Let the PRC Fund (Broke) US Primary Schools

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 2/16/2011 12:01:00 AM
We see in China things we used to see in ourselves...can do, initiative...that used to be us! - Thomas Friedman

I've been watching the BBC's interesting series The Chinese are Coming documenting the effects of China's rise on the continents of Africa [episode 1], South America and North America [episode 2]. Sorry readers outside the UK, these are supposed to be only available to local viewers--but that should give you a clue about what to do if you really want to watch. Display some Chinese-style initiative instead of American-style La-Z-Boy sloth.

This blog has long featured stories on China's activities in Africa and its associated controversies. More recently, I discussed the emergence of "bikini wars" between Brazil and China based on a story that comes from the second episode of this documentary. It turns out that, aside from Thomas Friedman dumping on how pathetic America has become--plenty obvious even for that flat earther--even primary school has become an ideological background of sorts.

If there is a world that best characterizes American finances, it's "broke." These wastrels of the West are set to run a $1.5 trillion deficit in 2010 according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), while the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) predicts a $1.645 trillion deficit. Meanwhile, the state of California where this educational battle is being waged is not only the largest state in the union but the most fiscally challenged as well according to a watchdog group. Good luck with that, you'll need it:
In 2007 California stared down a $14 billion budget deficit; in 2008 the deficit hit $18 billion; in 2009 it jumped to $24 billion; and by this year we were attempting to close a relatively manageable $19 billion deficit [???]. Every year the budget was way overdue and every year the governor and legislature cobbled together a flimsy mix of spending cuts, some well hidden tax increases and accounting gimmicks that papered over another year of deficits, and every year the state’s political leadership seemed like they were right back at square one when the fiscal year end rolled around in June. History is repeating itself once again at the Legislative Analyst Office is projecting California’s deficit for 2011 will be $25.4 billion, which is twice as large as officials were expecting. With a new governor taking office and an economy that could improve somewhat over the course of the next year, is there any reason to hope that California’s broken record won’t keep on playing the same terrible song?
Now to the meat of this story: California is massively overstretched, and the same trend generally holds in its K-12 educational system which is mediocre in typical modern American fashion. Last year, a Chinese-American school board president in LA, Jay Chen, decided to do something productive and incorporate Chinese language teaching in his school district. Given the way this world is going, it certainly seemed like a good idea. However, controversy soon surrounded the source of some of the funding Chen procured. You guessed it: the PRC government helped fund these programmes by making them available through its consulate. His opponents are now trying to pull a Gray Davis on him. From the Associated Press:
Four members of a suburban school board are being targeted in a recall effort over their support for a middle-school language program funded by the Chinese government, one of the members said Friday. Hacienda La Puente Unified School Board President Jay Chen said he and the three other members of the five-member panel were being served with notices of intent to circulate recall petitions, each signed by 12 residents of Hacienda Heights in east Los Angeles County.

Chen, along with board members Norman Hsu, Joseph Chang and Anita Perez, voted last year to approve the agreement with China's international language-teaching agency to cooperate on the so-called Confucius Classroom Mandarin program. Under the program, which already is in place at dozens of other schools across the United States, the district was to receive $30,000 a year for language and culture programs at Cedarlane Middle School, along with some 1,000 textbooks, CDs and other educational materials.

The program attracted scorn from some community members, who have said at board meetings it was a vehicle to indoctrinate students with communist ideology and other foreign influences. The recall petition served to Chen claims he "believes that the United States will be subservient to China and manipulates students to serve China's government," among other claims.

Chen said he was surprised that a program as seemingly innocuous as Confucius Classroom would inspire such rancor. "I do sense a strain of xenophobia and even racism," he said. "There's a real fear of China that permeates some of the allegations." He added that most of the Confucius Classroom opponents do not have children in the school district, and the program is generally popular among parents and teachers...

Chen said he believed the recall effort was prompted by a recent vote to approve the teaching materials for classroom use. School officials had previously decided to refuse the $30,000 grant amid the strong community resistance. They also turned down an offer to have the Chinese government place a teaching assistant in Cedarlane and pay his or her salary...

Chen Zhunmin, who directs the Chinese consulate's education office in Los Angeles, said Hacienda Heights was the only community he has encountered where the Confucius Classroom program has stoked controversy. He said many schools have contacted the consulate seeking to set up programs. "Confucius Classroom has nothing to do with ideology," he said. "Its primary role has to do with the teaching of language and also to promote mutual understanding."
There are a whole lot more of these stories about Cederlane if you're interested. So as it turns out, the Chinese government has already been funding many of these innocuous Confucius Classroom programmes in US public schools. Like Jay Chen, I do sense xenophobia and racism. Maybe even some tiger parenting fears thrown in for good measure.

The ironic thing is that, regardless of what this school district decides to do, the PRC government has already lent the US federal government billions and billions that trickles down to US states anyway via "stimulus packages" and the like. So, here's my general advice to the broke United States of America, its broke states, and its broke municipalities: If you can't beat China, you might as well join it and not object so much about where the money is coming from. After all, America has long lost the ability to fend for itself.

Heck, the American K-12 system could probably be improved if it were run by the Chinese lock, stock and barrel. Perhaps they'll succeed in educating Americans since Americans can't do that basic task themselves.