Let’s Go Climb a Tree!
It is reported that Xiamen University (XMU) is offering a new class this semester: Tree-Climbing. In June 2011, Zhu Chongshi, the President of XMU visited Cornell University in New York, and was so impressed with the course there that he instituted
it on the XMU campus.
At first glance such a course appears to be just another subject to allow lazy students to get easy credits—a “Mickey Mouse” class like “underwater basket-weaving”*—often cited by critics of university academic programs.
But a look at the “tree-climbing” page on the Cornell University website offers another picture. The staff who teach the subject come from many serious fields: forest management and logging, environmental studies and conservation, even engineering.
These professors do not just let the students climb with their bare hands. They teach the proper safety techniques like those used in rock-climbing: wearing helmets and other protective clothing, and using ropes and harnesses
to prevent falls and injuries. This discipline can be a valuable field survival skill, like swimming and the identification of edible plants in the wild. In a time of disaster such as floods, earthquakes, plane crashes, etc., such knowledge may make a difference between life and death.
It is also a challenging class in which students gain skills, physical strength and endurance
, triumphing over obstacles and earning a sense of mastery and belief in themselves that no classroom subject could ever give them. It is an example of the vast array
of possibilities that need to be available to students in our educational institutions, as they try out many aspects of life to find and develop their own particular inborn skills and talents that define their purpose of life.
The child should no longer be seen as an empty cup into which knowledge must be poured by an all-knowing teacher, but should be recognized as a mine rich in gems of inestimable
value waiting to be discovered, polished, and allowed to shine to illuminate
the world. I hope climbing trees will awaken the potential in many students!
Do you think this course appears to be just another subject to allow lazy students to get easy credits?