But when I asked questions, Teacher Zhang shot me annoyed glances, and the other students shifted uncomfortably in their seats. I learned to behave like the rest: listen, bow, and copy.

Jen Lin-Liu, Serve The People: A Stir-Fried Journey Through China.

This quote embodies the Chinese approach to learning, and my Chinese language teacher’s approach to answering questions. She generally chooses to ignore questions that we ask in class. Part of this might be because she doesn’t speak English well enough to understand our questions, but part of comes from a cultural difference as well. If one of us dares to ask a question, she stares at us all like we’ve suddenly turned purple. Growing up with a mother who was (and is) an exceptionally assertive role model, and a father that always encouraged me to ask questions whenever I had them, this is a difficult teaching style for me to understand or respect. I find it incredibly frustrating; it’s my least favorite part of China. I hate it even more than I hate the Yunnan bathrooms, which is saying something.

I also think this quote says a lot about the Chinese education system, which relies heavily on memorization and rote learning. I thought it was strange that almost every Chinese student I met here dreamed of going to America for graduate school, but I think I’m beginning to better understand their aspirations now.

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