How Chinese Teenagers Stick it to The Man.

On Mercury Brief, Michelle Cui Xiaoxiao responds to an article about the lives of Chinese teenagers by recounting her own adventures during her years in Wuhan (h/t Peking Duck):

I spent four years at the Wuhan Foreign Languages School, one of the best high schools in my hometown of Wuhan, in Hubei province. Since it was a boarding school, students were required to stay on campus for five and half days per week. Students start studying at 7 a.m. and take classes until 11 p.m.

Many American students find it hard to understand the Chinese schedule. But we accepted the rigor because competing for the few high-ranking Chinese universities requires a lot of work. Nearly 8.8 million students take the each year, and only about 20,000, or 0.2 percent, make it to the top colleges in China.

Some of my classmates from high school are the hardest-working people I have ever met. The school’s schedule was never enough for them. After the lights went out at 11 p.m., they carried flashlights to bed and read textbooks under their blankets. They finished meals early, so they could use 10 extra minutes to memorize more historical facts and English vocabulary. They lived like this for six years to prepare themselves for the three days of the examination, which would determine their fate. They were like the Sadhus of Hinduism, the ascetics whose focus shuts out everything else. They rebelled in their own way, too, sneaking bites of dried noodles like the rest of us, and sometimes secretly reading newspapers in class — though that was usually to prepare for a politics exam. They taught me an important lesson: work hard and persevere. If you’re going through hell, as Winston Churchill said, keep going.

There is a more somber Chinese saying, “Chi de ku zhong ku, fang wei ren shang ren,” that explains why Chinese students work so hard: Those who can overcome the highest level of hardship and pain will become the elite in this world.

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