2.6

MEET JING LIN

Dr. Jing Lin is professor of international education policy at University of Maryland, College Park. She received her doctoral degree from University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)  in 1990. Jing Lin has done extensive research on Chinese education, culture and society. In particular, she has systematically studied social changes in China and educational reforms undergoing in that country since 1978. She is the author of four books on Chinese education: The Red Guard’s Path to Violence (1991), Education in Post-Mao China (1993), The Opening of the Chinese Mind (1994), and Social Transformation and Private Education in China (1999). Her fifth book related to Chinese education, is entitled Portraits of 21st Century Chinese Universities: In the Move to Mass Higher Education, co-edited by Ruth Hayhoe, Jun Li, Jing Lin, and Qiang Zha. This book is based on her current research with a group of colleague on higher education expansion and the pursuit of world class excellence in China, focusing on policies, civil society and dialogues of culture in the process of change.

Jing Lin’s research and teaching also concentrate on peace education, environmental education, and spirituality education. She published Love, Peace and Wisdom in Education: Vision for Education in the 21st Century in 2006, and a book she co-edits, entitled Educators as Peace Makers: Transforming Education for Global Peace, appears in 2008. Jing Lin further co-edits two book series, one on Peace Education, and another on Transforming Education for the Future, both published by Information Age Publishing.

Read chapter 3 of Jing Lin’s book, Love, Peace, and Wisdom in Education: A Vision for Education in the 21st Century. In it she writes about how schools can reconstruct themselves so that “the school, school goals, curriculum, teacher-student relationships to [can] be transformed to make children learning to love and care the central theme of education.”

“Children are born with the energy and ability to love. In this regard, schools should start with affirming children’s good nature and propensities to love, care, respect, and connect with all beings and creatures in the universe. A new pedagogy needs to be put in place that sees schools as the site for teaching love for family, community, the global world, and all existences in the universe. Education should empower students with habits and skills to bring peace and joy to their own lives and to others’ lives” (Lin, 23).

Reflection Question: Is this kind of “reconstruction” feasible, realistic, or even desirable at the school where you teach or at the high school that you attended? If so, what would be the first steps in beginning this reconstruction? If not, why not?

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16 thoughts on “2.6

  1. I like the idea of building a harmonious community/classroom for students. By teaching love, respect and forgiveness, students grow up as understanding, loving, caring and responsible. Those are the keys/precondition of learning. But I believe it takes time and we will have to wait to see how students “use” this in different situations, because the concept of teaching love, respect and forgiveness is abstract and subtle. People define it and apply it differently in society. What we teachers can do is to input and guide students, but it can be hard to put it into curriculum or set up a objective for it.

  2. I believe that it is feasible to adopt some of the central concepts of school for love; however, in our current high-stakes testing, individual student performance-centered, economically driven school system, a full reconstruction would not be possible. Our administrators, superintendents, and other individuals in the political world of education are so focused on testing and performance that their focus remains on literacy, math, and science, not on the holistic development of students. That being said, I think that many teachers and administrators often incorporate at least some of Lin’s concepts into their classrooms and schools when trying to create a learning community. Students are taught what respect means, what it looks like, what it sounds like, and the consequences of not being respectful. Students are taught the language to use when they encounter a conflict and how to resolve problems with their words instead of violence. Students are given opportunities to learn about animals and nature and have opportunities to go outside to experience nature.

    I think that the next step for me is to emphasize and build in time for reflection. Although I have been meaning to incorporate more self-reflection into my teaching, I always seem to get wrapped up in the lesson and end up not having time for reflection. I also need to teach my students how to be more inquisitive and take responsibility for asking questions and searching for the answers (within themselves and using outside resources), which will help them become more reflective learners. Another important step is to incorporate times of silence where students have an opportunity to get in touch with themselves, develop their own ideas, and make connections necessary for personal growth.

  3. As much as I would LOVE for this reconstruction to be implemented in high schools, it would be extremely difficult. I do not disagree with Lin’s motives and reasons for the School of Love, but starting cold turkey with this style of teaching and practice among students (and teachers) who have grown up with a different style of education would bring many obstacles. I think that one way this could be done easier would be to start with a grade school and build year after year, adding one grade at a time. (Or if not grades–then classes/years etc). This would crate a mindset from an early age. Another way would be to have applications, or a lottery system. As much as I think this is necessary for EVERYONE, students and families should be aware of the different curriculum and school environment.

  4. Like many of you have said, I think this vision of the ideal classroom is wonderful but difficult to actualize. I was waiting for her to share examples of schools who have attempted to change their teaching to one of love. Perhaps she shows examples later in the book? Regardless, I think Adam is right. For the most part, teachers that I’ve had are interested in my holistic development and teach because they love it and want to improve society through improving the student. Teaching values is definitely important in my hometown school district. As a high schooler I organized a group of students to give “Character skits” to the elementary students that acted out a different character word of the month and then led a discussion on it. I think school districts can start out by implementing programs like this before moving completely to a school of love.

    Something she mentioned that I had not thought of was teaching meditation. Its true that school can be a brief calm in the storm of a busy world, but at Ki’tay mentioned it can also be a violent place. I think teaching meditation at an early age would be a helpful mechanism for dealing with violence within and without schools.

  5. Annsleigh Carter: I do think most of this “reconstruction” could work at the school at which I am currently working. While I don’t see the 7th graders I work with really loving the “silence and tranquility” part, I do think that all the teachers at my school try to make every feel individually valued and part of a learning community. We have many different levels of English Language Learners in our classroom, which results in us having to make specialized curriculum for everyone. At the same time, we try to instill a sense of community in the class by always reminding them that everyone has different needs, but we’re all heading in the same direction toward progress. Because of the specialized curriculum, we are able make each individual student feel valued and loved through individualized attention. However, at the end of the day, we still have to get kids to pass the tests, but I think my school does a good job of getting students to that ability level through love and attention.

  6. All I could think while reading this article was that this woman was thinking too high up in the clouds. Her ideas are all well founded and sound great on paper, however, I really don’t think they would work in the real world. At least not first without a shift of societal beliefs and systemic problems which are placing people in these classes to begin with. Not that we shouldn’t encourage love, empathy, forgiveness, etc. in the classroom, I feel that it can never go as far as Dr. Lin hopes because of all the influences children have outside of school. The stresses of life that some children face—hunger, fighting between parents, less than comfortable living conditions—are all going to influence how the child develops as well. That’s why, until those problems can be alleviated, I don’t know that this model will is really feasible. It certainly couldn’t start as late as high school; it’d have to start from a very early age, have the involvement and investment of the parents, and have the government system also working for families to alleviate some of the stresses common in children’s lives.

  7. Daniel Knoll – After reading Jing Lin’s chapter and a couple of my classmates responses, I find myself agreeing that the concepts Lin addresses in her piece are both interesting and challenge the status quo of our educational framework. However, I find 2 major flaws in the feasibility of her “School of Love.” First, some of the most positive experiences I’ve had in my educational career is the inclusion of competition and debate within the classroom. Whether it was competing as a member of the debate team or working with a team in a class game of Jeopardy, challenging others to be better created excitement and made me want to learn, to be my best. After reading about Lin’s school, I felt the element of challenge what is put before you was missing, including challenging what others say. This does not mean that competition exists without respect and care for your classmates, in fact that is an essential part of my experience in High School.

    Second, I think that the majority of Lin’s pedagogy for the school of love already exist within classrooms. Reflectiveness, Sensitivity and Imagination were all central parts of my High School experience, and that starts with the kinds of classroom my teachers created. As Adam mentions, teachers care greatly about their students. They wouldn’t be teachers if they didn’t. As a part of caring for their students is encouraging their students to take ownership of their educational experience and learn a diverse set of skills that help them connect with their fellow student as well as prepare for their life post school.

  8. I agree largely with Ki’tay. I think this is an important goal and an interesting idea/set of ideas. However, the lack of clear direction seems problematic. I understand the author challenging current notions of success, but it doesn’t seem like Lin provides any clear articulation of how to achieve success in her chapter. Reflecting back on my high school in Montana, I’m not sure how teachers would be able to measure “reflection”, “direct connection with nature”, “direct contact with people around the world”, etc.

    I also think that this method would be difficult for teachers in divisive or closed communities. In a district where the majority of the population benefits from white privilege, wealth, or resource abundance, it might be very difficult for parents, administrators, and teachers to even understand how they are supposed to teach respect of others if they themselves haven’t lived diversity, oppression, hardship, or scarcity. My fear would be that this type of education—with a lack of clear method or measurable outcomes—could lead to the entrenchment of the same unquestioned assumptions of the “other” or negative practices that education for love is trying to tackle.

  9. Beth Jimerson. I think that the main obstacles to make this kind of reconstruction feasible is to change the whole attitude of school from administrators to teachers and parents; to curriculum and teacher training. This is not a high priority as seen by all, and that attitude needs to change in order for it to be successful. Fostering respect, compassion and sensitivity is a difficult job as a teacher and one that will be most successful with backup from parents and administrators. Many teachers already do a great job at fostering these ideals without even thinking of it, but others might need help. It is important to build these ideas into teacher training and curriculum. It is also important to build school culture that reflects these ideas and fosters them throughout the whole school and daily life and not in just isolated incidences. Lin talks about safety, which I believe is the foundation for all of this. It is first and foremost important to build a safe environment where students feel free to share and be open with each other and the teacher. Lin talks about getting away from the idea of adults as ‘all-knowing’. This is important in order for students to feel respected and free to share ideas. It is a great way to model the kind of respect that we expect from them. I also think the ideas of positive language and starting each day with a kind word are great foundations for building a safe environment. Lin states that respect begins with communication. If a more student-centered environment with positive language and kind words is fostered, I believe that it is possible to create a safe environment in which education for ‘love’ is possible.

  10. Richard Cambridge:I read the Chapter in Jing Lin’s book with pleasure and a desire to read more. What she says makes eminent sense, and the kind of reconstruction she addresses is feasible and desirable. This was not the case in the primary or secondary school I attended. Poverty, social class distinction, prejudice, violence in the surrounding environment made teachers and administrators opt for a different type of controlling education and schooling. A determined set of teachers, parents and school administrators can make a difference. The first step must be a demand from parents, and a willingness of teachers to adhere and implement a holistic curriculum which incorporates love, compassion, respect and forgiveness.

  11. While I enjoyed this reading very much for the new ideas it presented, I have many of the same criticisms as Ki’tay. From my studies of child development and educational psychology, as well as my own experiences in high school and with young, non-American kids abroad, I think I have a pretty good idea of what the educational and emotional needs are of children at different points in their lives. In imagining what a school for love would look like in the elementary years, I agree that young kids are already happy to approach everything and everyone with an open, loving mind. Direct contact with nature is natural, teachers could easily emphasize kindness, empathy, cooperation, forgiveness, etc. I think most elementary schools already spend lots of time fostering these qualities.

    But beyond those early years, such reconstruction is problematic… when are uncomfortable and unavoidable topics like power, privilege, the history of racism and its continued legacy, current politics, crime, etc introduced? I think it would be very difficult for teachers to include these necessary (and ugly) components of life into lessons based in humility, sensitivity, and unconditional love, as Lin suggests. I am unconvinced that harmony is the goal of our education. As much as I believe that students have the propensity for love and forgiveness, I also respect our ability to think critically and have strong convictions.

    I have a lot of thoughts about the general ideas of this chapter, but it was difficult to relate them to my own high school. I think the easiest methods of reconstruction are increased contact with nature and with other people, which are in my opinion feasible and desirable. But in reflecting on the teachers and administrators of my school, I think many of them would have questions about where religion fits into these schools for love, and how humility is a quality that high schoolers would ever relate to.

  12. I agree with what much of Adam has said – that this type of reconstruction is already occurring. I disagreed with Lin when she said that many teachers “do not have time” to shower students with love and she related that to the time that goes into teaching to tests and for salaries. As someone who teaches math – one of those dreaded tested areas – and works at a school where I get additional pay based partially on student performance (thereby covering both of those test and salary areas), I have to say I don’t need to find extra time to shower students with love. While I would agree that this may be an excuse used by some, I work with many wonderful teachers – and I’ve seen many wonderful teachers at other schools – build these components of the “pedagogy of school for love” into their daily interactions with others. I agree with Adam that, from what I’ve experienced, it’s not as (or doesn’t have to be) as formalized as in the reading.

    Regarding the question of if it is desirable, I would say absolutely. My students bring a spectrum of experiences and issues to the table and for some, the first positive interaction they get every day is me or a member of my team shaking their hands and welcoming them to first period. Those elements of respect, forgiveness, etc. have to come across in the modeling that we do for our students; otherwise we are missing opportunities that they might not see elsewhere.

  13. How can this type of reconstruction be possible when the end goals of love aren’t clearly defined? I truly appreciated this reading, but found it difficult to ascertain what “love” meant in the classroom. What is this type of curriculum? What type of exercises will lead to this environment? I was left with more questions than answers and an overall feeling of a lack of strategy within the social justice/good intentioned community. Bringing these types of discussions home is where the rubber meets the road, and rhetorical anecdotes about love seems lofty and for the privileged. Maybe this is where my critique really begins- this type of “love” doesn’t work when their are exigent circumstances such as gang violence in a school. How do you break the outside culture within a school? By reflection before class or meditating? Probably not. I don’t mean to paint individuals and communities as unable to create peace. But, I do think these general ideologies fail to work in an area with complex needs and marginilization. The result of this mentality and the in feasibility of the strategy typically results in blaming the parents, community and child. This is beyond problematic and unethical to me. Moreover, “tolerance” and facilitating an understanding of “diversity” fails to actualize to me in so far as power and privilege is not centered to this discussion of love. Do we begin to teach white privilege to students? If not, how else do we get to understanding the complexity of who controls our society/how stories are told. Informing students of disparities isn’t enough, and the inability to incorporate this topic will lead students to appreciating diversity, but not purposely creating diverse atmospheres. We see this lack of critical thinking as problematic in our current society, people aren’t aware, intentional in being an ally, disrupting binaries, discussing race relations etc. I know this is a heavy critique, but simply put, I found this article to be written for the people who already have the peace.

  14. I think this type of “reconstruction” is actually happening, but not in a formalized way. It is common and right for people to criticize the institutions that “weed out the dreamers,” but that hasn’t been the case in my educational experiences. I was always encouraged to pursue my own interests, think critically, and focus on a spiritually, mentally, and physically healthy life. An essential part of this was having enough offerings at each school so that students could take ownership of their education.

    So much of the educational experience is tied with the attitudes of the adults in the classrooms and the overall culture of the school. I have rarely met a teacher who did not care about the whole child or who was an educator for any other reason buy a sincere desire to create a future of hope.

    When Lin talks about the common criticisms of education reformers – testing, etc. – she is talking about the biggest impediments to teachers. There are so many issues teachers have to deal with other than the interaction with students and the daily lesson planning. It is a common complaint of mine, but if I didn’t have to go to so many meetings about testing and data and new initiatives and new theories – then I could be a better teacher.

    I always give the same advice to first year teachers – just close the door and teach. There is so much going on outside the classroom, and so many mandatory fun times that we lose sight of what really matters. We lose sight of the fact that we are teaching in a school of love already, if we’re doing our job right.

  15. To me, this type of “reconstruction” seems an immense feat, but a very desirable outcome. I think the first steps in beginning this reconstruction would start in teacher education – in having teachers see their role in a new perspective – as “workers of the heart and soul.” By viewing their role as a peace worker, they will teach in such a way that their students will know the values of peace, love, respect, and compassion. I believe that this reconstruction must start on the very first day a child goes to school, because once a child has lost his innocence and sincerity, a school for love no longer seems attainable. By systematically inserting the themes of peace an love into familiar subjects like math, history, science, etc. students will not see peace education as a separate subject, but rather a facet of human nature that is intertwined in all aspects of life. Also, by directly connecting students with people around the world and emphasizing global education they will see the equality and authenticity in all walks of life.

  16. In order for this kind of reconstruction to take place in the modern-day public school, the first step must be to redefine success and excellence. Jing Lin is absolutely correct that success in today’s world is defined by “wealth, power, education, income, and status.” Until this changes, education will continue to attempt to serve as a direct funnel to this definition of success. In this definition, there is no room to consider empathy, compassion, or respect for others. I do believe a departing from this definition is feasible at my school – with the steady hand of servant-hearted teachers pushing back against the pressure to deliver the world’s definition of “success.” But this is no small feat and it will require a tireless effort and unshakable belief. A true “man vs. society” dilemma.

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