孩子可以输在起跑线上 – Your Child May Lose the Race before It Even Begins

臭屁唐要上幼儿园了,我们隆重地召开了一次家庭会议,研讨她的入园问题。主流观点是要去西城上幼儿园,将来在西城上小学、上初中、上高中;当然,大学最好能去海淀上。理由很充分:我们这样的外来户好不容易在北京站住脚,孩子成了北京人,有了西城户口,西城的教育资源又那么好,当然要去西城上!

可我们面临一个问题:家在城外,若在西城上学,每天带着孩子跑几十里显然不可能,租房子不方便,买房子又太贵,西城区500万以下的房子基本木有。为了不让臭屁唐输在起跑线上,家人拿出了砸锅卖铁的勇气,做了一个在西城购买学区房的方案。

这种疯狂的冲动被我制止了。我的理由很简单:1、城外的PM2.5数据比西城要低,好空气比好老师重要。2、有500万买房,不如我留在家中陪孩子玩,我不相信世界上有比他爹更优秀的老师。3、相比西城某个价值500万的破旧老房子,我更希望孩子的童年在相对明静疏朗的郊外度过。

前些天,给臭屁唐定了一所城外的私立幼儿园,一年四万八。签合同那天,老师跟我说:你想好了哦,你的孩子在我们这里受伤的几率会比别的地方要高!我说,为什么?老师说:如果孩子和其他小朋友起了冲突,我们不会第一时间去干涉,会让孩子自己处理,孩子处理不了老师才会干涉。我说好。

老师又说,你的孩子在这里学到的东西可能会比别的地方要少!我说为什么?老师说:我们主要培养孩子的心性和动手能力,不要求他背诵太多的唐诗,也不要求他学太多的算术。我说好,我要的就是这种养人性,灭天理的幼儿园。因为我自己被存天理,灭人欲的应试教育糟践够了。

最近几年,幼儿园的赞助费飞涨,学区房的价格飙升。据说西城的学区房一平米已经突破20万;家长说,上不了好的幼儿园,将来就上不了好小学,上不了好小学就上不了好中学,上不了好中学就上不了好大学。于是,大家千方百计、挖地三尺,绝不让孩子输在起跑线上。

其实,起跑线之争只是商家们耸人听闻的一个口号而已。教育的标准不应该仅仅是个输赢问题,还有对与错,美与丑,好与坏的问题。将教育粗暴地简化为输赢之争,是家长们把成人世界的价值观错位地移植给了孩子。在当下,我们成人的世界确实是弱肉强食,残酷竞争。越来越多的公司推崇狼性企业文化,越来越多的人在激烈竞争中不顾对错、美丑和规则,他们只要胜利和结果。因为这样的缘故,我们的社会充满戾气,缺乏温情,我们的生活充斥着粗暴的攀比和炫耀,缺乏优雅的自信和欣赏,一个只问胜负成败,不顾是非对错的国度,再强大,也只是野蛮之地而非文明之乡。

有人说,人生就像一场赛跑,我认同这种说法。但是我理解的赛跑不像刘翔一样站在起跑线上,看谁跑得快——只要另外七个人都摔倒,跑个12分钟也算赢。我理解的赛跑只有一个对手——那就是时间,在我们有限的生命里,自己收获了多少快乐?做了多少有意义的事情?至于他人,那是他的生命历程,跟我关系不大。

家长们过多地向孩子强调竞争,会让孩子以排斥和对立的眼光看自己的小伙伴,也会让他们承担过多的学业负担,结果是孩子失去纯真的童心和快乐的童趣。退一步讲,即便如你们所理解的,人生就是与他人的赛跑,那也应该是一场马拉松,而非百米冲刺。你见过哪个马拉松运动员上来就冲?漫长的人生中,拥有阳光的心态和健全的人格,我们就会有很多机会去完成超越,用不着在儿童时期拿吃奶的劲去拼。臭屁唐他爹,7岁才上小学,24岁大学一毕业,就被别人甩开几条街,现在不也活得好好的?

我们的孩子需要更健全的人格和更多元的评价标准,需要阳光、草地和童话故事,而非几百万的学区房。你的孩子可以输在所谓的起跑线上,他的人生是否幸福,取决于他是否健康,是否阳光善良、好学上进,而不是他能踹倒多少个小伙伴!

As our little tushy-face was going to kindergarten, we held a formal family meeting to discuss the matter. The consensus was that she should attend a kindergarten in Xicheng District, where she will also attend primary, middle and high schools in the coming years; but of course, for university, she should go to Haidian District. This opinion was well thought out: we as migrants to Beijing had, with much hard work, created a foothold in the city so that our child could be a Pekingese and a resident of Xicheng District, so of course she would go to school in Xicheng, as the district has such excellent educational resources.

But we had a problem: we live outside the city so it is impractical to drive her tens of kilometers to school in Xicheng. It is equally infeasible to rent an apartment in the district, and it’s too expensive to buy property there – practically nothing is under RMB 5 million. The family were ready to sacrifice everything to make sure that our little tushy-face didn’t lose the race before it even began, and we strategised on how we could purchase property in the school catchment area.

I stopped this crazy line of thought for a few simple reasons: 1. Air quality outside Xicheng is better, and clean air is more important than good teachers; 2. If we had RMB 5 million, wouldn’t it be better if I quit my job and stayed home with her. I don’t believe there exists a better teacher than her dad in this world; 3. I’d rather have my child grow up in the relatively quiet and tranquil suburb than some dilapidated house costing RMB 5 million in downtown Xicheng.

A few days ago, we signed tushy-face up for a private kindergarten outside the city for RMB 48,000 a year. On the day of signing the agreement with the school, the teacher said to us “have you thought it through? There is a higher likelihood of your child being hurt here than anywhere else!” I asked “why?” The teacher said “we don’t intervene in conflicts between kids right away. We leave it to them to resolve their issues. We, teachers, only get involved when they fail to do so”. I said “Okay”.

The teacher then went on to say “your child is not going to learn as much here as elsewhere”. I asked “why?” The teacher said “we don’t ask them to memorise poems or teach them much maths. Instead, we help them build their character and learn hands-on skills”. I said “great, that’s just what I want – a kindergarten that cultivates children’s personalities rather than giving them the same kind of education that I struggled through as a child, the kind that focused on exams and squashed my dreams”.

For years, the extra cost for attending a kindergarten outside your catchment and property price in desirable areas have both been skyrocketing. Properties in Xicheng’s catchment areas are said to have exceeded RMB 200,000/ m2. Parents say you can’t go to a good primary school if you didn’t go to a good kindergarten and a good secondary school is out of the question if you didn’t attend a good primary school, and then that means not going to a good university. By that logic, they muster all they have to ensure that their children don’t lose the race before it begins.

But this whole business of not losing the race before it starts is nothing but a myth. Beyond a mere matter of winning or losing, education is also about teaching right from wrong, kindness from cruelty, and good from evil. Parents incorrectly project values from the adult world on children by boiling education down to a race to win or lose. The adult world today is one of cruel competition where only the strongest survive – predatory corporate values are becoming increasingly prevalent and people are more concerned with coming out of the competition on top rather than their moral compass. As a result, our society is filled with malice and is without compassion. We are busy trumping one another and flaunting our success, wholly lacking grace, self-confidence and mutual appreciation. A nation, no matter how strong, is uncivilised and barbaric if it doesn’t know right from wrong.

Some say life is like a race. I agree, but to me it’s not one that Liu Xiang, the 110 metre hurdler, would stand on the starting line for – a sprint, a race of speed where, as long as all the other 7 sprinters fall, 12 minutes is still a winning time. This race, as I understand it, is against only one opponent, time itself – how much happiness and meaning can I derive from my life, which is finite? As to what becomes of someone else, that is their journey and hasn’t much to do with me.

Having the importance of competition overemphasised to them by their parents, children would perceive their friends with exclusion and hostility, and be under increasing pressure to perform academically, and they are therefore deprived of their innocence and joy. Taking a step back and supposing, as you would, that life is a race against someone else, it should then be a marathon, not a 100 metre dash. Have you ever seen a marathon runner start a race bolting? In this life-long marathon, opportunities will arise for you to excel so long as you have a positive outlook and complete personhood, so overstretching a child is not necessary. Didn’t I turn out okay despite the fact that I went to primary school at the late age of seven and lagged behind many of my peers after graduating from university at 24?

What our children need is a more complete sense of self, a more comprehensive system to assess them, sunshine and grass of the outdoors, and fairytales, not million-dollar catchment area properties. Your children’s happiness is dependent on whether or not they are healthy and kind, and love learning, not whether they win or lose at the starting line, or how many of their peers they can trip up.

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