January 27th, 2014
09:59 PM ET

What I'm reading: Is Asia destroying its kids' innocence?

By Fareed Zakaria

“The French social historian Philippe Aries famously argued that the expansion of formal schooling during the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe had created the modern concept of childhood by removing children from adult society, and drawing attention to their particular needs and abilities,” writes Pankaj Mishra for Bloomberg. “One could argue that the Asia-wide obsession with vocational education and careers has led to the opposite – the early exposure of children to the tasks and responsibilities of adult society, and the destruction of childhood.”

“The freedom and innocence of youth has been cruelly foreshortened by the imperative to train early – through a joyless regime of coaching classes and entrance exams enforced by tiger moms, dragon teachers and other fierce taskmasters. Many among the striving young then find that success is not guaranteed in the scramble for skills and jobs in an unforgiving new world, where whatever comparative advantage one may have always seems to be slipping away.”

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“The American Dream is alive in Denmark and Finland and Sweden. And in San Jose and Salt Lake City and Pittsburgh,” argues Matthew O’Brien in The Atlantic. “But it's dead in Atlanta and Raleigh and Charlotte. And in Indianapolis and Detroit and Jacksonville. Fixing that isn't just about redistribution. It's about building denser cities, so the poor aren't so segregated. About good schools that you don't have to live in the right (and expensive) neighborhood to attend. And about ending a destructive drug war that imprisons and blights the job prospects of far too many non-violent offenders – further shrinking the pool of ‘marriageable’ men.”

“Because the American Dream is dead in too much of America.”

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“Indian voters are now faced with a conundrum,” writes Sumit Ganguly in Foreign Affairs. “On the one hand, they can vote for Congress and the UPA because of their commitments, however flawed, to secularism and social justice. On the other, they may be tempted to vote for the BJP because of the UPA’s failure to promote growth and employment and maintain public order. Either way, they understand that they will not likely get the policies for which they bargained. Instead, they can be assured that they are in for a period of political instability with a fractious coalition regime that is unable to forge a viable working consensus. And that is why levels of participation in the upcoming elections will be crucial. If a substantial segment of the electorate simply stays home, the outcome of the election, already uncertain, could become even less predictable.”


soundoff (One Response)
  1. Joyce

    "Many among the striving young then find that success is not guaranteed in the scramble for skills and jobs in an unforgiving new world, where whatever comparative advantage one may have always seems to be slipping away.”

    This statement refers to the Asian obsession with vocational training and education. But it's not a bad thing, because those kids excel.....and don't miss the video games and TV....they don't know what they're missing.

    February 8, 2014 at 6:56 pm | Reply

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