Clearing some old dead weight off my bookshelves (The Starr Report? Um, pretty sure I won’t need to read that one twice…), I came across another late-90′s acquisition that was fun for a few minutes, but has long since lost its usefulness: celebrity martial arts movie star auto-bio I Am Jackie Chan: My Life In Action.
Surprise! It’s not that good. The best part was a section on page 56 where Chan reflects on the horrendously gruelling training he underwent as a youth. In short, the children at his school were forced to train from 5 AM to 12 AM seven days a week, for their entire childhood. Cruelty and beatings straight out of Dickens was the norm. Chan’s thoughts can certainly be tied into my larger worries about the world’s downhill slide:
As harsh as it may have seemed, it was a system that had worked for decades, even centuries, producing the very finest acrobats, singers, and fighters that the world has ever seen.
The kind of training we received just doesn’t exist anymore. There are still opera schools, but they don’t allow you to punish students physically; that kind of discipline is now against the law. And to tell the truth, younger generations of performers aren’t as good as we were, and the ones who went before us….We did the training even if we didn’t want to. Because there was always the stick.
I don’t think that an environment that harsh is necessarily the best way for young people to be educated (though, frankly, in most cases it would be an improvement), nor do I think savage beatings are beneficial (though, again, some degree of force should be present as a deterrent and for regulating the truculent). However, there you have it: a softening of standards leads to reduced results.
On a totally unrelated subject, has anyone else ever heard a parent commiserate about the sad state of education in America today, and in the next breath complain about how much homework their kids have? That’s hilarious.
Reprinted from June 2008