3nd Year Week 8 TT03

Topic: Discuss the generation gap

Translate the following 347 highlighted words into Chinese.

Cultural feedback in China

"You are wrong! My son told me that..." blurted out Zhou Xian, a professor from the Chinese Department of Nanjing University during a heated discussion with several of his colleagues over a computer problem.

By saying that, Zhou no longer put himself in the position of a senior or the authoritative person in front of his son. It is now very common that Chinese parents are willing to be the students of their children in learning some modern things such as computers.

It used to be only right and proper that elders transmitted knowledge to the younger generations.

This basic principle has been followed by people ever since society entered the stage of civilization.

Within the family, parents have long been the authoritative ones and kept the role of instructor while children were the learners.

The long established relationship between parents and their children is ruthlessly being challenged today.

As early as the 1940s, the phrase "generation gap" appeared and aroused general concern among the world's anthropologists and sociologists.

The clash between the two generations presage the crisis of the traditional cultural transmission model.

"The cultural feedback is a new model of parent-child transmission that emerges in a time of drastic social changes," said Zhou Xiaohong, professor from the Social Psychology Institute of Nanjing University.

As a researcher in sociology, Zhou began to notice the same phenomenon in China in the late 1980s.

"When China opened its door to the outside world in the late 1970s, society experienced very rapid changes in almost every aspect of life," Zhou said.

China suddenly faced a new and modernized world after years of stagnation. Before many of the elder generations even realized what was happening, they found that they had been left behind.

"It is almost a flashy process that the elder generations slipped from the most revered and respected ones in the family and became 'out-of-date'," said Zhou. "The process happened so quickly that it is incomparable in any other country," he added.

Zhou said he became interested in studying the subject after what happened in his own family.

Zhou recalled a scene from 15 years ago when his father, an old military officer who had served in the army for more than 40 years, gave him 200 yuan (US$12) to buy a suit of clothes. Zhou was then a university student.

"Don't buy a Western-style suit," Zhou's father reminded him when he handed over the money.

"In his eyes, wearing a Western-style suit meant that one followed the lifestyle of Western capitalism."

Zhou said despite the fact that he had worn jeans to school behind his father's back, he still bought a Mao suit according to his father's will.

Three years later, however, Zhou was greatly surprised by his father's change.

"On new year's day of the 1988 Spring Festival, my father woke me up early in the morning," Zhou said. "He took out from a cabinet a Western-style suit and asked me to teach him how to tie the necktie."

This created a strong impact on Zhou and he realized that the "cultural feedback" phenomenon that was described by the foreign sociologists years ago was occurring in China.

Inspired by the incident, Zhou further examined the phenomenon and published within the year a research paper, "On the Significance of Contemporary Cultural Feedback of Chinese Youth."

"Cultural feedback," according to Zhou's research, covers a wide range of fields, from values, life attitude, formation of social behaviour models to knowledge and use of new implements.

"Children's capability to teach their parents or their rhetorical power mainly comes from their higher sensitivity and acceptability to new things. Less restricted from tradition, they enjoy the convenience of gaining social messages from media, advertising and markets," Zhou wrote in his newly published thesis, "Cultural Feedback: The Parent-child Transmission in Changing Society."

The "feedback" phenomenon has given the older Chinese generations a difficult experience.

"I felt embarrassed or even humiliated in front of my children when they talked to me in the tone of a teacher," said Chen Jing, 60, a Beijing doctor with four children. "By and by, I became used to it and gradually overcame the psychological barrier in my mind. I have to confess that the younger generation is more capable than us since they have so many channels to get knowledge and are much quicker in accepting and learning new things," she said.

Like Chen, many parents have had the same experience. Wang Jingting, 55, a retired accountant from Tianjin, said he not only asks his three daughters for advice when he runs into problems "and sometimes my 8-year-old granddaughter talks to me like a teacher."

Wang said people his age have experienced the "cultural revolution" (1966-76) and other political movements. "Living in an atmosphere that followed the policy of national isolation, we had been taught to follow the same value and understand things under a single standard.

"The younger generations, however, have lived in the open and free atmosphere which gives them more and easier access to things. More importantly, they make their own judgments and have their own understanding toward life," he said.

In 1995 and 1998, Zhou led a group of researchers and made surveys of "cultural feedback." Nine families were invited to hold group discussions on the subject. During the discussions, Zhou found to his surprise that "feedback" occurred more often than they had expected.

During the survey, they found that in almost every family parents learn or get advice from their children. Not only parents who received little education said that they were not as good as their children, those with high learning also admitted that their children often took the role of "teacher" in their life.

Zhou Xian, 44, a professor from Nanjing University, said that he is influenced by his 15-year-old son through knowledge and information. Zhou said most of his knowledge of new technology, medicine and history come from his son, who has become an important source of all sorts of information including news, cultural, life and consumer information.

"The most distinguishing character of today's children compared to our generation is that they have the ability to influence their parents while we had no such thing," he said.

Young people have shown in many aspects of life their strong interest and ability to quickly adapt to new things - from the use of computers to the rules of market economy.

Zhou is not alone in studying the subject.

A group of researchers, including specialists in education, sociology, and psychology around the country, have also shown their interest in the phenomenon.

In 1998, a seminar was held in Beijing to discuss the topic. At the end of the year, a book, "Learn from Children," compiled by the China Youth and Teenager Research Centre was published. The book has touched the readers with its detailed description of the paradox between generations living in the same time.

"The influence from the next generation is a big challenge which is tempting all of us," said Kang Liying, vice-director of China Youth and Teenage Research Centre.

Kang wrote in "Learn from Children" that today's children possess many fine qualities that can actively influence their parents. Kang summed up 10 qualities acquired by the young generation: they enjoy receiving new things and thoughts, have strong initiative and sense of equality, legal awareness and self-protection, enthusiastic participates in social activities, have strong public ethics, easily accept the awareness of environment protection, believe in reality, work hard, relax actively and have wide interests.

"Cultural feedback is a result of the changing society," said Zhou. "It transforms the world from the single model of cultural transmission to multiple ones in the modern society."