Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Beware of Foreigners Bearing Gifts

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Beware of Foreigners Bearing Gifts

Article excerpt

American educators seem to be discovering and embracing all things Chinese these days. Educators and school board members are visiting the Middle Kingdom by the hundreds. Schools are being pressured to add Mandarin to their language offerings. Magazine articles, including some in Kappan, tout the importance and the attributes of international global education.

Promoters say Americans should learn more about the vast Chinese culture for economic and military reasons. Rarely, however, does anyone describe China's economic or military interests as reasons for that nation's tremendously ambitious promotion and exportation of its culture and language. In reality, the desire for power, whether economic or military, greatly affects the foreign and domestic policies of all nations.

With regard to China and the United States, this is particularly important to remember because the two countries have vastly different governments, economies, and mores. Add to those differences a history of distrust based on Western exploitation of China and Chinese military determination to counter U.S. "containment," and one understands the critical importance of viewing relations between the two nations from an informed perspective.

In 2007, I was part of a contingent of about a thousand educators from the United States and the Republic of Korea who spent a week in China at the invitation of Hanban, the Office of Chinese Language Council International, and the College Board.

In addition to school visits, we were treated to a welcoming ceremony in the Great Hall of the People, cultural performances throughout China, and visits to some of the major tourist attractions. The splendor of the Forbidden City and the immensity of the Great Wall brought childhood history lessons into tangible focus as we walked on stone pathways and stairs that were already worn when Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World. With its ancient heritage, its expansive territory, its swelling population, and its hunger for economic growth, China is truly a land of gargantuan proportions.

Admittedly, visiting China was a "once in a lifetime opportunity," but one must question why Hanban spends millions to facilitate visits by hordes of middle-aged American administrators who huff, puff, sweat, and tumble their way up and down the slopes and stairways of the Great Wall. …

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