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Issues with TJ and the general "race to nowhere"

This article does ramble a bit, but I enjoyed reading it. I do feel it is sad that so many kids in our area feel pressured to "keep up with the Jones's".  It also makes me rethink whether my own kids should wish to apply to TJ.

Only a few kids in each class should be racing ahead in math. According to Rebecca G., 30% of the entering freshman class at TJ had already finished Algebra II. Are they all stellar mathletes? How well do they really understand the math they have learned and how well can they apply their math knowledge? How do they fare when the get to college level math at such a young age? How much tutoring do they need along the way?

As far as the cheating, that has been an eye opener for me.  Does it happen in all FCPS high schools? My 8th grader, who attends a TJ MS feeder, recently told me that kids do start asking questions about what "might be on a test" as soon as one period is over - she covers her ears so she won't hear - does that really help? (She made me promise not to tell the Principal before sharing that with me - would the school not be aware?) I also had no idea that students at TJ paid big $ to get research topics from Siemens.

Many parents come from countries or backgrounds where one has to grab whatever opportunity arises and it is the survival of the fittest. We all want our kids to do well and have  a better future. It is great for us to show them that hard work and good study skills are important. However, we need to keep their mental health as a priority and make sure they don't burn out at such a young age. We do also need to teach them that honesty and integrity are paramount - hopefully we reflect these values in how we lead our own lives.





I agree with the blog article and your message.

AND I agree this not a TJ problem, but a much broader culture problem! Yes, there are indeed some super genius kids, but those should be less than 0.1% of the population. But somehow it seems all of the sudden, the teenagers, or even younger kids, are curing the cancer and solving the hardest science/engineering problems, while those hard work real scientists who dedicated several generations effort seemed doing nothing...  I know this sounds irritating to some parents, but I also agree with the blog and my own kids that a large portion of the problem is parent-related.

As it comes to apply for TJ, I always say it should be the kids' decision/desire, not the parents'. You can give them guidance, motivations, and even pay for their prep class, if THEY want it. But why force them to do something they don't want??? My kids are graduating from TJ this year. TJ could be a "pressure cooker," but it can also be a great community, depending on how you see or handle it. I already wrote in a long ago message that I reluctantly paid a half priced two week summer TJ prep class for them. That  is all I have done. So I can honestly report that kids can get in and do well at TJ without extra prep or tutoring. If your kids are really into it, they can find like-minded peers and support at TJ. Let my kids do it again, given all they have known now, they would try TJ again without a question. Of course, while you get great opportunities at TJ, you also get tremendous competitions. To me, that is not a bad thing - soon or late, they have to face the real world. My son got into two outstanding free summer camps, which I would not say only TJ kids can get in, but TJ did give him that extra edge. The first 7 weeks camp let him have friends all over the world and taught him important leadership and service skills. That camp may have costed him to skip pre-calculus. But give him, and us, one hundred times the choice again, he will pick that camp over skipping one year math every time. The second 4 weeks camp let him have like-minded "nerdy" friends all over the country, and know he can do well with them. As it comes to college, maybe one of the days I can write something about it. As for now, my son has been deferred by his top-choice early action school. Of course that is a disappointment. But he has no bitterness. We know he has done and achieved all he could, excepting changing from being an Asian boy ;). Colleges my daughter likes are early decision ones. I am glad that she decided that no school deserves her "unconditional" binding love. So we are still in a wait-and-see situation. College is not their destiny, but the beginning of their adulthood. They will be fine no matter where they go. We are grateful for their experience and support they have had at TJ.

Just my 2 cents,

The Spider’s Bite

Jiang He

When I was in middle school, a poisonous spider bit my right hand. I ran to my mom for help -- but instead of taking me to a doctor, my mom set my hand on fire. 

After wrapping my hand with several layers of cotton, then soaking it in wine, she put a chopstick into my mouth, and ignited the cotton. Heat quickly penetrated the cotton and began to roast my hand. The searing pain made me want to scream, but the chopstick prevented it. All I could do was watch my hand burn - one minute, then two minutes –until mom put out the fire.

You see, the part of China I grew up in was a rural village, and at that time pre-industrial. When I was born, my village had no cars, no telephones, no electricity, not even running water. And we certainly didn’t have access to modern medical resources. There was no doctor my mother could bring me to see about my spider bite.

For those who study biology, you may have grasped the science behind my mom’s cure: heat deactivates proteins, and a spider’s venom is simply a form of protein. It’s cool how that folk remedy actually incorporates basic biochemistry, isn’t it?

But I am a PhD student in biochemistry at Harvard, I now know that better, less painful and less risky treatments existed. So I can’t help but ask myself, why I didn’t receive one at the time?

Fifteen years have passed since that incident. I am happy to report that my hand is fine. But this question lingers, and I continue to be troubled by the unequal distribution of scientific knowledge throughout the world. We have learned to edit the human genome and unlock many secrets of how cancer progresses. We can manipulate neuronal activity literally with the switch of a light. Each year brings more advances in biomedical research-exciting, transformative accomplishments.

Yet, despite the knowledge we have amassed, we haven’t been so successful in deploying it to where it’s needed most. According to the World Bank, twelve percent of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day. Malnutrition kills more than 3 million children annually. Three hundred million people are afflicted by malaria globally. All over the world, we constantly see these problems of poverty, illness, and lack of resources impeding the flow of scientific information. Lifesaving knowledge we take for granted in the modern world is often unavailable in these underdeveloped regions. And in far too many places, people are still essentially trying to cure a spider bite with fire.

While studying at Harvard, I saw how scientific knowledge can help others in simple, yet profound ways. The bird flu pandemic in the 2000s looked to my village like a spell cast by demons. Our folk medicine didn’t even have half-measures to offer. What’s more, farmers didn’t know the difference between common cold and flu; they didn’t understand that the flu was much more lethal than the common cold. Most people were also unaware that the virus could transmit across different species.

So when I realized that simple hygiene practices like separating different animal species could contain the spread of the disease, and that I could help make this knowledge available to my village, that was my first “Aha” moment as a budding scientist. But it was more than that: it was also a vital inflection point in my own ethical development, my own self-understanding as a member of the global community.

Harvard dares us to dream big, to aspire to change the world. Here on this Commencement Day, we are probably thinking of grand destinations and big adventures that await us. As for me, I am also thinking of the farmers in my village. My experience here reminds me how important it is for researchers to communicate our knowledge to those who need it. Because by using the science we already have, we could probably bring my village and thousands like it into the world you and I take for granted every day. And that’s an impact every one of us can make!

But the question is, will we make the effort or not? 

More than ever before, our society emphasizes science and innovation. But an equally important emphasis should be on distributing the knowledge we have to where it’s needed. Changing the world doesn’t mean that everyone has to find the next big thing. It can be as simple as becoming better communicators, and finding more creative ways to pass on the knowledge we have to people like my mom and the farmers in their local community. Our society also needs to recognize that the equal distribution of knowledge is a pivotal step of human development, and work to bring this into reality.

And if we do that, then perhaps a teenager in rural China who is bitten by a spider will not have to burn his hand, but will know to seek a doctor instead.





曾用火疗治伤 盼改变知识地域分布  与史蒂芬·斯皮尔伯格同台演讲




“我时不时会因为先进科技知识在世界上不同地区的不平等分布而困扰。”何江说。他进而谈及自己在哈佛大学做的生物医学研究,以及如何将他的研究成果向世界更多的地方传播。 “在哈佛读书期间,我有切身体会到先进的科技知识能够既简单又深远的帮助到社会上很多的人。本世纪初的时候,禽流感在亚洲多个国家肆虐。乡村的土医疗方法对这样一个疾病也是束手无策……在我意识??到这些知识背景,及简单的将受感染的不同物种隔离开来以减缓疾病传播,并决定将这些知识传递到我的村庄时,我的心里第一次有了一种作为未来科学家的使命感。但这种使命感不只停在知识层面,它也是我个人道德发展的重要转折点,我自我理解的作为国际社会一员的责任感。”


“华人在主流社会需发出更多声音”  亚裔学生的全面素质在学界得到认可



在此前的采访中,何江期待他的演讲可以如同一杯陈年佳酿,听完之后引人思考,回味无穷。 “哈佛大学是一个文理并重学校,在这所有着各领域精英的校园内,我不断的反思教育带给了我什么,而我又有什么可以反馈给社会。”

何江认为华人在美国主流社会中需要发出更多声音。 “我希望通过我的成长与学习经历向世人传达那些发生在中国,却不为人所知的故事,让听众在了解哈佛教育的同时,也关注中国教育,给那些还在不停奋斗的学子们以希望和鼓励。”









一次偶然的机会,他去参加了世界著名经济史学家尼尔·弗格森的一个关于《经济全球化》的讲座。听完讲座后,何江大胆地去和他分享了自己对于全球化以及中国农村发展的看法。尼尔弗格森对这位与自己完全不在一个领域,却对经济全球化如此热情和有见地的学生产生了兴趣。当场,这位学者就问:“你这周三有时间吗?我想请你出来喝杯咖啡,我们好好聊聊这个话题。” 让何江没想到的是,吃饭当天,弗格森教授带去了好几位重量级教授,结果他们畅聊了4个小时。最后弗格森建议,你把你的故事写成一本书吧:从中国农村的变化来反映中国近30年的发展变化,因为你自己就是一个鲜活的例子。关于何江的故事太多太多,未来,这名中国学子还将走得更远……


何江的故事在美国华人世界引起不小的波澜,他也用他的努力证明一个中国农村孩子到底能走多远。 “现在乡村逐渐流行读书无用论,认为寒门很难再出贵子。这样的观点让我觉得挺无奈的。”何江近日受访时表示,“教育能够改变一个人的生活轨迹,能够把一个人从一个世界带到另一个不同的世界。我希望我的成长经历,能给那些还在路上的农村学生一点鼓励,让他们看到坚持的希望。”


何江印象最深的,是睡前故事。无论白天农活儿干得多累、多苦,何江的父亲都会在睡前给两个儿子讲故事。上一页 1 23下一页分享此页面几乎所有的故事,都是一个主题——好好学习。 “我爸高中都没毕业,也不知道哪里找来那么多的中国传统故事。每天讲都讲不完。”何江上大学后,有一次问起父亲,哪里找来那么多睡前故事,父亲告诉他,很多故事都是自己瞎编的,目的只是想告诉孩子,只有读书才能有好的出路。





何江记得,自己喜欢给母亲“上课”。母亲的循循善诱与何江如今正在接触的美国文化有着异曲同工之妙。 “我刚来美国时很不习惯,不管提什么建议,导师都说可以试试看。”何江说,美国有一种“鼓励文化”,无论是诺贝尔奖得主,还是那些名字被印在教科书上的“牛人”,都会习惯性地给予学生鼓励。他们会在跟你一起啃汉堡、喝咖啡、泡酒吧时,时不时地鼓励你一番,让你觉得“前途不错”。














(From WeChat)