Harper Academic

Little Soldiers

An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve

by Lenora Chu

On Sale: 09/19/2017

Price: $27.99

Little Soldiers

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Little Soldiers

An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve

by Lenora Chu

On Sale: 09/19/2017

Format:

Price: $27.99

About the Book

In the spirit of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Bringing up Bébé, and The Smartest Kids in the World, a hard-hitting exploration of China’s widely acclaimed yet insular education system—held up as a model of academic and behavioral excellence—that raises important questions for the future of American parenting and education.

When students in Shanghai rose to the top of international rankings in 2009, Americans feared that they were being "out-educated" by the rising super power. An American journalist of Chinese descent raising a young family in Shanghai, Lenora Chu noticed how well-behaved Chinese children were compared to her boisterous toddler. How did the Chinese create their academic super-achievers? Would their little boy benefit from Chinese school?

Chu and her husband decided to enroll three-year-old Rainer in China’s state-run public school system. The results were positive—her son quickly settled down, became fluent in Mandarin, and enjoyed his friends—but she also began to notice troubling new behaviors. Wondering what was happening behind closed classroom doors, she embarked on an exploratory journey, interviewing Chinese parents, teachers and education professors, and following students at all stages of their education.

What she discovered is a military-like education system driven by high-stakes testing, with teachers posting rankings in public, using bribes to reward students who comply, and shaming to isolate those who do not. At the same time, she uncovered a years-long desire by government to alleviate its students’ crushing academic burden and make education friendlier for all. The more she learns, the more she wonders: Are Chinese children—and her son—paying too high a price for their obedience and the promise of future academic prowess? Is there a way to appropriate the excellence of the system but dispense with the bad? What, if anything, could Westerners learn from China’s education journey?

Chu’s eye-opening investigation challenges our assumptions and asks us to consider the true value and purpose of education.

Critical Praise

“Through [the] combination of personal stories and investigative reporting, Chu opens a window on to the complex world of communist China and its competitive methodology, which helps raise highly efficient, obedient, intelligent children but also squelches individualism and spontaneous creativity from the beginning. It’s a sometimes-chilling portrait of how hundreds of millions of children are being taught to obey as well as an interesting glimpse into the mindset of one couple who let their child stay in the system despite their misgivings. An informative, personal view of the Chinese and their educational system that will have many American readers cringing at the techniques used by the Chinese to create perfect students.” - Kirkus Reviews

“The lively anecdotes, scenes, and conversations that Chu relates while describing her encounters with the Chinese education system will amuse or appall Western readers…. By the end, the successes of Chu’s son… persuade her that, going forward, the global ideal is a blend of Chinese rigor and Western individuality, whatever that might look like.” - Publishers Weekly

“This engaging narrative is personalized by Chu’s often humorous recollections of attending American schools as the daughter of immigrants. Little Soldiers offers fascinating peeks inside the world’s largest educational system and at the future intellectual “soldiers” American kids will be facing.” - Booklist

Little Soldiers asks us to think deeply about what we value and what we want for our children – academic success, workplace success, group achievement, individual achievement, creativity, love of learning.  I couldn’t put this book down. It’s a game changer that challenges our tendency to see education practices in black and white.” - Madeline Levine, Ph.D., Author of New York Times bestsellers, The Prince of Privilege and Teach Your Children Well

“The American and Chinese ways of educating children are approaching a head-on collision begging the question ‘which system best prepares kids for success?’ In Little Soldiers, Lenora Chu deploys her journalistic inquiry and her motherly heart to investigate the attributes that underlie this urgent question. Chu’s fascinating storytelling urges the reader to ask questions like, ‘Do the ends justify the means?’ ‘Is a child’s life for a parent or government to dictate, or is it their own?’ These questions and more lie at the heart of Chu’s important book, which is necessary reading for educators, parents, and anyone interested in shaping the character and capabilities of the next generation of Americans.” - Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Stanford dean of freshmen, and New York Times-bestselling author of How to Raise an Adult

Little Soldiers is the best book I’ve read about education in China.  Lenora Chu’s perspective is unique: as the daughter of Chinese immigrants, she was educated in the American system, and then she returned to China and enrolled her own son in a Shanghai public school.  She tells this personal story with great insight and humor, and it’s combined with first-rate research into the current state of education in China.” - Peter Hessler, New Yorker staff writer and author of River Town, Oracle Bones and Country Driving

Little Soldiers is a book that will endure. With honesty and a terrific sense of humor, Lenora Chu has produced not only an intimate portrait of raising a family far from home but also the most lucid and grounded account of modern Chinese education that I’ve ever seen. She brilliantly tests our notions of success and creativity, grit and talent, and never shrinks from her conclusions.” - Evan Osnos, New Yorker staff writer, National Book Award-winning author of Age of Ambition

“What if you had a child in one of those Shanghai super-schools? Would the child love it? Hate it? Become a math whiz? A robot? Both? As Lenora Chu takes us along on her own adventure in parenting, she affords us, not only an insider’s view of China, but an exploration of people- and society-making at its most foundational.  Riveting, provocative and unflinchingly candid, Little Soldiers is a must-read for parents, educators, and global citizens alike.” - Gish Jen, author of The Girl at the Baggage Claim

“Gripping, perceptive, honest, revealing, but, above all, deeply thoughtful. When a Chinese-American woman raised in a thoroughly Chinese home in the United States, rebelling against her parents every step of the way, settles in Shanghai and puts her son in a Chinese school, everything she thought she knew about her values and her views on education is up for review. The reader gets a priceless view of both education systems through this prism.” - Marc Tucker, National Center On Education and the Economy

“This is a rare look inside the gates of Chinese schools that helps demystify many traits and behaviors of the Chinese people.” - Deborah Fallows, contributing writer for The Atlantic and author of Dreaming in Chinese

“Lenora Chu, a gifted journalist, has written a fascinating comparison of the US and Shanghai education systems. Little Soldiers offers important insights into the strengths and weaknesses of each. There is much to be learned here about the elements of a better education system for the 21st century.” - Tony Wagner, Expert in Residence, Harvard University Innovation Lab and author of The Global Achievement Gap and Creating Innovators

 “This book had me at page one! Whip smart, hilariously funny, and shocking. A must-read.” - Amy Chua, author of The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and The Triple Package

Product Details

  • ISBN: 9780062367853
  • ISBN 10: 0062367854
  • Imprint: Harper
  • On Sale: 09/19/2017
  • Trimsize: 6.000 in (w) x 9.000 in (h) x 1.170 in (d)
  • Pages: 368
  • List Price: $27.99
  • BISAC1: FAMILY & RELATIONSHIPS / Education
  • BISAC2: EDUCATION / Philosophy, Theory & Social Aspects
  • BISAC3: BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Personal Memoirs