"When I was in high school, my peers and I were more focused on our own town and community than a global impact, like you are today. Recently I was in China, and I was told that their students are much more higher achieving than American students, that they were more advanced and prepared for global advancement. I looked around in their classrooms and examined their education during my stay. While they may be more academic, I knew that if I stuck any of the students from my school in their Chinese classrooms, they would be successful. They have their math, but I know that American students surpass them in every other aspect. You have character, and your service to the community shows that you are ready to compete in a global economy. You will not let them steal your lunch. The fact that the Chinese government invited us educational administrators from America shows that they know that they are no match for us. On my flight home, I was certain and confident in the ability of our students to continue to be at the top of the world economy."- a paraphrase of the bulk of my high school principal's National Honor Society Induction Ceremony speech
Most of the room was silent throughout his speech like they were supposed to be, and some remainder of the room was clearly trying not to laugh out loud and making satirical comments. I have to say that I was of the latter portion. I am disgusted and disappointed in the lack of tact and critical thinking of my own school administrators. Honestly though, this is what most of my town believes. That is not to say that China's education system does not have significant pitfalls; I'll be the first to admit that. Yes, it is very focused on academics and does not leave much room for any other personal development. This is something that nobody can deny. However, was this really the time and place for a high school principal to give this kind of a speech? He was trying to instill his opinion on who he thought could handle it, the "smarter" portion of the school (even though NHS means nothing.) He never even stopped and thought about how to be more objective, or make it more relevant to NHS at all. It became his pedestal for propelling forth his notions, and not about congratulating the inductees.
Moreover, this speech embodies the elitist attitude that America has developed over its short stint as a world power. Every media outlet is suddenly bagging on China because it is suddenly a threat to American world power, for anything from "human rights" (which basically means anything) to "Communism" (even though China is more capitalist than the U.S. and remains Communist only in party name.) Also, my principal's confirmation bias proved to him that the invitation to China was China's admittance to its inferiority. What he did not stop to think about was that in China, people have a different attitude from that of Americans. They are constantly learning and growing and looking to others for ways to do that. As a whole, Americans find something that sort of works, stick with it, and refuse to try anything else. China has so many problems, but at least they try to fix things, and when they do, they do it for the long term and not for an election cycle. America may be a world power now, but that will cease to be the case if the common thought is that there is no improvement necessary.
Overall, my principal is entitled to his close-minded opinions. I simply did not appreciate his sharing of them at the NHS induction. Many of my peers are likely on the fence about issues like this, and they do not need some authority figure presenting a unilateral viewpoint the way he did at a formal ceremony. I wonder if anyone took that speech seriously, but I am afraid that many in the audience must have. Awkwardness only skyrocketed when the principal finished, and the elected NHS president rose to give his speech. He is Chinese.
Small Update: People are satirizing this speech all over Facebook. This relieves me greatly.