NYT op-ed: The Dictatorship of Talent. David Brooks riffs on the state of modern Chinese education, and the ascendancy of the Chinese economy. He doesn’t think much of the exams:

As you rise in school, you see that to get into an elite university, you need to ace the exams given at the end of your senior year…. The exams donít reward all mental skills. They reward the ability to work hard and memorize things. Your adolescence is oriented around those exams ó the cram seminars, the hours of preparation.

Can you smell the disdain? “work hard and memorize things,” indeed. Even though (American) Millennials are generally dismissed for their lack of work ethic, this piece seems to disregard the work habits the Chinese students develop. Nonetheless, it provides a nice summary of the modern, prototypical, Chinese aspiration.

The punchline at the end:

You feel pride in what the corpocracy has achieved and now expect it to lead Chinaís next stage of modernization ó the transition from a manufacturing economy to a service economy. But in the back of your mind you wonder: Perhaps itís simply impossible for a top-down memorization-based elite to organize a flexible, innovative information economy, no matter how brilliant its members are.

Did you catch the subtext? Here it is: Chinese people are math-grinding automatons with no creativity and cannot beat our free-wheeling American creative service-oriented kung-fu. With insights like this, Brooks could have a second career as a college admissions officer.

One Comment

  • yathrib Says:

    I’m not sure Brooks deserves a first career as a Beltway pundit.

    I hear “service economy” and I think of a nation of burger-flippers and cashiers.

    I hear “innovative information economy” and I think of everyone blogging for a living, with tip jars and web ads.

    Then I think of a Krugman editorial from 2005 with a better description of where we’re going: “[T]hese days, Americans make a living selling each other houses, paid for with money borrowed from the Chinese. Somehow, that doesn’t seem like a sustainable lifestyle.”


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