Shame is a very powerful emotion. Actually, it doesn't exist in the list of standard global emotions (Ekman) which can be recognized by facial expression, namely:
I'd argue that here in Asia it plays a HUGE role, both in education and parenting. It was something that came out of my discussion with my son's teacher today about just why he gets so worried and anxious about the times tables test, and in my discussion with my son a little later. (He did pass the test by the way, so onwards and upwards to the 11 x table). Apparently he'd done well on his latest standardized maths assessment, but the teacher wondered how much was due to the fact he'd been allowed to do it alone one-on-one rather than in a large group setting. He'd also been the one child after an exercise in probability and dice throwing today who could summarize the concept of probability and why some numbers were more likely to come up than others (with 2 dice).
A lot of what happened to him in the Chinese system seems to have involved shame. And he's carried forward all that shame and humiliation into a context where it's not the default mode of ensuring compliance. And yet, he self reports that during timed tests all he can think about is who is already finished, how slow he is in comparison and worrying about being the last to finish, rather than focusing on the task on hand. I've realized now that a lot of his crying and upset last night was shame based.
Talking about shame based parenting - I was sent an excellent link today of 2 Chinese girl's rebuttal of Tiger style parenting - The Complete book of Combat with Mum. "The idea for the guide came to Leshui when she returned home from an examination in which she had performed badly.