Back-To-School In China - Instead Of Shiny Red Apples, Teachers Get Cash And Gucci Bags



BEIJING - These days, being a teacher in China comes with its perks. Not only would the position offer you absolute imperial authority, but you would also get lots of presents. Some very NICE presents.

September 10 was Teacher’s Day, and on that day Chinese teachers are spoiled rotten, according to the Wuhan Morning Post. From gift vouchers, to perfume, cosmetics, scarves, flowers, and chocolate, more than 60% of Chinese parents admit that they spend on average 200 to 500 RMB ($30 to $50) on presents for teachers according to a survey by the newspaper.

Except during the Cultural Revolution, teaching has always been considered as a particularly respected profession, a tradition inherited from Confucianism. Today though, most Chinese parents believe that their child will be “treated better” if they lavish gifts onto the teachers.

Just like the prevalent corruption of Chinese officials, the culture of gift giving to teachers has changed, turning into a way to bribe teachers into giving better grades.

“I saw a little girl carrying two Gucci bags this morning when I was sending my son to school…” the China Times quoted a blogger from Shenzhen city.

In fact, in richer urban areas, parents do not hesitate to hand over a “red envelope:” In China, a little red envelope filled with money is given during holidays or special occasions. The amount of money in the envelope can be as much as 10,000 RMB ($1600).

Ms. Lee, a kindergarten teacher, told the China Times: “I myself gave a whole month’s salary in a big red envelope to my daughter’s teacher. The majority of parents do it. If we don’t follow, we are afraid our child will be ignored,” Lee said.

Bao Xiaoming, a parent from Shanghai said, “Before I started giving a red envelope to the kindergarten teacher, my daughter often came home complaining that she was starving to death. Now she comes home telling me she is full. Besides, each time the teacher gets a present, my daughter gets praise on the following days… Now I have the conditioned reflex – whenever my daughter gets criticized at school, I ask myself whether or not it’s time again to give a gift."

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Saving The Planet Is Really A Question Of Dopamine

Our carelessness toward the environment could be due, in part, to the functioning of a very primitive area of our brain: the striatum.

Ad scuba-diver and brain coral

Stefano Lupieri

PARIS — Almost every week, a new scientific study alerts us to the degradation of the environment. And yet, we continue not to change anything fundamental in our systems of production and habits of consumption. Are we all suffering from blindness, or poisoned by denial?

In his popular books Le Bug humain (The Human Bug) and Où est le sens? (Where is the Sense?), Sébastien Bohler, a journalist in neuroscience and psychology, provides a much more rational explanation: The mechanism responsible for our propensity to destroy our natural environment is in fact a small, very deep and very primitive structure of our brain called the striatum.

This regulator of human motivation seems to have been programmed to favor behaviors that ensure the survival of the species.

Addictions to sex and social media

Since the dawn of humanity, gathering information about our environment, feeding ourselves, ensuring the transmission of our genes through sexual intercourse and asserting our social status have all been rewarded with a shot of dopamine, the 'pleasure hormone.'

Nothing has changed since then; except that, in our society of excess, there is no limit to the satisfaction of these needs. This leads to the overconsumption of food and addictions to everything from sex to social media — which together account for much of the world's destructive agricultural and energy practices.

No matter how much we realize that this is leading to our downfall, we can't help but relapse because we are prisoners of the dopamine pump in the striatum, which cannot be switched off.

Transverse section of striatum from a structural MRI image

Lindsay Hanford and Geoff B Hall via Wikipedia

Tweaking genetics 

According to Bohler, the only way out is to encourage the emergence of new values of sobriety, altruism and slowness. If adopted, these more sustainable notions could be recognized by the striatum as new sources of dopamine reward. But there's the challenge of promoting inspiring stories that infuse them with value.

Take the photo-collage exhibition "J'agis ici... et je m'y colle" ("I'm taking action here... and I'm sticking to it"), a collection of life-size portraits of residents committed to the energy transition, displayed on the walls of the French coastal city of La Rochelle.

Backed by the French National Center for Street Arts, photographer Martin Charpentier may be employing artistic techniques, but he's also tinkering with neuroscience in the process.

Les Echos
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