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A Letter to a friend about my role as an Asian parent and teacher

Dear XXX,

For years I have been playing an ironical role, ironical in the sense that I defy the image of a typical Asian student, teacher, or parent, yet I teach on a daily basis as someone boosting the academic performance of hundreds of students.

When I was a student, I cared little about grades or academic ranking. In fact, I was so repelled by the psychological distortion academic competitiveness inflicts on young minds that I detest everything linked with that morbid sense of superiority usually blindly harbored by the smart kids. I loathe such mentality because I used to be an average student with only an intense curiosity in languages, one who found math and science painful to digest. I have experienced how the smart kids look down upon the lesser ones, and how I see the vanity and vice it breeds in one’s personality. I, honestly, am a hater of academic competitiveness. I never consider superior academic performance of any moral value of any significance other than its convenience in moving ahead in this world. But again, I care little about moving ahead in the world.

What I care the most is actually philosophical inquiry to gratify my curiosity about life and to solve my puzzle as to how to live my life in this quizzical world, at least while I was growing up alone in a big family with no one around me who cared about such issues.

I found, however, solace in seeking knowledge, gaining understanding, and coming to terms with things that puzzled me. I studied hard out of my sense of responsibility and with a strong will to get through the thickness of life, and before I knew it I had had a family with one wife and two kids to raise. I delve into my work, first as a professor then as a research scientist, both of which not truly akin to my nature.

That is why, at the age of 46, I finally decided to do what I truly like : to pursue the study of English, which has been my youthful dream, but which got shoveled aside because of the educational system in Taiwan, where I needed to choose my career path at 15, while making a living.

My way of making a living is to inject what I love into the job of winning breads for the house, and that is when you found me teaching at JAC.

Since my teaching at JAC, the first few years were spent on establishing my name, but in the past ten years I have been injecting my philosophy and educational ideals into my teaching, which can be expressed with one simple statement: The aim of education is to become a good human being.

At that time I did not know the so-called classical education, which is a two-thousand year tradition in the Western world, and which has been upheld in the past twenty years mostly by the Christian community. Though not a Christian myself, I agree with the main theme of classical education in its focus on cultivating the minds and aiming for a complete human being.

As you could see that this is not what a typical Asian parent would care much about. I myself have in fact been battling against the mindset of Asian parents’ obsession with academic performance to the exclusion of a healthy personality. That is why I value reading poetry and having a consistent reading life for all, since poetry helps to preserve and remind one of our pristine minds, and reading is the best way of improving and maintaining a sober mind.

Our time and our children are both inundated with the winds of materialism, commercialism, and scientism. The minds of many young and brilliant students are being bombarded with such an exclusive message of barren, mechanical, and materialistic views of life to the point that many are living the life of automatons, devoid of a true sense of humanity. We live in a time that is depriving all of humanity and spirituality, and trying to battle such illness has been the primary focus of my teaching efforts.

I am sure you are among the few who are able to appreciate and understand what I am getting at. Most of the time, I find my spiritual companions in the books I read, as I have been doing since my youth. These companions are truly dear to me.

Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to share with you my thoughts.

Happy holidays!


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