School Vacations and Cultural Beliefs
Consider yourself a student in southeastern Asia… you wake up at 4AM, work in the rice paddy fields until 8am, go to school until 3pm, and then work in the rice paddy fields until the evening at which point you must work as efficiently as possible to get school work/studying done for the next day. It would make sense, as many would agree, however, that the hours spent in school for the students are the hours directed towards firmly grasping concepts and reviewing homework. Therefore, the majority of the learning is done during school, while out of school work is simply the cherry on top of an otherwise pretty well rounded education. However, the standards of learning are different, in the east. There is no school vacation. There is no spring break. There is no winter break. Various southeastern cultures will celebrate certain holidays, however, when it comes to student success, western civilizations put their hands in the air because we westerners believe it is totally necessary to have a break and to spend time rejuvenating, etc.
But this would all make sense given our cultural believes wouldn’t it? Western civilizations such as the United States is often on the go, always moving, always trying to progress forward but yet always in such a great amount of stress that we have some of the highest suicide rates in the entire world. How is it that we have such a successful country, with successful people, with plenty of ‘downtime’ integrated into our school/life schedule, yet we have some of the most unsatisfied, unhappy groups of people?
This is where cultural beliefs come into play- and I’ll loop back to the school vacations in a minute. The west believes that if we work so hard, we all deserve a day off, or a week off, or a month off, etc. The idea that hard work grants celebrations is something that many cultures believe in, but specifically in the United States, hard work, beginning as a child, is often followed up with lofty gifts, holidays from school, and an overall sense of belief that begins to become cemented at our core that if we perform difficult tasks for a certain amount of time, we NEED a vacation. Vacations become depended upon in order go generate success. It is a vicious cycle. The child needs to be rewarded for hard work in some shape or form, otherwise, it will seem as though it has gone completely unnoticed, and will eventually eat away at the very ego that has been built upon the persons own free will.
The eastern portion of the continents, specifically as mentioned above, southeastern Asia, raises their children differently. Hard work is ingrained into their curriculum, in school and outside of school. Children begin work at a very young age, and persistently difficult work is met with more hard work, and with it, a dedicated purpose. This purpose that the individual cultivates at such a young age permeates into the way they behave, and thus, gives the person a will to live in society. In short, this is the puzzle piece that many of us westerners are unable to ‘find’ in ourselves. We yearn for success, yet we are somehow never happy, or joyous. We want the best for everyone around us, and yet depend upon others to make us happy and inevitably spend the least amount of time finding the best within ourselves. In essence, this is why the upper 1% exists. These people have found a purpose and have dedicated their lives to it. Whether the entire population of the United States is ready to dedicate their entire lives to something without a vacation, or without time off, is the key to this article.
I write this, as I am on winter break, in between medical school pre-requisites, and have been pondering on this very topic: why is it that I feel the need for a vacation, like my brain depends on it, and yet after a week of being “off”, I am yearning for more work, wanting and wishing that the break didn’t exist so that I didn’t have to expend energy on the transition between me playing golf and relaxing on my couch to me being back to work 40 hours a week studying. This transition is so taxing, to me atleast, that it takes me another month after school is back in session to get back to the same task-minded process I was in prior to the break.
School vacations are a necessary evil in the western culture: they are used to recharge, reassess, and spend time with families. However, they engrain in our society, at a young individuals age, that we NEED them in order to perform optimally. This need, in essence, creates a necessary evil in our society, as westerners, and as I sit here, I wonder to myself, what would the world be like, if we all adopted a southeastern Asian mindset?
-Thoughts of being on break-