From the NYT
POSTCARD FROM BEIJINGIn China, Eugenics Determines Who Plays in School BandsBy DIDI KIRSTEN TATLOW DEC. 1, 2016“We’ve chosen your children according to their physical attributes,” the leader told a group of parents at a Beijing public elementary school. …Yet we had been called in to hear about the school’s music band, not a mission to Mars. So what was Teacher Wang talking about?Eugenics for music, it turns out. Teacher Wang proceeded to describe a program by which a group of 8-year-olds, selected purely on the basis of physical characteristics rather than interest, would build the best band in the world that would travel overseas and wow audiences with the flower of Chinese youth. Freaky enough, without a one-way ticket to Mars.“For the best band, we’ve chosen the best students and the best teachers,” Teacher Wang continued. …“I’ve looked at their teeth, at their arms, their height, everything, very carefully,” Teacher Wang said. “We don’t want anyone with asthma, or heart problems, or eye problems. And we want the smart kids; the quick learners.”“Your kids were chosen not because they want to play this or that instrument, but because they have long arms, or the right lips, or are the right height, say for the trumpet, or the drums,” he said.… During my years in China I’d learned about ideas on a person’s “quality,” or “suzhi,” — concepts that are widely accepted here but would probably discomfort liberal parents elsewhere. …Two other non-Chinese, 8-year-old friends of my daughter were among the chosen. The Italian mother of one said her daughter had been chosen for saxophone because the girl was strongly built.“The other girl playing the sax is a Russian, and she’s also pretty built up and strong,” said my friend. (I have omitted their names out of respect for their privacy and that of their children.)My friend recalled that some of the parents had asked Teacher Wang why he was choosing children in grade 2 now, rather than earlier when they were in grade 1. Teacher Wang’s reply: “Because in grade 1 their teeth are falling out,” she said. My friend said that Teacher Wang had personally inspected each child’s teeth, as if, she said, “they were horses in the market.”There was discussion of what kind of lips worked best for the trumpet.And in a statement that shocked both of us profoundly, Teacher Wang said something about how Africans had long arms and so would be good at particular instruments, such as the cello.
David Epstein’s book The Sports Gene
, which President Obama recently discoursed upon in Laos (see “Barack Obama Links US Olympic Success To Genetic Diversity
“), gives a lot of data on how one big factor in black domination of the NBA is longer wingspan relative to height than is typically found in whites. (See my review of Epstein’s book in Taki’s: “White Men Can’t Reach
The American father of the third girl said a dentist had visited the school to see which students’ teeth were best suited to play wind instruments. His daughter, braces-free, passed and is learning to play the clarinet.My daughter, who has some wonky teeth and braces, is a drummer. Apart from the teeth, I can see why; she has the mad energy of Animal in The Muppets and loves what the Chinese call “renao,” or “hot noise,” excitement.
To many Chinese, “hot and noisy” is like “home, sweet home” to the English.
As a parent who found the eugenics of it disturbing, what was Ito do? Everyone, including the parents of “long-armed” children, seemed O.K. with it.My daughter was pushing hard to be part of it.I gave in. And she loves it.
This reminds me of an interview a few Olympiads ago with a Chinese lady weightlifter. She said she’d been picked out as small (but large) child to be an Olympic lady weightlifter. She didn’t like weightlifting, but she had been promised that if she won a gold medal, she would be allowed to go to veterinary school.
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