Sunday, 2 February 2014


So what is the problem with Chinese knowledge?

One weekday lunchtime in the first half of 1959, at the top of Livery Street in the centre of Birmingham, I was incredibly bold and went into a one of the  city's rare Chinese restaurants. I ordered chicken, chips and peas, and very acceptable it was too (yes, I actually remember it). Two visits later I took my life into my hands and ordered egg foo-yong (I remember that too!)  These exotic bargain meals ('Businessman's Lunches') cost me less than three bob each. Today basic Cantonese dishes are on sale in every town and in most villages across the length of the United Kingdom. It must be hard for many people today to realise how extraordinarily mono-cultural we were in everything in those distant days, only fifty or so years ago.

Today I went into Birmingham's growing China Town. It was solid with people, there for festivities marking Chinese Lunar New Year. The streets were so full as to be in places impassible, so I took refuge in the Ming Moon, a large, established Chinese buffet. Lunch had only recently started and I easily found a table. By the time that I had finished the waiting area was almost as crowded as the street outside.

I eat rather less than I used to and therefore selected only six or so courses. That and a bottle of Tsingtao set me back a mere tenner.

My fellow diners comprised every sort and condition of humanity, of all ages and from a huge variety of backgrounds. It was obvious that they all take Chinese food and the ways of eating it very much for granted. The multitude of eating places round about, the Chinese snackeries, eateries, full-blown restaurants (some of them rather posh) were also stuffed to the gunwalls. 'Eating Chinese' has become a part of British life, no more extraordinary in 2014 than the fact that most of the manufactured goods that we buy in the UK were made in China.

'More research is needed'

Strange, isn't it that our society, and I refer not just to the UK, remains despite this so parochial, sniffy even, about Chinese know-how – indeed, about almost any knowledge that does not come from the sacred Anglosphere. There are variations here of course. Most North Europeans and Latin Americans will take a crack at reading things published in English, with varying degrees of success, but at least they have a go. In contrast, most Anglophones will steer away or even altogether turn their backs upon anything written 'in foreign'. If there is any degree of difference in this, it is that non-European sources and non-European writing systems might as well not exist. That of course includes anything written in Chinese characters, wherever it comes from.

This arises most pathetically in would-be scientific or academic literature reviews in 'the journals', that unselfconsciously announce that they have rigorously searched the world literature using whizz-ding high-tech data-bases looking for anything published in English. That leaves them chewing over the same exhausted English-language gristle, then proudly announcing the same tired old conclusion: 'More research is needed'. Sad, or what?

引导式教育 (Conductive Education)

I do not know whether the large and growing body of published, technical literature (academic/professional) published in Chinese characters about Conductive Education is any good or not, either in terms of research or of practical utility, though it would be hard put to be as bad as a lot of the stuff published about Conductive Education in European languages – including of course English..

If there any more of those strange research-review exercises published in the name of 'science', to the detriment of Conductive Education, I guess that it is time to make some sort of public stink about whatever journal is involved. I am sure that this will not be too hard. Gong Hei Fat Choi!

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