– Translated by Vivian Tsang
I am a fan of Prof. Chen Ping’s YouTube channel “The Sword Duel (of Thoughts and Practices) on Mount Mei.” Not too long ago, I saw his most recent vlog. He said, “Having studied the two meetings at the federal level, I have four suggestions.” I was moved enough that I also have a few things to say.
His suggestions relate to a multi-track framework in policies and their implementation. Simply put: 1. Extending farmland rights (therefore, responsibilities) in the household responsibility system; 2. Extending maternity leave, and inclusive of both parents, such that the breadwinner regardless of gender can opt to remain the breadwinner; 3. Corporate and university co-contribute to infrastructure, such as residential facilities for students and workers, pre- and post-training; 4. Elevating the importance of family and apprenticeship training, de-emphasizing exam-based certification at the college/university level as the only form of training recognized.
These are wonderful suggestions. And because of them, I thought of the notion of change in I-Ching.
There are three types of change according to I-Ching. They are change, movement, transformation to adaptation.
(Translator’s note: I-Ching is a system of 64 hexagrams, each hexagram is a symbol consisting of six lines as a metaphor or an analogy of a phenonmenon in nature, in human affairs, or a combination of the two. Each line is subjected to change, such that a hexagram can be changed to another hexagram.)
Change in I-Ching refers to a line change in a hexagram, where a yang line may be changed into a yin line, or a yin line may be changed into a yang line. What gives rise to the change? Because when appearing as a yang line, there is in fact a yin line hidden behind, and likewise for the appearance of a yin line. This hidden line can be a hidden potential or an unseen foundation. When what is hidden manifests itself, it manifests into an observable phenomenon. However, at the same time, what has already been manifested would in turn becomes hidden.
Movement refers to the swapping of two lines in a hexagram. For example, say the line at the fifth position is yin, the second is yang. Under some circumstances they swap positions.
Transformation to adaption is a case of via change, or via movement, manifesting a favorable equilibrium, such that an unfavorable phenomenon is transformed. Therefore, this transformation is a form of change in the long run. For example, President Deng Xiaoping in his proposal of liberalizing the Chinese market in the 1970s, over time it becomes clear it is the principle for implementing socialism with Chinese characteristics. Whereas the notion of “change” is a single-track change, for there is only one line change; movement is a dual change, for there are two lines that have been changed. Now the framework proposed by Prof. Chen Ping is a multi-track framework, it is equivalent to I-Ching’s notion of movement, not merely a change.
Based on this observation, his first three suggestions should be straightforward enough. It is the fourth one that is problematic. Because the first three are simple changes. The fourth one involves the competition between corporation interests and framework at the federal level, for this is also a competition between frameworks of education/vocational training.
The current system of education in China comes from the West. Not only is the form of education unreasonable, neither is the exam system reasonable. Considering the textbooks are mostly repetitive and redundant in middle school, high school, and at the post-secondary level. I came from a Chemistry background personally. Prof. Chen Ping had a physicist training. I will take the two subjects as illustration. In my opinion, diluting the subjects in multiple grades, spreading over a span of ten years is a waste of time. A clean and concisely designed curriculum should not take longer than two or three years to cover the entire subject matter. Spreading things out over middle school, high school, and university is a waste of student’s life. In addition, the exams would likely be designed to accommodate how the subjects are taught. Such dilution is already a distortion of the content, the testing will thereby be a distortion, instead of targeting the key areas to test the students. Ultimately, whether the students truly have the aptitude in the subject matter, the exam results are not a true indicator.
Prof. Chen Ping raised the importance of families in education. This is not enough. The more fundamental change is in the current system of education and certification, which is the true change as a transformation to adaptation, and not merely a multi-track movement. To say it another way. Prof. Chen Ping values the role the family plays in one’s upbringing, suggesting that homeschooling and home-based apprenticeship should not be barred from official exam/certification, which can at best be a form of regional experimentation, without a more fundamental re-evaluation and change in the system. Those who do not go through the textbooks, simply relying on knowledge acquired elsewhere, would most likely fail the accreditation process. This is essentially a case of outsiders challenging the mainstream. What are the chances where the outsiders can become acknowledged for being legitimate? There are no obvious venues to allow challenges to happen or to demonstrate the legitimacy of outside-of-mainstream training beyond the current exam/accreditation system.
To ultimate solve this problem, it has be a case of going from change to transformation to adaptation. That is, corporations/industries have to take a lead in vocational and post-secondary training, such that the courses respond to the needs of the industries. As well, there needs to be co-operation between industries, such that students can be exchanged for multi-disciplinary training. As well, textbooks should reflect on-the-ground practices, such that students can apprentice on the job as a substitute for exam-style accreditation. After graduation, students go directly into industries and directed to other industries. This way, employments are guaranteed, industries have a steady stream of on-the-job trained individuals. As well, students are no longer tortured by levels after levels of distorted exams. Those who value families and apprenticeships would in turn increase.
This way, students are also given another way into a meaningful life. Change on its own does not lead to competition; transformation into adaption is when competition becomes possible. Consider the students who want to go overseas to study for a PhD. They must follow the entrenched route of middle school, high school, university to do so, with an additional hurdle of a Masters in between. But those who came from family-based training, or on-the-job training, it is very difficult to return to path of post-graduate training. Therefore, the two paths of training, they present a choice instead of a competition between the two. In my opinion, I believe many would prefer training on the job, many more than those who stay in the traditional school system.
I suspect the above suggestion would be difficult to implement, because not many industries would truly buy into it. This is unfortunate. The actual outcome would most likely be a case of universities allowing entry for those with “equivalent accreditation.” This way, there is never a true transformation into adaptation. In that case, we will continue to mire in a single-track world instead of a multi-track world.