I use online translators a lot, bouncing between BING translate and Baidu. They each had a different spin on this pearl of wisdom:


According to the Baidu, it means, children are worth teaching. But according to Bing?

Tweezers are worth being taught.

Sometimes, it’s wise to try something new, while other times, maybe you should just not give a pluck.

Take for instance, the students at the elementary school behind my apartment in Kunming, China. They decided to add one more extra-circular activity to their already overloaded schedules.

Marching Band.

These Chinese students put down their text books and picked up trumpets, cymbals and drums. They practice daily, their music bleeding through my bathroom window like an injured rhino.

If you don’t believe me, I dare you to press the button.

Let’s just say that this Chinese bathroom band isn’t ready to march in the Rose Bowl parade anytime soon (maybe the Tidy Bowl).

Instead of teaching these tweezers something new, maybe it’s time to pluck something from their schedules. They have too much in their rice bowls already. Check out a typical schedule from one of my middle schoolers:

After school, there is French, dance class, karate club, fencing lessons, soccer practice, and/or a science tutor. On Saturdays, there is Chinese class or Singapore math camp. Finding time for that kid to be a kid is a math problem from hell:

Xiao Qi has fifteen spare minutes Tuesday through Thursdays and twenty minutes on Mondays and Fridays if he gets up at six and studies until midnight. Calculate how much time Xiao Qi has left to daydream about being an astronaut without failing his Gaokao .

He doesn’t!

Again, I had a conversation with an 8th grader who was sobbing about receiving a B on a paper.

“Will this deplorable B keep me from getting into Stanford?” she blubbered.

I looked at her, trying to think what I was like in the eighth grade. I didn’t have teachers console me about Bs on a paper. That’ was the grade my Dad would give me a dollar for achieving. However, I had one teacher throw a desk and me and another lock me in a utility closet with a bottle of Elmer’s glue taped in my mouth.

“No,” I said, before giving my speech about how she is worth more than the fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a point, as that is how much her deplorable grade would impact her transcripts. That is, if universities even bothered to look at middle school grades.

I admit, my teachers at Watervliet Junior High and High School may have tried to tweeze me, but I was untweezable. I was a bando with memories made in the brass section, each perfumed with valve oil or trail of a fetor of clarinet reeds. I played the tuba and mastered the art of smuggling beer to football games inside the toilet-esque bell. That, and a diddly for the variety show.

College wasn’t even on my radar in eighth grade. Or nine grade. Or my sophomore or junior year. The only radar I knew of was the character on MASH.

I picked my college based on the ice cream machine in the dorm cafeteria and school mascot.

I didn’t have any special after school classes and neither did my friends, except those which required livestock and membership in 4H.

We majored in fun and a few run-ins with caring cops, not giving a pluck about a fraction of a fraction of a GPA point. And did we turn out? I think so. The best of my classmates never left Watervliet and are now the pillars of the community. Thank you very much.

Others have done honorable things like become doctors or lawyers or pastors or foster parents.

Then there’s me.

And then, the classmate who ended up in prison.

Meanwhile, take a listen to the Chinese students that share the campus where I teach. They have their own way of making music: pounding water bottles.

I like the sound of them better.


Here’s to marching to a different beat or plucking to different drummer, but more importantly, allowing kids to be kids.

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