Aug 8, 2021
This is the final part of the series on Jin Li's book Cultural Foundations of Learning, East and West before the summary and conclusion.
Speech is seen in the West as a distinct personal quality, a right, a leadership trait, and an art. Rhetoric was part of university curricula since the Middle Ages, and we celebrate famous orators like Cicero, Martin Luther King, and Winston Churchill. But in the East, speech is not seen so favourably. Chinese people assume that those who speak less are likely the more intelligent (in America it is those who speak more who are thus perceived), and Chinese culture has a general distrust of speaking, seeing it as inferior to action and potentially a way to mislead. Notably, unlike Cicero, King, and Churchill, there are no famous speakers in East Asia.
This different attitude to speaking has consequences for education. Notably, we know from experiment that Chinese people's thought process is inhibited when they vocalise, whereas this is not true for Americans. But it also leads to a different set of educational aims and practices, and changes what is valued in students.
Enjoy the episode.