At the Center for American Progress ’s most recent forum on education, “What can U.S. schools learn from other countries?,” the U.S. education system was disparaged by the panelists and speakers present. They found what they like in education in communist China:
- Ben Jensen, School Education Program Director of the Australia’s Gratten Institute, claimed that Shanghai’s schools continue to be the top performers in the world. Shanghai students up to the age of 15 are up to 33 months ahead of the U.S. student, according to Jensen.
- Lydia Logan, of Chiefs for Change, argued that state education chiefs have a short time to learn the facts and problems facing their state, but by the time they realize it, they’re already almost out of office. By way of contrast, Logan claims, China’s education bureaucracy nurtures up-and-coming talent.
- Marc Tucker, president and CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy, recommended a national federal school board of administrators to oversee education policy. He went on to slam charter schools, saying that they’re not “relevant” and unless they recruit better quality teachers from the public and private school system, they are not much different from public schools. He said the idea of charter schools is “negative” and promotes the “animating impulse [of] anti-regulation…anti-bureaucracy, anti-teachers unions.”
- Chester Finn, Jr., of the Thomas Fordham Institute, averred that although Shanghai is a viable model, the U.S. “can’t just Xerox” the results. These strategies need to be adjusted for America’s needs. He pointed out that America has not found a “foolproof” way to turn around struggling schools and said that Tucker’s idea of a national education council, though full of good intentions, will be ineffective due to the current political environment. Finn addressed Tucker’s point on reforming the education hierarchy and simply said, “We do a lousy job of creating state governments.” Finn served in the Education Department during the administration of President George H. W. Bush.
None questioned the source of the information on China’s educational progress—the Chinese government itself, which historically has concealed much more than it has revealed. Moreover, it may not have occurred to them that the ultimate goal of Chinese educational control is obedience to the state, or did it?
Maybe they should check out the Voice of America editorial, reflecting the views of the Obama Administration, last year in which VOA ’s editors laid out the findings on China from the State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices:
“This year’s Human Rights Report on the People’s Republic of China enumerated many human rights problems. These included extrajudicial killings, executions without due process and enforced disappearance. Some prisoners were held incommunicado, or illegally incarcerated at unofficial holding facilities known as ‘black jails,’ at times for prolonged periods.
“Prisoners were tortured to coerce confessions. Lawyers, journalists, writers, dissidents, petitioners, and others who sought to peacefully exercise their rights under the law were harassed and detained, and too frequently, the legal process was marked by a lack of due process: that is, the courts paid no heed to the defendants’ legal rights. The legal system was politicized, and at times, resorted to closed trials and administrative detentions.
“The freedom to assemble, practice religion, and travel were restricted, and the government failed to protect refugees and asylum seekers, even as it pressured other countries to forcibly return to China refugees and asylum seekers. Non-governmental organizations were restricted and under close scrutiny.
“There was wide-spread discrimination against women, minorities, and persons with disabilities. China’s coercive birth-limitation policy in some cases resulted in forced abortion or forced sterilization. Independent unions were prohibited; there was no protection for workers’ right to strike, and forced labor, including prison labor, was exploited. Corruption remained wide-spread.”
Spencer Irvine is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.
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