No, no, don’t get me wrong here. Wolf’s advise has a kernel of good sense in it. I just always feel the need to pontificate when I read his posts about education. He really does remind me of my father.
As I suggested above, it’s not that the advise is useless but that it is limited. Throwing back papers, as Wolf recently suggested, will work with highly motivated students who have the utmost respect for the teacher’s talents and skill. For the other 99.99% it bores, frightens, intimates, and untimately stifles them into a more rigid conformity than even a traditional Taiwanese educaton can instill.
I once studied Taekwondo with an middle aged Lebanese master back in canada. This man sometimes talked about the way he was taught in the old country. Physical punishment was commonly meted out for mistakes, as were insults, threats, and the like. Being a tough boy in a tough environment he could take this. But when he moved to Canada and opened his own school he refused to teach in the old ways. He was gentle, encouraging, firm but never abusive or ugly. His students, judging from the contests they won, did not seem to suffer from this more humane approach.
Similary, I doubt you would find many of the masters in Taiwan belting or shouting at their beginner students these days (the equivalent of throwing a paper back at them). Yet has the quality of martial arts skills gone down?
As for Wolf’s friend in Hong Kong, good on him. When I lived in Taoyuan I had a good reputation at one of the local high schools for my skills as a writing teaching. Every winter I tutored a number of students to help them prepare for the early entrance exams held by the English departments in various universities around the island.
One former student introduced me later to a famous cram school instructor named Chen Jen. Mr. Chen taught English at one of those bushiban chains for junior and senior high school kids. (The kind of cram school with 150 students to a class.) Mr. Chen had been teaching for over 20 years, and I estimated that he made at least $500,000NT a month.
Mr. Chen hired me to teach English composition. At first he wanted me to teach around the whole island. Tainan, Kaoshiung, Ilan, Hualien, Taipei and Taoyuan. I said I refused to fly domestic airplanes three times a week, so we changed the schedule to include only northern Taiwan: Taipei, Ilan, Taoyuan, and Keelung. I went to all the different schools and gave a two hour presentation. The feedback was very positive and hundreds of students signed up for my classes in the fall.
My starting salary was to be $1500 an hour, plus all travel expenses. I would have about 15 hours of classes a week to start. After a few years, if I was popular, the price could have risen to $3000-4000 an hour.
Before the fall semester started I decided that touring around northern Taiwan, teaching the same class 10 times a week to 100 students at a time, was not my dream job. I also had some doubts about putting my future in the hands of Mr. Chen. Not that he was a bad fellow, but I realized that if I worked for him, he would negotiate all matters between me and the schools. I didn’t like giving up so much control. I also worried that after a year or so, when he and the schools had my lesson plans and handouts, they would try to squeeze me out. When an offer came to work on storybooks for the local market I gave Mr. Chen my notice. (That the storybook deal turned out to be a complete waste of the past three years is another story.)
The point of the above is that if you want to talk about your or a friend’s credentials or salary, I can match them. I can also agree though that standards have slipped (and not just in Taiwan). However, I doubt very much that this has anything to do with the manner in which a teacher treats his students. Curriculum is one thing. Classroom management something else.
Students writing skills are poor now because they are not taught structure and rhetorical skills explicitely, nor encouraged to imitate or model the works of skilled writers. Errors are tolerated or simply corrected with a red pen or a wave of the hand. Mostly though I believe writing skills have deteriorated because instructors have little skill or training or instinct themselves. But again, none of the above can be rectified by disdain or disrespect on the part of the teacher.
(Whew! It’s a long way down to the floor this time.)