Sunday, April 1, 2012

For the Love of Education -- Chinese in US Private Schools and Deerfield Academy

The month of March is when applicants hear of decisions as to their school acceptances, whether by high schools, especially private "prep" schools in the U.S., many of which are elite boarding schools, as well as colleges and universities.

Three years ago, I was speaking in Vienna, Austria, and my family had joined me. We had revisited Innsbruck, Austria, where we had lived when I was on a Fulbright, and then traveled by train to Vienna where I was speaking on global supply chains at the Vienna University of Economics and Business. While in that gorgeous city, my daughter received notices of admittances to two private schools in the U.S. She was going to be a day student wherever she went since we live in Amherst, Massachusetts and there are enough good schools in the area.

When we returned to the U.S., as I was showering, she checked the mail and there was the letter of acceptance from Deerfield Academy (DA). Having attended the wonderful Bement School in Old Deerfield from kindergarten through 9th grade, she had learned how to swim at DA and had even had track meets and field hockey games there. Moreover, she had attended the DASAC arts summer camp there.

We visited again all the schools that she had been accepted to, and the second visit day at DA (one of these took place again last Friday at which my daughter was a day student representative panelist) , among other experiences, people, and data, convinced Alexandra that DA was the school for her.

She has loved the education that she has received and the friends that she has made at DA.

The Atlantic has an article on how the Chinese from the mainland have discovered U.S. private schools and Deerfield is singled out in the article, along with the mention of the admissions director, Ms. Gimbel. Even in elementary school at Bement, my daughter had female classmates who were from China and Korea.

The article, written by Helen Gao, who is herself a Deerfield Academy graduate, is titled: "How China's New Love Affair with U. S. Private Schools is Changing Them Both." In the article, a Chinese mother, Zhang, hopes that her early efforts will lead to a good life for her son, which she believes lies in America. She mentions the country's more leisurely lifestyle and its comprehensive healthcare system. But its greatest promise, she says, is the culture of fairness, which rewards diligence and talent first. "In China everything is based on connection. Things like getting a promotion depend on too many factors. In America, as long as you work hard and deliver results, you will distinguish yourself."

Not only are U.S. private schools now international magnets and, one must remember, that there is only so much capacity in them, but the US colleges and universities are as well.

I do not envy the hard-working high school student with all the challenges today and pressure to succeed and all the competition, which has become international. When students with 8 AP courses and grades of 5 on all such exams get rejected from elite colleges, I truly wonder.

But then again, it is, ultimately, what you accomplish after you receive your education that matters and the mark that you leave on the people, your community, and the world.

Next Friday, one of my doctoral students, Min Yu, who is from China, will be defending her doctoral dissertation on time-sensitive supply chains at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst. She is an outstanding student and scholar with an exceptional work ethic and generosity of spirit as well as kindness and thoughtfulness -- all of which will serve her well as she assumes a faculty position in the Fall.