'I couldn't put this book down. Whip smart, hilariously funny and shocking. A must-read'
Amy Chua, Yale Law Professor and author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
In 2009, Lenora Chu, her husband Rob, and toddler Rainey, moved from LA to the Chinese megacity Shanghai. The US economy was spinning circles, while China seemed to be eating the planet's economic lunch. What's more, Shanghai teenagers were top in the world at maths, reading and science. China was not only muscling the rest of the world onto the sidelines, but it was also out-educating the West.
So when Rainey was given the opportunity to enroll in Shanghai's most elite public kindergarten, Lenora and Rob grabbed it. Noticing her rambunctious son's rapid transformation - increasingly disciplined and obedient but more anxious and fearful - Lenora begins to question the system. What the teachers were accomplishing was indisputable, but what to make of their methods? Are Chinese children paying a price for their obedience and the promise of future academic prowess? How much discipline is too much? And is the Chinese education system really what the West should measure itself against?
While Rainey was at school, Lenora embarked on a reporting mission to answer these questions in a larger context. Through a combination of the personal narratives and thoughts of teachers, parents, administrators and school children, Little Soldiers unpacks the story of education in China.
Lenora Chu is an American writer and journalist. She has worked as a television correspondent for Thomson Reuters and media consultant to universities and the private sector; her articles have appeared in CNNMoney, The New York Times, Science, Christian Science Monitor, and on National Public Radio programs. She holds degrees from Stanford University and Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism. She lives in Shanghai with her husband Rob Schmitz, National Public Radio's Shanghai correspondent, and their two sons.
Lenora Chu is a nimble storyteller with excellent comic timing . . . Little Soldiers is an argument for creative, for personality. And on those topics, it wins every time — Jamie Fisher, Times Literary Supplement
China is such a vast, contradictory land that the most illuminating books often explore it through in intense focus on a single topic . . . Education is a particularly transparent window, as demonstrated by the perceptive Little Soldiers, which turns over cultural rocks from bribery to the urban-divide while delving into the nation's school system. . . . Anyone will understand the country better after reading this book, the heart of which is Chu's experience of enrolling her 3-year-old son in an elite Shanghai pre-school — New York Times Book Review
I couldn't put this book down. Whip smart, hilariously funny and shocking. A must-read — Amy Chua, Yale Law Professor and author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
Riveting, provocative and unflinchingly candid, Little Soldiers is a must-read for parents, educators, and global citizens alike. — Gish Jen, Author of The Girl at the Baggage Claim
Little Soldiers is the best book I've read about education in China. Lenora Chu's . . . tells this personal story with great insight and humor, and it's combined with first-rate research into the current state of education in China. — Peter Hessler, New Yorker staff writer and author of River Town and Country Driving
I couldn't put this book down. It's a game changer that challenges our tendency to see education practices in black and white. — Madeline Levine, author of The Price of Privilege and Teach Your Children Well
Little Soldiers is a book that will endure. With honesty and a terrific sense of humor, Lenora Chu has produced not only an intimate portrait of raising a family far from home but also the most lucid and grounded account of modern Chinese education that I've ever seen. She brilliantly tests our notions of success and creativity, grit and talent, and never shrinks from her conclusions. — Evan Osnos, New Yorker staff writer, National Book Award-winning author of Age of Ambition
Through this combination of personal stories and investigative reporting, Chu opens a window on to the complex world of communist China and its competitive methodology, which helps raise highly efficient, obedient, intelligent children but also squelches individualism and spontaneous creativity from the beginning. It's a sometimes-chilling portrait of how hundreds of millions of children are being taught to obey as well as an interesting glimpse into the mindset of one couple who let their child stay in the system despite their misgivings. An informative, personal view of the Chinese and their educational system that will have many American readers cringing at the techniques used by the Chinese to create perfect students — Kirkus
Little Soldiers is written passion and an unparalleled commitment to telling stories... from inside the schooling juggernaut of the world. Little Soldiers also details the heartbreaking tales of junior high school dropouts and their subsequent life of desperation. A must read-a book you not be able to put down. — Scott Rozelle, Helen C. Farnsworth Professor at Standford University, and Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research
"Do the ends justify the means?" "Is a child's life for a parent or government to dictate, or is it their own?" "Should education be a rigid, hierarchical zero-sum game?" These questions and more lie at the heart of Chu's important book, which is necessary reading for educators, parents, and anyone interested in shaping the character and capabilities of the next generation of Americans. — Julie Lythchott-Haims, author of the New York Times bestseller How to Raise an Adult, and Stanford's former dean of freshman
Lenora Chu, a gifted journalist, has written a fascinating comparison of the US and Shanghai education systems. Little Soldiers offers important insights into the strengths and weaknesses of each. There is much to be learned here about the elements of a better education system for the 21st century — Tony Wagner, Expert in Residence, Harvard University Innovation Lab and author of The Global Achievement Gap and Creating Innovators
This engaging narrative is personalized by Chu's often humorous recollections of attending American schools as the daughter of immigrants. Little Soldiers offers fascinating peeks inside the world's largest educational system and at the future intellectual "soldiers" American kids will be facing — Dan Kaplan, Booklist
Anyone will understand the country better after reading this book . . . Chu vividly sketches the differences [between American and Chinese schools] in terms that will make readers ponder what they actually think about rote memorization and parents question their preferences for their own children — Alan Paul, author of One Way Out and Big in China, New York Times
No reporter has gone as deep as [Lenora Chu] has into what makes Chinese and American schools different today — Jay Matthews, The Washington Post