Cultural Cues of Eastern and Western Schools in Today's World Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Education in the East and West

The difference between education in the East and the West is primarily a difference in culture. Today, cultural differences are less pronounced than they were a century ago. Globalized society has seen cultures meld and melt into one another, so that in many senses the East resembles the West in more ways than one (Igarashi). However, deeply rooted cultural cues still represent a fundamental reason for existing educational differences between the East and the West. This paper will describe these differences and show why they exist.

Medieval Guilds were important to production standards in the time of the Renaissance. For example, "in places where guilds were strong, they exercised strict oversight over training" (Hansen). In fact, the education and apprenticeship of the Renaissance was a highly skilled exercise that began at the youngest age and often required more than a decade of training.

Western education since the Age of Enlightenment and the rise of the centrally-planned State has been less driven by standards and results and more driven by ideology. The ideology behind Western education is found in the State's adherence to Enlightenment thinking, naturalism, modern philosophy. The Old World educational system was based on the Trivium -- the method of studying grammar, rhetoric, and logic as the basis of all other learning. Essentially, in the Old World of the West, the purpose of education was to provide students with the ability to think and reason, which would serve them in all other educational endeavors. Since the collapse of the Old World following the Reformation and the Scientific Revolution, the process of education has changed completely. Now, in the West, everything is specialized to such a point that education has become a business (Chayefsky).

However, the Western system of state-run schooling is not designed to provide education (Gatto). Rather it is set up to be a soul-deadening exercise in intellectual regression, and to that end it is a complete success. It stifles students' curiosity, their will, and their window of opportunity (rather than getting out into the "real world" and meeting people, they are "stuck in a desk"). The source of this retardation is cultural -- and the disease, if it may be called so, is systemic. It is also deliberate. Such is why the retarding process has been systematized by the Western Departments of Education.

E. Michael Jones emphasizes the soul-deadening aspect of modern schooling when he asserts that a culture that does not promote virtue is a culture that will promote vice (Jones 12). The vice of modern schooling is laziness of thought -- or sloth. Children are programmed like computer chips -- they are taught to recall automatic responses which can be regurgitated to pass tests which can be assessed to show the world that Western children score just as well as Asian children. They are denied access to the higher virtues long-ago identified by the ancient Greek philosophers -- the one, the good, the true, and the beautiful. And yet it is worse than that. The sloth that permits school children to become passive recipients of information that they are in no way required to possess beyond the test date also turns them into walking intellectual zombies. They become 'bored" and "angry" (Gatto). They know that their time is being wasted.

The question that Gatto encourages readers to ask is -- why is their time being wasted? Is it the fact that their teachers are often just as ignorant as the students? Or that the system does not encourage independent thought? Gatto affirms that it is both.

Eastern schools have had a different development rooted in a different cultural experience. As Dong Zhongshu notes, the ancient Han dynasty erected an empire that lasted 2000 years based on a Confucian "vision of an omnipotent but disciplined sovereign, who sought to align the population with the norms of Heaven and Earth" (De Bary 157). In China, this basic paradigm of god-like ruler, informed by a counsel of scholars, learned in the ways of the ancients, held true for centuries and even into the modern era, when Industrialization changed the nature of society the world over -- including East Asia. However, ideology is closely linked to education in the East as well. For instance, an effect of Japanese Imperialism on Korea was the application of a Japanese-centric education. Just as the U.S. attempted to introduce a Protestant ideology on Filipinos when the American Empire
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took over the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, the Japanese attempted to introduce Japanese ideology on Koreans primarily through the school system. This process included the teaching of Japanese history and the suppressing of Korean history. Japan was seen as the primary authority rather than the country to which the native Koreans had formerly pledged allegiance (Eckert 318).

At the same time, Eastern education emphasizes mathematical sciences to such an extent that Asian schools consistently place in the top 10 schools for math scores in the whole world (Li 186). The reason for this, again, is cultural: Eastern education places more importance on science than on the arts, which up until recently (the 20th century) were a fundamental part of Western education. That of course is changing as the West attempts to match the East in terms of scientific productivity in education.

Eastern education is primarily rooted in science and math especially in the modern era because in the global standpoint, the East occupies a special position. The Eastern economy is based on manufacturing and technology, and this work demands a high degree of scientific and mathematical knowledge. Also, Eastern scientists find employment with multinational corporations, which see the value of Eastern education in workers. Eastern workers are prepared with more emphasis on diligence and discipline at an early age in their school systems (Li 187).

Eastern education also offers an incentive for drive and discipline lacking in Western education as Gatto points out. Schools in the West coddle their students and do not push them to excel whereas Eastern schools do not coddle or hold back but rather motivate and lead. Western schools are far too given to practicing politically correct methods of education, which limits growth. Eastern schools do not have to deal to such an extent with the liberal politically correct system that Western schools now have. Eastern students come from different backgrounds and often do not have the same spoiled and oppressive outlooks that Western students have after years of being "babied" in schools that do not allow them to work to their potential. Eastern education is about unlocking potential and pushing oneself to be the best, which is evident in the high scores of Asian schools year after year. This is a cultural difference: essentially the West is culturally bankrupt, whereas the East still has a centuries-deep discipline based on a number of philosophical systems that have been ingrained for a long time. The West on the other hand gave up its traditional heritage to adopt the system of the Revolution, which has only benefitted the few powerful elites at the top of the paradigm. So-called Western schools are really only means of enslaving the lower classes.

Annotated Bibliography

Chayefsky, Paddy. Network. LA: MGM, 1976. Film.

This film written by Paddy Chayefsky shines a light on the Western system of thought that ultimately plays a large part in the way that Western education is conducted. The West has a superficial pro-business, pro-elite mentality in which the middle class is used to support the infrastructure of the wealthy 1%. Education is a popular myth in the West because, as Chayefsky points out, there is really no such thing: there are generations raised on television and mass media, who are full of themselves but have no real education. They don't understand human nature or themselves and view everything only as a commodity. Thus, Western education suffers as a result because it is ultimately not intended to give anything to students but only to turn them into good consumers so they can be more easily exploited by the Western oligarchs.

De Bary, William T. Sources of East Asian Tradition: Premodern Asia, Volume 1.

NY: Columbia University Press, 2008.

This book provides a good perspective on Eastern traditions in education and helps to provide the reader with an understanding of how the East has educated in the past. The East has a strong tradition of selflessness, sacrifice and discipline, as well as family respect, that helps it to excel when it comes to education.

Eckert, C .J. Offspring of Empire. University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1996.

Eckert's book illustrates that way that modern Imperialism affects educational standards in both East and West. It helps to understand why State-run schools teach the way the do: it is typically for ideological reasons that States push for educational reforms. In the East, examples include China and Japan, where totalitarian states push for doctrinal changes to support their governments. The West is no different except that education is fundamentally crippled…

Sources Used in Documents:

Li, Jin. Cultural Foundations of Learning: East and West. UK: Cambridge, 2012.


Li's book is very helpful in understanding the differences between Eastern and Western education: it highlights cultural influences in the West, from the Greeks, and in the East, from Confucius and Buddha, etc. It looks at how religion and science have both played a part in where East and West are educationally speaking.

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