Category Archives: education

Q&A with a Russian friend (see download links or attached PDF)

PDF attachment: Q&A with a Russian Friend

Sometimes it is helpful for the Hidden Harmonies audience to remember that China is not alone in being demonized by the mainstream western (primarily US) media. Any country that doesn’t “fit” neatly into the US “liberal-democratic” ideological dogma will naturally be painted as some kind of morally degenerate rogue state out to undermine “good” and “normal” countries. In fact, recently, no country is more demonized than Russia (not even the PRC).

That said, one of the major problems I see is that while we may recognize that we’re not alone, due to potential language/cultural barriers, lack of awareness, our Sino-centric mindset/attention span, and a host of other possible reasons, we often do not truly understand the perspectives of others (e.g. Russians) who are demonized. This is especially the case if our primary source of information about these other countries is the western media. I hope the contributors at Hidden Harmonies can begin to fix this problem, and I’ve taken a small step to start. Continue reading Q&A with a Russian friend (see download links or attached PDF)

Revisiting “Tiger Mom”, and where “Individualism” failed (with a Sleeveless Pineapple)

Recently, I had an interesting debate about the “Tiger Mom” culture in Asia, against the backdrop of a Chinese American mother who criticized the Tiger Mom’s suppression of children’s “autonomy”.  So, since we had lively discussions of this subject here, (http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2011/01/13/the-truth-is-out-amy-chuas-chinese-moms-attack-on-american-moms-is-actually-a-wall-street-journal-creation/), I thought we should visit with some updates.

First, it’s actually amazing how many people criticize “Tiger Mom” without actually reading what she wrote.

More details on this later, but let me just say that Chinese children are not born or brought up to be mindless robots.  Plenty of them get into trouble, plenty grow up to disobey and challenge authority.  Tiger Mom is about challenging a child’s autonomy.  Amy Chua’s own 2 daughters questioned everything she made them do.  In challenging the child’s autonomy, the child must struggle to strengthen his/her own will and discipline.  Without self-will and self-discipline, autonomy/”individualism” is weak and useless.  My parents never tried to “suppress” my autonomy.  On the contrary, they always insisted to push me to learn to do the right things on my own initiative.

Second, I’m yet again reminded of how non-individualistic Chinese kids are, and how creative and individualistic Western children are.  Beyond the obvious (and somewhat racist) stereotype that such assumptions are based on, I came across this rather interesting story:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/21/nyregion/standardized-testing-is-blamed-for-question-about-a-sleeveless-pineapple.html.

Continue reading Revisiting “Tiger Mom”, and where “Individualism” failed (with a Sleeveless Pineapple)

Why did China ban Google? And why do the West try to shut down the Confucian Institute?

The common western narrative is that China’s government is oppressive and fear that its citizens would discover freedom and democracy through those websites. On the social-economic level, they imply that China’s leadership lack confidence when dealing with the western world. The underlying message is that that those rich multi-billion corporations are somehow purveyor of freedom and democracy. Google even used “Don’t be evil” as its formal corporate motto. Continue reading Why did China ban Google? And why do the West try to shut down the Confucian Institute?

My impressions of China so far

I have now been living in China for almost 4 month and I’d like to write a little about my impressions so far from personal experience and in talking to the people. As you all know by now, my views on things like the rule of law, human rights and democracy may be quite different from some of yours (see the posts and comments here, here, here, here, here and here for example).

Continue reading My impressions of China so far

Responding to China Law Blog: “Chinese Students In America. It’s Bad Out There.”

Dan Harris over at China Law Blog made a bold post today relaying complaints students at the University of Washington have for their fellow international students from Mainland China. He qualified that the complaints were directed at students from China and not of students with Chinese ethnicity. He also qualified the students whom he got the complaints were “sophisticated, intelligent, and well-traveled.”

In this post, I’d like to address those complaints. Before I get into it though, I’d like to make several observations. Continue reading Responding to China Law Blog: “Chinese Students In America. It’s Bad Out There.”

A conversation with Shaun Rein on China

(On January 5, 2012, I sat down with Shaun Rein, founder and Managing Director of the China Market Research Group, to talk about China. He gave us his insights into major events of 2011. In this hour-long interview, we touched on many topics: pollution, CNN and Christian Bale’s recent run-in with Chinese police, food safety, Weibo, and so on.)

YinYang:2011 was another eventful year for China. Just when her bullet train seems unstoppable, a fatal collision left the whole country in doubt. China achieved space docking, something only the U.S. and Russia have managed. Then there was Tiger Mom.

I have invited a real China expert to weigh in on these events and other events that mattered to China. What were the Chinese narratives? How did the Chinese feel about them? I couldn’t have found a better person to do this with. Continue reading A conversation with Shaun Rein on China

100,000 Strong Initiative taking baby steps

In the current Strategic and Economic Dialog between U.S. and China, Secretary Clinton reiterated the importance of the 100,000 Strong Initiative. According to the Institute of International Education, there are ten times more Chinese students studying in the U.S. than the other way around. The initiative is to raise the number of Americans studying in China to 100,000 in four years. Clinton said it is “an essential building block to a more solid foundation of a relationship going forward.” China believes in this initiative as well and has already committed 10,000 “Bridge Scholarships.” This initiative was announced last year, so how far has it come along?
Continue reading 100,000 Strong Initiative taking baby steps

Salman Khan: Let’s use video to reinvent education

This 20 minute video is worth watching if you have thought about how technology impacts education. A friend of mine who used to develop games at Electronic Arts is now writing software for Khan Academy. Their collection of ideas could have a significant impact in education. The organization has gotten Bill Gates very much excited too. Pay attention to the teachers dashboard. Pretty fascinating. Technology may finally make the type of inroads people have been predicting for the last few decades. Not because of technology per se, but because of the ideas.

Amy Chua would be proud of China’s “奶茶MM” (“Milk Tea Sister”)

Now that parenting and education is the talk of the nation across America, I thought I relay a wildly popular story from 2010 in China, another view into Amy Chua’s “Chinese mom.” Enter “奶茶妹妹” or “奶茶mm” on Baidu.com if you wish to research this story yourself.

奶茶mm ("Milk Tea Sister")

Back in 2009, a student posted this image of her friend in a forum on 猫扑 (mop.com), admiring her good looks. This girl quickly became a sensation, and soon, her photo was forwarded around the Internet. Once public curiosity has set in, 人肉搜索 (human flesh search) started offline. She became known as “奶茶mm,” short for 奶茶妹妹 (milk tea younger sister). They found her a sophomore at the Nanjing Foreign Language high school. She turned out to be 章泽天 (Zhang Zetian).

Of course, and understandably, there were many who opposed the public attention (in Chinese) given to Zhang, especially with such superficial circumstance behind her fame. As more was discovered about her, Chinese netizens began to adore her. Certainly, many were critical of her.
Continue reading Amy Chua would be proud of China’s “奶茶MM” (“Milk Tea Sister”)

The truth is out; Amy Chua’s “Chinese moms” attack on “American moms” is actually a Wall Street Journal creation

If you are visiting America, you might get a feeling America’s moms have just been slapped in the face by their Chinese counter-parts. All this started with a recent article by Amy Chua (see my prior post A bombshell at the WSJ by Amy Chua: “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior”) at the Wall Street Journal.

Thanks to our reader Chops for alerting us to an article out today in the San Francisco Chronicle by Jeff Yang. It turns out, the original article was really a Wall Street Journal spin or creation, including the title. As I concluded in my prior post, Amy Chua is not that same mother portrayed in the article nor is her book. Yang writes:

Chua responded to a brief message I sent her introducing myself and asking for an interview by saying that she was glad to hear from me, as she’d been looking for a way to discuss her misgivings about the Journal article. Apparently, it had been edited without her input, and by the time she saw the version they intended to run, she was limited in what she could do to alter it.
Continue reading The truth is out; Amy Chua’s “Chinese moms” attack on “American moms” is actually a Wall Street Journal creation

A bombshell at the WSJ by Amy Chua: “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior”

Amy Chua with her daughters, Louisa and Sophia, at their home in New Haven, Conn. (WSJ)
First of all, Amy Chua is a professor at Yale Law School and author of a number of books. Her daughters are already accomplished musicians. By all accounts, her family epitomizes an American dream come true.

Her article, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” in the WSJ has already elicited 2700+ comments, probably a new record for the paper. Let’s just say, there are many more upset American moms today than there were just two days ago. Here, a Boston Herald mom writes:

Chua’s premise: “Western” moms — her euphemism — are permissive and raising a nation of losers. Chinese-American mothers are strict and produce intellectual rock stars.

Continue reading A bombshell at the WSJ by Amy Chua: “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior”

The Open CourseWare Consortium: Help Make Education Free

Project Hope is one of my favorite organizations, because it brings education to the rural poor of China. Education is the biggest social equalizer, unlocking opportunities to higher paying jobs for those who are otherwise destined for a life of destitution.

At a more macro level between nation states, education is a equalizer too. In that context, there is a equalizer movement that has emerged in the last ten years: the OpenCourseWareConsortium (OCW).

It first started in 1999 at MIT as a distance learning initiative lead by Computer Science professor Hal Abelson. The idea was to make MIT’s course materials available and free online to anyone around the world. By the start of the 2003 school year, MIT had published 500 course-wares through this initiative. As of today, almost all of MIT’s course materials are online, according to the university’s version of Open CourseWare. In 2005, MIT and other universities around the world banded together to form the Open CourseWare Consortium. (Wikipedia)
Continue reading The Open CourseWare Consortium: Help Make Education Free

PISA 2009 and Education in a competitive world

I remember an interview on Charlie Rose of Bill Gates about globalization few years ago. This was around the time when Thomas Friedman wrote his famous book, “The World is Flat.” Gates made the comment that in a flat world, everyone will be competing for the right to work. There are no such jobs reserved for anyone. Certainly there are certain jobs reserved for within each national borders. For example, the President. But, is there doubt competing for that is ultra competitive?

It comes as of no surprise that American business leaders are pushing the U.S. government to make education a top priority. Corporate America prefers to hire highly skilled and educated Americans rather than foreigners for obvious reasons; one of which is to avoid political heat at home for being ‘unpatriotic.’ Here is Intel CEO, Paul Otellini making a case for investing in education: “The Long Look Ahead: The Economic Crisis and the Importance of Investing“, addressed to the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., on Feb. 10, 2009. He argues how education is directly related to the health of an innovative economy.
Continue reading PISA 2009 and Education in a competitive world

希望工程 (Project Hope), bringing education to China’s rural poor

There is no gift better than the gift of education. As 2010 is soon coming to a close, some of you may be considering where to make donations. My favorite charity is the China Youth Development Foundation’s Project Hope (希望工程). In terms of scale and impact, it is one of the top charities in the world. In recognition for how critical Project Hope is to alleviating poverty in China and to provide equal opportunities to all, Deng Xiaoping wrote the calligraphy, “希望工程,” which became part of the logo for the organization.

Project Hope’s mission is to bring education to the poorest parts of China. (By the way, we have been researching China related charity organizations. Too see some other reputable ones, please click on the “China Charities” link in the navigation menu near the top of this page.)
Continue reading 希望工程 (Project Hope), bringing education to China’s rural poor

Friendships are Made on a Personal Level, One at a Time

Despite the recent China bashing, which I believe is serious and dangerous, I can’t but keep myself from smiling when I read stories like this, which reveal the thousands upon thousands of bonds formed between ordinary Chinese and Americans every year…

By Jeanne Kniaz, Voice Reporter

While most travelers abroad seem content to return with souvenirs such as porcelain or silk, Maria Schapman, 23, of Memphis brought home a living, breathing treasure made in China and nurtured here. Continue reading Friendships are Made on a Personal Level, One at a Time

Why does the Dalai Lama’s Visit “Anger” China so Much?

So yesterday I was having dinner with a good friend from the East Coast. And the topic of Obama’s recent meeting with the Dalai Lama came up.

“Why does the Dalai Lama Visit anger China so much,” he asked, among other questions.

On the one hand, the question my friend asks is very legit.  The Chinese government holds all the cards.  With every passing day, Tibet is changing. What do they have to worry about an “old, limping, but kind and gentle-hearted monk”? Continue reading Why does the Dalai Lama’s Visit “Anger” China so Much?

Learning about the Chinese Mind through Chinese Food

This may not be a profound truth that I just discovered, but have you noticed that Chinese food and Chinese thinking have a lot to do with each other? Obvious as it may seem, one can become more reflective after encounters with another type of food and thinking behind it. In my case, the comparison is between China and America.

1. In cooking we don’t have “1 cup”, “1/4 cup”, “1 teaspoon” measurement, we say “a little salt”. Exactly how little is little, it’s all a matter of exposure (to other cooks), exchange (of experience) and experience (of your own practice). We don’t have “preheat oven to 425 degrees” either, we say “small fire”, “medium fire”, “”big fire”. Scratch your head and think what these mean. The Chinese mind is similarly conditioned to process such chaotic vagueness with ease and patience.

Continue reading Learning about the Chinese Mind through Chinese Food

Interview with Dr. Edwina Pendarvis (III): Teacher and Parent Roles in Education

Question: In your opinion, are teachers in the US given enough latitude to teach effectively?

IDEA (a law for programs for students with disabilities), Title I (a part of a law for programs for economically disadvantaged students), our equal opportunity laws and even, to a certain extent, the No Child Left Behind law, as well as many other laws and influences have created a system that does a good job at providing the basics (except computer basics ) to almost all students. In doing that, we’ve made teachers’ jobs much harder (though it’s worth it). Continue reading Interview with Dr. Edwina Pendarvis (III): Teacher and Parent Roles in Education

Interview with Dr. Edwina Pendarvis (II): Chinese vs. US Education

Question: If you can comment on the differences between the Chinese and US educational systems that would be great. If not, from your experience working with US students and Chinese students, what are some of the things that stand out to you as being very different? What could Chinese students learn from their US counterparts and what could American students learn from their Chinese counterparts?

Dr. Pendarvis: Lucky for you I know very little about the Chinese educational system, and so I won’t go on so long in answering this question! I can only talk about the few Chinese students I’ve worked with. They were ALL more intellectual and interested in ideas than most American students I’ve taught. They were also more respectful of others’ ideas, including the professors. Whatever their private thoughts, they consistently asked questions rather than dismissing others’ ideas without giving them much thought. Continue reading Interview with Dr. Edwina Pendarvis (II): Chinese vs. US Education

Interview with Dr. Edwina Pendarvis (I): Anti-Intellectualism in US Schools

Recently there has been much discussion in both China and the US about the advantages or disadvantages of education in both countries. For instance, Mr. Robert Compton made a movie called 2 Million Minutes, which advocates learning from China and India in its K12 education. Views by Mr. Compton was largely rejected by scholars such as Dr. Zhao from Michigan State University who suggests the US system is doing fine while the Chinese one needs reform. In the meantime, someone in China seems to have forged an article by Benno C. Schmidt, Jr., former President of Yale, attacking Chinese higher education as basically a joke. If that article showed anything, it indicates extreme dissatisfaction with the Chinese educational system.

During such discussions on the differences between Chinese and American education, we interviewed Dr. Edwina Pendarvis for her input on what went wrong with the US education. Dr. Pendarvis is Professor Emeritus of Gifted Education at Marshall University and an Internationally recognized scholar of high-achieving students. Continue reading Interview with Dr. Edwina Pendarvis (I): Anti-Intellectualism in US Schools

Reflections on the Compton-Zhao Debate

Video: The Zhao vs. Compton Debate

It’s surreal to hear Dr. Zhao from China working in the US defending the US educational system while Mr. Compton advocating that the US learn from China’s system. One thing is for sure: the world is getting flat.

The rest are open to debate.

As I watched this debate, a story that came to mind was the meteorologist forecasting a severely cold winter after seeing Indians hording chopped wood, while the Indian got the idea from the meteorologist who had suggested earlier that the winter would probably be cold. This happens when you make comparisons between two moving targets. In recent years, China is learning from “developed countries” such as US itself, ways to move away from the test-driven education system toward more “rounded education”. I am a reviewer of an educational journal in China and I constantly find papers describing “US experiences” and their implication for China. In the meantime, school curriculum is including an increasing number of subjects that Mr. Compton might be laughing at, such as life skills training. And here we are: Mr. Compton told us that the US should learn from China. Now what? Continue reading Reflections on the Compton-Zhao Debate

Cross Cultural Dating

17m Now that many non-Chinese have moved to China and many native Chinese live throughout the world, cross cultural dating has become far more common. For someone leaving mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong or Singapore and moving to a western country, what are some of the cultural pitfalls and traps you need to avoid and adjustments you need to make? For someone moving to any of those four areas, the same questions apply. Are the “rules” different for Chinese women dating outside their culture as compared to Chinese men doing the same?

My direct experience isn’t too pertinent since I met my wife in Phoenix and she had already been living in the States for nine years, but there were still many adjustments we (mostly I) had to make. She was the first Asian woman I had ever dated so I didn’t fall into the “yellow fever” category. However, when I was living in mainland China and Taiwan, I had a chance to observe, ask questions and learn more from others involved in cross cultural relationships.

Continue reading Cross Cultural Dating

Green Dam-Youth Escort

China Internet

It seems the western media and Chinese blogosphere agree on one thing; Green Dam is not winning any popularity contests. Today, the Chinese government backed down on the mandatory usage of the software, though it will still come either pre-loaded or be included on a compact disc with all PCs sold on the  mainland from July 1st.

There are several problems associated with this software, each one an interesting topic in itself. I’d like to run down the issues associated with its release, one by one.

1) Why the sudden announcement of this invasive software with virtually no implementation time given to the manufacturers?
Continue reading Green Dam-Youth Escort

(Letter from bai ding) 五三濟南慘案 The Massacre of Ji Nan on May 3, 1928

漢節拼來一烈屍,危城罵敵蔡公時。
傷心我未磨新劍,直筆空題恭敬辭。
— 白丁
The martyr’s name is Cai Gong Shi (蔡公時). Ji Nan (濟南) is a city in the Shan Dong (山東) Province. Here is a brief background of Cai before he was murdered by the Japanese. He was born in 1881 in Jiu Jiang (九江) of Jiang Xi (江西). When he was 18, he had risked everything to organize a progressive group called the “Beware of Stains” (慎所染齋). Later, it was banned by the Manchu government. He then traveled to Japan and attended school. After he heard Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s speech, he was so moved that he joined Sun’s United Democrats Society (同盟會). He and Sun’s comrade Huang Xing (黄興) returned to China and worked secretly in Jiangxi to overthrow the Manchu. After Sun’s Revolution in 1911, he joined the Kuomintang’s campaign against Yuan Shi Kai (袁世凱). The first campaign was a loss and he had to flee to Japan again. He studied in Tokyo’s Imperial University. Yuan Shi Kai seized all his property in China and his first wife died in grief and fear.
Continue reading (Letter from bai ding) 五三濟南慘案 The Massacre of Ji Nan on May 3, 1928

My Tibetan Students and I

The following essay (translated below) written by somebody named “Crystal” was posted to Woeser’s blog. I am not sure that is the origin of the article, as some attribute it to 《联合早报》 (their version here). But it has been slowly spreading since to other sites like Anti-CNN, MITBBS, and Minkaohan forums. I think it’s a very good essay, informative and incisive.

I will also post some comments from those other sites. Feel free to chime in.

Continue reading My Tibetan Students and I

"Surprisingly", Compulsory Education is Free!

Education is important to China’s future, and education reform has been a long drawn-out complex process, which people of all stripes agree has basically been inadequate. From the early days of Project Hope corruption to the current education spending that still hasn’t reached the 4%-of-GDP target set by the central government, people have much to complain about. Among all the problems, one most depressing had to have been that basic primary/secondary education required all kinds of fees and therefore no universal access to education existed.

Recently, this topic of compulsory education came up again in the news, and the focus is again on whether the government does not have the resources or will to further invest in education. Here is a translated commentary that will open our debate here. It is seen on the China Elections & Governance web site (joint project between Carter Center and Renmin University), itself a treasure trove of current policy thinking.
Continue reading "Surprisingly", Compulsory Education is Free!

Translation: Back to Lhasa (Part II)

[Editor’s note: Previously we have translated Back to Lhasa (Part I) . The following are translations by Allen of journal entries 回到拉萨之六七八 Back to Lhasa (chapters 6-8)– originally posted on Jan 25, 2009]

Return to Lhasa (6): Drinking with the sky burial masters

North of Lhasa, in the Nyangri mountains, is a famed temple named “Pabongka.” Located on a turtle shaped stone, the temple surprisingly receives few outside tourists these days. According to legend, Songtsen Gampo and Princess Wen Cheng once lived there. The temple is also the birthplace of the Tibetan language. Stored in the temple are the earliest stone tablets of carved Tibetan alphabets known. Although the temple is small, it occupies a special place in Tibetan hearts for its historical importance both in the context of Tibetan language as well as Tibetan Buddhism. Continue reading Translation: Back to Lhasa (Part II)

Translation: Back to Lhasa (Part I)

[Editor’s note: The following are translations by Charles Liu (Introduction and Chapters 1-4) and Allen (Chapter 5 and overall editing)  of journal entries  Back to Lhasa (回到拉萨 (未完待续,超长慎入)) – Part I (chapter 1-5) posted on Jan 18, 2009.]

Preface

The author of this journal, Zhen Fu, then a college student, traveled alone to Tibet for the first time in 2003. It would be a life-changing experience. Not only did she fulfill her life-time dream of traveling to the mysterious land that is Tibet: to see its majestic beauty, to meet its remarkable people and to witness their remarkable culture, but Zhen also met her future husband, Mingji Mao, during her journey. Together they would write a book “Diaries from Tibet” based on their true love story. They made a promise to return to Tibet together.  Five years later, Zhen and Mingji fulfilled this promise. This article is about what they saw on their return to Lhasa at the end of 2008.

Continue reading Translation: Back to Lhasa (Part I)

Serfs' Emancipation Day for Tibet

The following article appeared in the BBC News Online today:

Serfs’ Emancipation Day for Tibet

By James Reynolds
Beijing

China has declared a new annual holiday in Tibet called Serfs’ Emancipation Day, to mark the end of what it says was a system of feudal oppression.

The local parliament in Tibet has passed a bill which declares 28 March as the new holiday.

The announcement comes in the run-up to the 50th anniversary of the escape into exile of the Dalai Lama.

The 49th anniversary a year ago led to widespread protests by monks and others in and around Tibet.

Continue reading Serfs' Emancipation Day for Tibet