Thursday, July 1, 2010


By Thomas F. O'Neill

Education is vital to our national wellbeing

I just volunteered to work at a summer camp in Shanghai, China with a group of Children for the month of July. I am looking forward to the experience. The camp is designed to help the children become more comfortable with speaking English. I will write about my experiences at the camp in one of my future columns.

Since I arrived here in China I learned that Children here go to School for 12 hours a day. Their academic achievements are highly valued here because it will determine what college or University the child will be accepted to in the future.

I learned also that most of the Chinese students who travel abroad to America outperform most Americans academically. The reason being they are better prepared for the Universities than most American students. Their term papers are also better written because they have a greater grasp of formal English. Most American students when they enter Universities will insert improper grammar and slang words in their term papers.

Conversational English after all only comes natural for people born in English speaking countries. The Chinese however study formal English from preschool throughout their University studies. Formal English is what helps them get accepted into our American Universities. When the Chinese arrive in America they quickly discover that there is a huge difference between conversational English and formal English. We Americans rarely use formal English in our conversations. The Chinese when they come to America to study have difficulty understanding us when we speak naturally. They have difficulty understanding our idioms and slang. Our fast pass in our speech patterns is difficult for them to grasp as well.

The Chinese government sees the importance of hiring Americans and teachers from other English speaking nations to teach in China’s Schools. It is to help the students better prepare for studying abroad. It is also to help them gain a better understanding of our western culture.

The Chinese want to learn everything they can about America so that they can market their products to us more effectively. Their grasp of the English language is not enough though in our modern global society. They also seek to understand how we Americans think and how we perceive ourselves in relation to the world around us.

China has opened my eyes to the fact that most Americans are caught up in the superficial glitter of the media. We are inundated with celebrity news stories and fashion.

The western media is also beginning to influence China as well. The Chinese are wearing the western style clothes and listening to western music. The Chinese performers are singing the popular American and British songs. American movies are extremely popular in China. It is the western influence that drives many Chinese to want to study in America and other English speaking countries. They want to experience what the media projects about our western lifestyle. However not all Americans live the lifestyle of the rich and famous.

I have invited a few students that studied abroad to come into my classes to speak to my students. They spoke in my classes the last week of the semester. They said that what you see in American films and read about in western magazines is not the reality they experienced when they came to America.

They also said the course material in American Universities were much easier than what they studied in China to prepare them for America. Listening to those students was an eye opening experience for me. I couldn’t help but think are our Universities doing something wrong or is it the reality of our American education system? In other words is there a dumbing down in our American education system?

In the future will Americans travel to Asia in order to be academically challenged?

That was a question one of my students asked me and I responded by saying only the future will tell.

It does seem however that many bright and well prepared students are coming to America and outperforming their American counterparts. It’s because education is vital for their future well being. I suppose that is something our American Universities and colleges need to instill in our American students.

A holistic education is not just vital for the future and wellbeing of the individual student but it is also vital for our nation’s future wellbeing.

Always with love from Suzhou, China
Thomas F. O’Neill Thomas F. O’Neill

(800) 272-6464
China Cell: 8615114565945

Skype: thomas_f_oneill

Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found at the links below.




Click Thomas F. O'Neill for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

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