger print formats of several of the bilingual quotes have been produced in many colors and have been being placed around the elementary school--most notably on each step of the many stairwells of Tang Qi Elementary School. Apparently, this project of posting famous western proverbs and quotations around the school is part-and-parcel of the "internationalization" of the public education process here in this rural corner of Taiwan.
The Ministry of Education in Taiwan--like ministries in Japan and Korea before it--has determined that the East Asian form of multicultural education (known here as "internationalization") is to be most strongly emphasized through foreign language education, i.e. most particularly through "English" and foreign language education. In order for my blog article readers to fully comprehend what is being imparted to students on this island--located 7 kilometers from Mainland China, I will share a variety of quotations and proverbs from the book.
The topics I have selected to cite from the book (and which are also soon-to-be pasted on my school's walls and stairwells) include: (1) Freedom, (2) Love, (3) Struggle and Success, (4) Ideals and Life, (5) Virtue, (6) Health, (7) Friendship, (8) Education, (9) Law and Justice, and (10) Society and Culture.
By no means is this an exhaustive list of topics covered from Western philosophers, writers, and politicians over the millennia. Nor is this an exhaustive list of what the textbook actually covers. For example, it covers satire and proverbs of warning and good fortune. Moreover, topics on family, parents, and religion are covered--along with topics of irregular verb usage in English.
The point I am making as I write this blog and remind readers of a great Western Heritage in literature and philosophy being now considered by Chinese (Taiwanese) educators as worthy of their students interest and potential thought of internalization by their own elementary students over the coming year(s), is that the ten most important things we should have learnt in kindergarten need to be extended and expanded upon. Moreover, they must be integrated into various facets of our lives and educational subjects over a generation if they are to sink in.
Allow me now to share a few dozen of the thousands of quotations to be shared with Chinese or Taiwanese students through such internationalization in education, i.e. if teachers can find enough teachable topics and carry out enough teachable moments over the coming year(s).
From Chapter 59, FREEDOM:
"The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time."--Thomas Jefferson
"Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth." --G. Washington
"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."--Ben Franklin
NOTE: I am not sure that neither USA Congressmen nor recent USA Presidents have internalized Franklin's quote, have they?