Training ‘Talent’ (II)

January 3, 2014 2 mins read
Training ‘Talent’ (II)

Let’s reflect for a moment on the most “crucial” component of talent—academic achievement. In China, there are study whizzes everywhere.

For example, the student who tests the best in each province is named the Number One Scholar. The fact that this title has been used for so long in China goes to show the deep-rootedness of traditional, feudal ideas in the Chinese mindset. Despite the saying “In the humanities there is no ‘number one’; in the martial arts there is no ‘number two’”, people still fight for the top title of Number One Scholar.

In olden times, the Number One Scholar was the epitome of a studying fanatic. Though the distant concepts of the imperial civil-service exams and the eight-part essay are things of the past, the title Number One Scholar persists, carrying on the legacy of this type of mindset. Why do we never hear of people outside of China talking about how so and so is the top student in the country, or going around singing the praises of some so-called Number One Scholar? Some people may ask: If tests and grades aren’t important, then what is? In China, without good grades you can’t attend a good college, which means you won’t get a good job. Every parent spouts these ideas, and every student has heard them more times than they can count.

Do good grades, a good university and a good job, however, actually mean real talent? We should reflect on why, though China has millions of people looking for work, companies can’t find the talent they need. We should take a moment and ask some unemployed and employed young people what type of job they feel actually suits them. I’m confident over two-thirds of them won’t know how to answer. Everyone thinks talent is determined by good grades on the college entrance examinations, then graduating with good grades from university.

Aside from studying and testing, however, what can they actually do? An employer doesn’t need you to study or prepare for some test. What skills do you actually have? In Chinese, the word ‘talent’ is comprised of two characters, one meaning ‘useful material’ (e.g. lumber or money), the other meaning ‘person’. The meaning is straightforward and simple: a ‘talented’ person is a useful person. 

Morgan McKinley