Goodbye Shanghai

上海拜拜

As I have finished my time at Collective Responsibility, I’ve begun to think how I can bring this experience back home. I’ve learned a lot about the education of migrant children in Shanghai, and I think the greatest problem that I’ve found is the lack of mentorship that they have throughout their education. Other problems, like the low quality of the facilities or resources they can access can be fixed with a little more government funding, but a lack of mentorship is hard to fix. It relies on people willing to put effort into supporting migrant children to provide them with new perspective and opportunities. Many migrant children don’t see a point in studying hard, since they most likely will not be able to pursue higher education with their limited means and rural status. Children from more well-off migrant families often do not have a proper family mentorship either. I met a third-grade boy who has been in boarding school since kindergarten. He was at a summer camp put on by a government-sponsored community center. However, the emergency contacts the center had on file for him were not his parents, but the parents of the friend that he was staying with during the summer. I don’t know how long it has been since he has last seen his parents.

To me, this represents another problem that mirrors the left-behind children crisis, where migrant children are increasingly divided into two groups: one that is poorer but is with their family, and one that is richer but can never see their parents.

Honestly, the problem does not have an exact parallel in America, as our government policies do not create such a problem for such a huge part of the population. However, I think that the United States faces problems similar to this, like the substandard educational quality in some urban public schools, or deportations breaking apart American-born children from their immigrant parents.

Through my Loewenstern experience, I have more deeply realized that government and governance is more complicated than I thought. It is easy to criticize another government for its problems, but it is not so easy to look at your own logically and pragmatically without being defensive. Every form of governance requires sacrificing something to gain something else. It is often easy to see the root of a problem, but solving it in a way that does not dramatically and suddenly change people’s lives is extremely difficult. Furthermore, conveying the rationale for certain policy decision is even harder, especially if you do not agree with a certain governing ideal. However, I think one thing that many can agree on is the importance of transparency in government, in the sense that it is important for citizens to know what policies and decisions the government has made. Only then can the people determine if their government is working for them, and not for someone or something else.

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