Thursday, 2 February 2017


So what's the problem with Chinese knowledge?


This item was first published1 three years ago2. Its message seems as relevant today, so it is republished here 3 for those who might have missed it at the time.

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 then exceedingly rare Chinese restaurants. I ordered chicken, chips and peas, and very acceptable it was too (yes, I do actually remember it). Two visits later I took my life into my hands and ordered chicken foo-yong (I remember that too!)  These exotic bargain meals ('Businessman's Lunches') cost me less than three bob each in the old money (under £0.15 in the new money). Nowadays basic Cantonese dishes are on sale in every town and city, and in most villages, across the length of the United Kingdom. It can be hard today to realise how extraordinarily mono-cultural we were in every respect in those distant days, only fifty or so years ago, and how much the poorer for it.

Today I went into Birmingham's growing China Town. It was solid with people, there for the festivities marking Chinese Lunar New Year. The streets were so full as to be in places impassable, 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 now 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 gunwales. '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  perhaps not just that of 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 of course. Many North Europeans and Latin Americans  take a crack at reading things published in English, even more in the developing countries of the Old World. In contrast, most Anglophones will away or even altogether turn their backs upon anything written 'in foreign'.

For so very many English-speakers non-European sources and non-Roman writing systems  might just as well not exist – and that of course includes anything written in Chinese characters, wherever it comes from.

Pathetically, this occurs in supposedly scientific or academic literature reviews in 'the journals', which unselfconsciously announce that they have rigorously searched the world's literature, using whizz-ding high-tech data-bases, looking for anything published in English, explicitly excluding anything that is not

This may leave them chewing over the same exhausted English-language gristle, then proudly announcing the same tired old conclusion: 'More research is needed'. Sad, or what?

引導式教育 – 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 for i to be as bad in either respect as a lot of the stuff published in the journals about Conductive Education in European languages – primarily in English..

There may be more of those strange research-review exercises published in the name of 'science', to the detriment of Conductive Education.  When will CE's institutions stand up and make a public stink about this, whatever journal is involved? Come the day, European-only content (specifically, English-only content) would be just one question to raise.

Gong Hei Fat Choi!

2     2 February 2014
3     Lightly edited

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