The keynote speech by Nvidia Corp cofounder and CEO Jensen Huang (黃仁勳) at National Taiwan University’s (NTU) commencement ceremony has prompted reflection on several issues.
In the past few years, the core value of education reform has been to dispel the myth of credentialism by emphasizing each student’s distinct temperament and abilities. Teachers and parents are required to help students develop their own interests and skills. Each child should be able to grow in accordance with their character.
As a quote often wrongly attributed to Albert Einstein says: “Everybody is a genius. However, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Education reform has adhered to these words and tried to change the system in Taiwan accordingly.
Between the ideal and the reality, there is always a huge gap. Even though there are multiple avenues of admission to high schools, the Comprehensive Assessment Program for Junior-High School Students has remained the key to entering top-ranking institutions.
However, education reform will never be achieved while the mindset of parents remains the same.
Why do most parents believe in the popular myth of credentialism?
The answer is simple: Those who get good grades in schools are indeed treated better.
Human intelligence can be categorized into nine types: linguistic; logical-mathematical; musical; bodily-kinesthetic; spatial; naturalistic; interpersonal; intra-personal; and existential intelligences.
Children with higher verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences are those who excel at studying, and children with higher bodily-kinesthetic intelligence are those who can do well in sports. A student with three types of intelligence tends to be more popular and would feel like a fish in water.
However, each student has their own strong points. Some might not be academically minded and some might find sports difficult.
Although a student might have a sympathetic and kind nature, and can complete tasks earnestly and carefully, they might have to deal with new difficulties after they graduate. In a highly competitive society, such students would not get as many opportunities as those who got better grades.
Japanese baseball player Ichiro Suzuki and “god of basketball” Michael Jordan must have an extremely high bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. Even though they worked hard to reach the top, their gifts were the starting point. In addition to their abilities and effort, a key for their success was their parents’ support.
Parents in Taiwan believe that if their child wants to be an athlete, it is highly unlikely that they would become a superstar. Their mindset is that if their child gets a diploma from a prestigious school, it would be easier for them to do well in the job market and find success — including in terms of salary.
Parents want their children to study hard because it is the most common path and seems safer. There is nothing wrong with parents wanting to protect their children. However, for children who aspire to become athletes or who are more artistically oriented, should parents ask them to chase grades?
Cloud Gate founder Lin Hwai-min (林懷民) once said: “If one has never taken risks in life, that is the riskiest life of all.”
Huang seems to have been given the title of “father of artificial intelligence,” but he faced bankruptcy shortly after he founded Nvidia Corp. If he had been educated in Taiwan, where he would have been taught to take a safe approach, would he have accomplished what he has?
Children should be allowed to do what they want according to their nature. If they like sports, let them explore an athletics career; if they enjoy art, let them attend a school that can hone their skills. If they do not like studying, let them opt for vocational training.
Children should be cultivated in line with their temperaments, and if they enjoy their education, they will flourish.
Conversely, if parents insist that children should take the roads arranged for them, it will be much harder for them to achieve what they want.
Lin Cheng-wu is a junior-high school teacher.
Translated by Emma Liu
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