Posts tagged ‘teaching’

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Taiwan Newsarticle: European and American Universities refusing Cooperation with Confucius Institutes

The following is a translation of an article published online by Radio Taiwan International (RTI), on January 13 this year. RTI based their article on coverage by United Daily News (聯合報), the Liberty Times (自由時報, sister to the English-language Taipei Times), and Associated Press (AP).

I haven’t checked upon mainland coverage of these issues yet (RTI mentions Huanqiu Shibao, for example), but might do so next week.

As for Astrid Soderbergh Widding, the Stockholm University vice-chancellor quoted by RTI, the South China Morning Post quoted her in January as saying that “establishing institutes that are funded by another nation, within the framework of a university, is rather a questionable practice”.

Links within blockquotes added during translation.

Main Link:
Academic Freedom Threatened, European and American Universities refuse Cooperation with Confucius Institutes

Related Tag:
Confucius Institute

Mainland China’s Huanqiu Shibao reported on January 12 that Stockholm University has announced the termination, by the end of June, of its cooperation with the Confucius Institute in Stockholm – the first Confucius Institute founded in Europe, in 2005. The reason was that given the expansion of bilateral cooperation, this form of co0peration was no longer in step with the times. Before that, two American universities also said that they would not renew their contracts with the Confucius Institutes. These decisions reflect the concerns that the role of Confucius Institutes in the respective countries have caused.


To alleviate doubts, Beijing promotes soft power

◎消除疑慮 北京推軟實力

Supported by its economic power, mainland China’s international political status has risen, Beijing’s rise received high global attention, and it also led to some doubts: to highlight China’s rise as a peaceful one, and to strengthen mainland China’s international influence, Beijing set out from the cultural level to actively promote soft power, and the establishment of Confucius Institutes abroad was what caught most attention among the promotional measures.


In November 2004, the first Confucius Institute put up its name plate in Seoul, and since, Confucius Institutes have also been established in countries in Asia, America, Europe, and Africa.


By September 2014, 123 countries worldwide cooperated with mainland China, having set up 465 Confucius Institutes and 173 Confucius Classrooms. In America alone, 100 universities took part in such programs.


Confucius Institutes lead in funding

◎主導經費教材 孔子學院惹爭議

The Confucius Institutes are usually set up right within the foreign universities that sign contracts with Beijing, but the [central] government in Beijing provides funding, chooses the staff that teaches abroad, and specifies the teaching material. This has caused quite some controversy.


It is [sometimes] said that Confucius Institutes operating within universities have some influence on the curricula of those schools and could endanger the schools’ integrity. These commentators believe that Confucius Institutes pose a threat to academic freedom.


Stockholm University vice-chancellor Astrid Söderbergh Widding says that when institutions within universities are funded by governments of other countries, the approach does indeed pose problems.

斯德哥爾摩大學副校長維丁(Astrid Soderbergh Widding)就表示,大學內設立的機構是由另一個國家政府提供經費,這種作法的確有問題。

The ways Confucius Institutes operate have also attracted the attention of foreign governments. Indian and Japanese officials have questioned that Confucius Institutes only teach the Chinese language – [suggesting that] they also spread ideological attitued, and deliberately influence countries’ assessments of mainland China.


A report published in October 2013 by American think tank “Project 2049 Research Institute” pointed out that while teaching Chinese, Confucius Institutes also inculcate ideological attitudes, thus influencing foreign circles’ judgment of Beijing.


To promote academic independence, American scholars demand end to cooperation

◎維護學術獨立 美學者促停止合作

Nevertheless, Beijing’s strategy of promoting soft power by the establishment of Confucius Institues in numerous countries worldwide has seen growing resistance in recent years. Besides Stockholm University, universities and schools in America and Canada have terminated or suspended cooperation with Confucius Institutes.


When the University of Chicago established a Confucius Institute in 2009, 174 professors of the university jointly opposed. Last year in April, 108 University of Chicago professors jointly demanded that after the cooperation term expire, cooperation with Beijing should be terminated, and the Confucius Institute no longer be allowed on the campus. They believed that the lecturers employed by Beijing had received special training to avoid or neglect politically sensitive topics such as “June 4” or Taiwan. They believed that with Beijing’s control of the lecturers employment and training would earn the University of Chicago’s academic program political  mainland official management and control of political speech and influence on freedom of religion.


On September 25 last year, the University of Chicago announced that the five years of cooperation with the Confucius Institute would not be renewed after September 29.


Shortly afterwards, on October 1 2014, the Pennsylvania State University announced that they would terminate their five years of cooperation with the Confucius Institute.


Beijing’s method of transmitting ideology needs to be corrected

◎傳輸意識形態 北京作法待修正

American paper Wall Street Journal wrote that the professors’ dissatisfaction with the Confucius Institutes came from lacking teaching skills and a refusal to accept some negative chapters in Chinese history*).


In June last year, the American Association of University Professors called for 100 U.S. universities cancel or renegotiate their contracts with the Confucius Institutes, because the Confucius Institutes were propaganda branches of mainland Chinese, particularly dissimenating the mainland authorities ideological attitudes, in violation of academic freedom.


Even earlier, in June 2013, the Canadian Association of University Teachers called on Canada’s universities and schools to terminate relations with the Confucius Institute, because allowing governments of totalitarian states to guide curricula content, teaching material and the topics in classroom dialogue would harm the integrity of all universities.


The University of Manitoba, and the Toronto District School Board refused or suspended the establishment of Confucius Institutes last year, their main concern being that Confucius Institutes could interfere with academic freedom at the schools.

加拿大曼尼托巴大學(University of Manitoba)和多倫多教育局已於去年先後拒絕或暫停設立孔子學院,主要的顧慮就是孔子學院會干涉學校的學術自由。

But is the gradual termination of cooperation with Confucius Institutes by European and American countries purely based on concern about academic freedom, or does it represent an outbreak of fear of mainland China? Future developments will be worth continued observation.




*) If RTI referred to this WSJ blogpost, hiring practice rather than lacking skills were the source of dissatisfaction: the institutes’ hiring practices and refusal to acknowledge unflattering chapters of Chinese history.



» Unobtrusive and Imperceptible Moral Influence, Jan 7, 2012


Sunday, March 11, 2012

No Communists at Deutsche Welle, Please, but they may Train your Future Teachers

A guest post by Tai De

The Great Instructor

The Great Instructor

In February, Mr. Rudolph, who plays or played a role at Deutsche Welle as a “montitor” for the Chinese department,  tackled a thorny issue of German educational politics, which´- out of budget considerations, possibly  –  draws on the services of of an institution  which is operated by the People’s Republic of China,  a totalitarian state. Tackling this issue is commendable. That Deutschlandradio, in an interview with him, dared to pick this hot potato (hot by German standards, anyway) up at all is commendable, too. But the feeling seems to creep over the listener or reader – even a willing one like Tai De -, that Mr. Rudolph views the matter of universities’ cooperation with China’s Hanban from a position of taste, rather than from a matter-of-fact one. The latter would be a matter of constitutionality. When it comes to Hanban activity at the University of Göttingen, for example, neither Mr. Rudolph nor the moderator  address the issue that prospective Chinese-language teachers for Lower-Saxonian schools are trained by this university, in cooperation with Hanban.

A distinctive German feature needs to be highlighted here. Most of these teachers from Göttingen will not become a municipality’s or private school’s employee, but the federal state’s civil servants, in advanced positions. They will vow to be faithful to the federal state, and to the Federal Republic of Germany. From the Lower Saxonian oath’s wording:

I swear to dedicate my efforts to the people and the federal state, in accordance with the republican, democratic and social constitutional state, that I will preserve and defend the Federal Republic of Germany’s basic law and the Lower Saxonian constitution […].

Ich schwöre, dass ich, getreu den Grundsätzen des republikanischen, demokratischen und sozialen Rechtsstaates, meine Kraft dem Volke und dem Lande widmen, das Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland und die Niedersächsische Verfassung wahren und verteidigen […] werde.

Trained in cooperation with the Communist Party of China.

The four former contributors to or employees of Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department were no civil servants, and in decisions by a labor court,  at least two of them were reportedly put under suspicion of „Communism“.  Some of these former employees weren’t even working full-time. Noone of them had taken an oath.

And there one has to ask Mr. Rudolph why he would work as a monitor at Deutsche Welle – without the law really exacting that kind of toil on him –, and why he would only tastefully sniff when it’s about colleagues from his own league.

Are these constitutional, or are these power issues, Mr. Rudolph?


Previously by Tai De:

» Helmut Schmidt and the Korean War, March 1, 2012


Thursday, October 27, 2011

The BoZhu Interviews: a Translator and his Blog –

the internet’s blessings, the uphill battle battle of practicing foreign languages, and an old novel’s lasting relevance

Huolong started blogging eleven years ago. During the earlier stage, in Harbin, he mostly wrote about everyday life, his reading experiences, his work, hopes and fears, about childhood, classmates, and friendship. He originally started blogging in Chinese, but his blog soon became a blend of Chinese and English-language posts. Somewhere in the process, translation became another topic, and has by now segregated into his main topic. He lives and works in Beijing.

Huolong’s complete blog can be found here, and it also contains a category with English posts only.

The interview:

Q: You have been blogging for more than a decade, and for much of the time, you have been a bi-lingual blogger. Why do you blog? Was there a key moment where you felt that you should share your experiences and your feelings, which got your blog (or blogs) started?

A: Firstly, I want to express myself. A blog, or rather the broader Internet with all its applications built and flourishing on it, is a blessing for people like me. Secondly, I want to help. I’m a professional translator with Chinese as native tongue and English as a foreign/second one. I’ve been in this trade for more than a decade and have learned a great deal I want to share to do some good. Last but not least, I want to build some online brand for myself. My website helped me land my first and second jobs in Beijing and even played a great role in making my wife (just a classmate back then) believe I remained a not-so-bad person in 2004 after the long 14 years during which we’d lost each other.

Q: What’s the worst online article or post you have ever read about China (that you remember)?

A: The article or post I can’t remember. But I still remember a China blog that never fails to repulse me: In its newest post, he called the Chinese police officers “monkeys” and implied that their brick-breaking palms are useless for performance of their duties. This only further enhances my belief that Mylaowai has an unbalanced mind. For example, he couldn’t seem to understand that physical sturdiness is a small but key part of their overall capabilities. Only Mylaowai seems to assume that the Chinese officers don’t think high-tech is crucial to modern police actions.

Q: A number of your readers have subscribed to your translation training serial. How many persons are taking part? Do you know some of them personally? Do you feel that they are making headway, and do you get feedback which you put back into your courses?

A: Currently, there are about 300 subscribers to my newsletters, with some of them being my office colleagues. Most of them are only casual subscribers. I’ve seen no meaningful results since I started the newsletter more than a year ago.

[Update, Oct 28, follow-up question 1]:

Q: Are you mulling ways to guide subscribers to more efficient problem-solving?

A: Yes. I’ve tried in vain and found that it’s extremely difficult to change how they think about translation learning or that they are not dedicated enough.

[End of update follow-up question 1]

Q: How did you learn English? Which approach was most helpful? School? Work? Reading? “Real Life”?

A: Generally, I taught myself to use the language. I owe my English to a now controversial man named Li Yang, an English-language teacher-businessman whose teaching and motivation approach is characterized by crazy shouting by large English-learning crowds. I haven’t met him personally. But I bought some of his books in 1996. And in his books, he showed how people could learn good English in a non-English-speaking environment. According to his teachings, if I speak English well, I can then understand it well both spoken and written and write it well. Another secret he revealed is that reading is the shortest-cut to wisdom and knowledge accumulated over the years. I then went almost crazy practicing speaking English and became a devouring reader. As every language professional understands it, learning and studying a language involves everything associated with it and is a never-ending uphill battle. His methods make the process easier for me. My problem is the same as that of most other English learners in China: I have listened and spoken too little. This is where I must and will improve.

[Update, Oct 28, follow-up question 2]:

Q: Baike Baidu describes Li Yang’s approach as one that would tear down psychological barriers, when it comes to speaking (or shouting) – the fear of making mistakes and losing face (false shame). Does this explain his concept correctly?

A: His concept is more than tearing down the barriers, which I think is the only the first step. It also includes practical methods about how learners can learn English better, e.g. tongue muscle training and special English-pronunciation techniques for Chinese speakers. His concept also includes a key component: Learners should learn the language sentence by sentence, article by article, and book by book. This is a very effective antidote to the bad habits of most English learners in China, who tend to learn and study English vocabulary, grammar, listening, speaking, reading and writing as completely separate components. They dream that the components will fall into place automatically and then their English will be good one day. That day will never come.

[End of update follow-up question 2]

Q: Do you expect a broader readership to pay attention to your articles – about translation, or about your personal life -, or is yours rather a niche blog for a small circle of specialists? Would you mind if a broader readership got strongly involved in your commenting threads? Would you mind controversy?

A: I’ve only recently – that’s about one year ago – shifted my blogging focus to translation and languages. So now I only expect a much less-varied audience. It’s always good to have a bigger and more participatory readership for any types of blogs. I don’t mind controversy as long as I consider it constructive.

Q: Do you have a policy on trolls? Can you think of a reason to ban a commenter from your threads?

A: No. I don’t need any currently maybe because my posts don’t attract those people. I don’t like off-topic, abusive, or meaningless comments, to name a few.

Q: How closely do you follow Chinese and non-Chinese blogs respectively? Do you (as a reader) or they (as bloggers) focus on certain, recurring kinds of news or topics?

A: I like blogs with meaty contents. I’m a subscriber to quite a few Chinese and English blogs and read them every day. Most of them are in English. Their topics include translation, language, Internet, history and quotations.

Q: Being a bilingual blogger, you seem to follow both Chinese- and English-language blogs, and blog posts written by Chinese and foreign bloggers alike. Do you see anything their blogs would have in common? And what makes them different from each other?

A: The blogs I read are too diverse in topics and styles to have any commonalities. If there is one, I think it’s the dedication with which the bloggers write great contents.

Q: Have you seen big changes in your own blog or blogs, and in the Chinese, or foreign “China blogosphere” respectively since you started blogging yourself? Have you seen changes in the mainstream media?

A: For my blogs, I have changed to focus on language and translation topics. Sorry, I haven’t read enough China blogs or pay enough attention to changes, if any, to the mainstream media to offer useful inputs.

Q: Which is your favorite blog? (Please don’t name mine.) What’s the most informative online source about China?

A: My favorite is EB Blog because it’s written by experts and very informative and intelligent. I only casually read “China blogs”, and this is not enough for me to come up with any informed answer to the second question.

Q: Have you ever stopped reading blogs because you felt they were becoming boring, or because they angered you?

A: Yes. Mylaowai, for example.

Q: In your view, has China changed since you started blogging? Have your feelings changed? Has the world changed? How so?

A: Ten years have passed since I began my first website. A great many things have happened. China now is a polarized and layered society and people in it don’t always know or bother to know what’s happening in the rest of the society. That’s about the case for me, my peers, and those within my close and remote social networks. During the past decade, we worked hard under great pressure in competitive cities and thankfully our life got better year by year. And now we still see hope for even better life. This must be a unique feeling or observation from a global perspective because China is only one of the few countries that have generally succeeded in achieving its ambitious economic and social development goals that have lifted the country out of poverty during the past decade and positions the country for greater prosperity in the future. Politically, China is no better than ten years ago and might be worse. Government power still runs unchecked while the officials can have their own way in most cases. I’m not sure this is good for China’s future even though they have driven the economic growth for the past several decades.

[Update, Oct 28, follow-up question 3]:

Q: You mentioned the Britannica blog earlier in this interview. The blog looks somewhat like the equivalent to BBC Radio 4 (a station you once had on your blog roll, I believe). This is what a British commenter once wrote:

Really, you must understand that Radio 4 is the nearest thing the British middle class has to Pravda. It dispenses a particular kind of wisdom which distinguishes one from the vapid upper class and the benighted working class. Its effect on the minds of the British public is to create an image of middle-class respectability which no evidence to the contrary can dispel.

In the context of Chinese society having become a more layered society, can you think of something similar to BBC Radio Four – a Chinese website or a broadcaster – who would cater to a similar middle class in China?

A: It’s hard to define what the Chinese middle class is. If they are well educated, have professional or technical jobs, and earn enough money, I think they will like CCTV’s movie channels and

[End of update follow-up question 3]

Q: Besides your main translation/personal blog, you have also run a blog devoted to the Dream of the Red Chamber (or Mansion), since 2007. It seems to be hibernating. Why is that?

A: This blog is mainly one for collecting posts by other bloggers or writers. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong place, but Google searches yield few articles about that novel that I think warrant reposting. That novel is encyclopedic in scope and depth: life and death, life experience, history, philosophy, literature, food, health, architecture, and so on. Writing good articles about it requires lots of “been there, done that” stuff, acute observation, expansive thinking and great dedication. I view the novel as a description of a declining society in which the enlightened few saw no way out but still had hope in their heart. Historically, the novel described the decaying Chinese life and society in the 17th and 18th centuries during which time Europeans started to produce great science, technology, art, and literature, explored overseas and experienced drastic changes that led to the Industrial Revolution. China missed them all. This, I think, makes the author one of the most-visionary Chinese people in history.

Q: Is there an unasked question to which you would like to reply anyway?

A: Yes. I would like to say something again about the future of my blogging. I want it to be a source of useful information, a place where my readers find seriously written contents related to language and translation. I have learned to focus and concentrate in blogging. And finally thank you very much for this interview.

Q: The pleasure is all mine.

This interview can also be read here. This interview was conducted by an exchange of e-mails, October 27 – 28.


» Dream of the Red Chamber, a translation by H. B. Joly, 1891
» All BoZhu Interviews

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Breakfast with Tsai Ing-wen

Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairwoman and one of the contenders for her party’s presidential nomination*), had a morning tea meeting (早茶會) with foreigners  – not least press people – at the Breakfast Club in Taipei on Saturday morning local time. There was no need for translations, as Tsai’s address and the following questions-and-answers session were all held in English. TWIMI Television posted a video recording on youtube – the first video clip is embedded on the TWIMI website; the following ones (‘#2 – #6) can be found directly on youtube.

For readers whose Chinese is better than their English, an executive summary – between the video and photos – is also provided on the TWIMI website.

One consideration to hold that meeting may have been to raise Tsai’s profile in international news, with possibly positive publicity within Taiwan. Another seems to be that a president who easily (and informally, if need be) communicates with the international community could be an asset for the island republic which is diplomatically isolated, given that no country can maintain official diplomatic ties both with Beijing, and Taipei.

Main topics of her talk

  1. Video 1/6 – 03’50” Relationship with China, use of  multilateral WTO framework in ECFA and other negotiations
  2. Video 1/6 – 13’14”  Economic policies / job creation, continued on video #2.
  3. Video 2/6 – 02’15” – how Taiwanese investment in China affects job quality in Taiwan / importance of R&D.
  4. Video 2/6 10’10” – Rural areas: farming as an opportunity, rather than a burden – continued on video #3.

Tsai’s talk might have come across better – on video – if it had been a short statement instead, even if the talk probably came across more effectively among the group of people at the Breakfast Club than it does on video. The subsequent Q&A is much more lively and instructive than her talk. The longer the Q&A went, the more quick-witted and spontaneous Tsai seemed to become. On issues like the death penalty, she offered both a roadmap to its abolishment, and an explanation for the public mood which favors the death penalty.

She made no secret of the difficulties a DPP government may face if Beijing tries to make life difficult, but explained Taiwan-Chinese relations – and her approach to them – in an international context, in a relaxed and even humorous way.

The compère and moderator wasn’t exactly neutral – see video 3/6 – 05’48” / 12’33”.

Q & A

  1. Video 3/6 – 07’01” – Science: aren’t the humanities and the environment important for development, too?
  2. Video 3/6 – 13’03” – The Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co. naphtha cracker complex in particular, and environmental policies in general. Continued on video #4.
  3. Video 4/6 – 03’45” – How will a Tsai administration deal with Beijing accusations against a DPP-led government, and how will she make the US state department her ally (basically)? – the DPP’s path from revolution to diplomacy.
  4. Video 4/6 – 11’15” – Restoration of trust between the DPP and Washington so far / think-tank diplomacy.
  5. Video 4/6 – 15’26” – Is a vote for Tsai Ing-wen a vote for Chen Shui-bian and his clique? Would she pardon Chen? Continued on video #5.
  6. Video 5/6 – 02’08” – Given Tsai’s emphasis on R&D, the questioner doubts that R&D and the kinds of jobs that have been moved to China are connected, and wonders how Tsai would create an environment which foreign talents would like to move into.
  7. Would there be a moratorium on the death penalty if Tsai gets elected?
  8. Video 6/6 – 00’04” – is the best survival strategy for Taiwan to be as different from China as possible, and does Tsai have a vision for the country Taiwan should be?
  9. Video 6/6 – 05’00” – what are the three things Tsai would want to have accomplished after a first term in office, in Taiwan-Chinese relations?
  10. What is Tsai’s deepest criticism of Taiwan’s educational system?



*) Tsai has reportedly taken a leave of absence, with the presidential nomination caucus chief Ker Chien-ming being acting chairman for the time being.



Tsai Ing-wen’s Presidential Bid: Democracy over Idolization, March 11, 2011
Creative Destruction or Development, March 15, 2010


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

JR’s Test Site: In Search of Definitions

Envelope of Trust is a concept which is referred to in business articles, or in reflections on personal relationships, especially marriage.

There are Rules.

Are we gonna split hairs here? Am I wrong?

Apparently, it can also describe something public, something we’d usually call the rule of law – or the rule of ISO standards.

Preparing a warm-up for an advanced English  lesson, I’ve put myself into the position of having to think up some definitions which wouldn’t necessarily make it into an encyclopedia, but still  sound encyclopedic.

My ideas so far:

An envelope of trust frequently exists where a person can reasonably expect another to act in accordance with written or unwritten rules. In a country ruled by law, a client or defendant will usually trust that the legal practitioner will treat sensitive information confidentially, and not leak it to the other party (in a civil suit) or to the prosecutors (in a criminal case).

A similar envelope of trust needs to exist between a bank (or, more generally speaking, a creditor) and and a debtor. A creditor needs to be confident that his or her creditors are able to repay a loan, and to pay the interests.

Another envelope of trust would be the one between a supplier and a customer. Business relationship with customers depend on the customers’ trust that a supplier will reliably deliver goods or services in time, and at the agreed quality.
And of course, the supplier needs good reasons to believe that the customers will pay the bills in time.

Indeed not very encyclopedic. I do like the first line though, except for the word reasonably.

I’d be interested in some comments with your suggestions. The shorter and the more succinct, the better. If your definition is scientific or only short and succinct doesn’t matter, so long as it seems to make sense.

Yes, this is my challenge to you, reader of this post.

Ask not what JR can do for you – ask what you can do for ESL/EFL.

Many tanks


Only speak like a human, The Telegraph, July 18, 2010

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Freedom, without Ifs and Buts

Thilo Sarrazin, a member of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), a former Berlin senator of finance, has resigned his post at the board of the German Central Bank after publishing a controversial book. By doing so, he avoided a struggle between himself and the bank, and probably the federal president, too, to remove him.

His resignation isn’t bad news. The Central Bank’s task is the stability of our currency – the Deutschemark in the past, and the Euro now, as an influential member of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB). A board membership in such a bank is a full-time job, and it requires restraint when commenting on day-to-day politics. A too provocative bearing doesn’t serve the organization’s reputation well.

That said, the way the federal president himself initiated the struggle for Sarrazin’s dismissal didn’t serve the federal president’s office well either. He told the Bundesbank board to act on Sarrazin, and therefore later found himself in a partial position when he had to decide about the resignation.

There are a lot of do-gooders who do more harm than good to this country’s development. Especially within Sarrazin’s SPD. And when Sarrazin’s “racism” is the issue, there seems to be no room for subtleties. The World Socialist Website wrote on Saturday that Hamburg’s former first mayor, Klaus von Dohnanyi, who has offered to defend Sarrazin in a party hearing that could lead to expulsion, had

justified “Sarrazin’s basic thesis,” which he summarized by saying that Germany was “in danger of seeing its intellectual elites melt away,” as they were having too few children, while groups that have thus far “not distinguished themselves through their work or performance” have produced more children, and thereby depressed “the long-term performance level of the nation.”

Dohnanyi also explicitly defended Sarrazin’s racist theory that there were “special cultural characteristics of ethnic groups, and that Jews had a slightly different genetic structure.” His contribution ended with the call: “Please don’t shrink from words such as race, Jews, Muslims.”

To be clear: I haven’t read Sarrazin’s book, and I’m not going to spend time on it. Sarrazin doesn’t look like a reliable source to me. But I’m not trying to judge either if there are genetic factors that may help people to develop skills, or if every skill is “learned”. I simply don’t know the answer, and one of my tasks is to assist people in developing their skills, to the best of their individual abilities.

The lines by Dohnanyi the World Socialist Website refers to are apparently those he wrote for the Sueddeutsche Zeitung on September 6.

Sarrazin’s assertion that there are particular, cultural characteristics of ethnic groups can’t be denied by anyone with experience. The American Encyclopedia of Social Sciences refers to this as “social race”. Sarrazin sees rejection of integration within parts of Islamic groups, and therein dangers for our educational and performance-oriented society. Integration was also a duty of migrants
[literally, a “Bringschuld”, i. e. a “debt  to  be  discharged  at  creditor’s  domicile” – the creditor would be the society the migrant joins – JR].
Is that wrong?

Sarrazin also mentioned “bi0logical” points. He cites a certain hereditability of intelligence. Wrong? He means to say [or believes – “meinen” can mean both “mean to say”, or “believe” – JR] that certain ethnic groups’ or social communities’  insufficient endeavors can, in the long run, affect the mensurable intelligence level of these groups. And in an interview, asked for possible genetic shares in intelligence inheritance, he suggested, referring to scientific American publications, that jews, too, (whom he admires for their intelligence in his book) might feature a somewhat different (i.e. superior) genetical structure – he has since regretted this statement. Racism?

His main criticism of muslim migrants in Germany isn’t directed against their (unknown) individual IQs, or their religion. He criticizes the refusal of the part of migrants in question to educate their children to learn the German language, to ambitious learning, and preparedness for integration.

Categories like “race”, “jews”, and “muslims” exist, writes Dohnanyi. It is permissible to think about them and to use them. Cowardice in thought wasn’t called for, just as racism wasn’t called for. Dohnanyi argues that no other European left party would cancel a membership because of such a book – and that he was prepared to defend Sarrazin in such a hearing. After all, he expected a fair hearing, and cites Willy Brandt, who had said that freedom came first – “without Ifs and Buts” (ohne Wenn und Aber).

I see no good reasons to doubt that Dohnanyi wants every individual be judged on his or her individual merits. If he quoted Sarrazin correctly, one might say the same thing about the former Berlin finance senator.

Many of Sarrazin’s critics, if they want to convince people with facts, rather than with wobbly and blurry references to Germany’s nazi past, will have to do better. But as cabaret artist Volker Pispers once said: “our intellectuals measure everything in units of Hitler”.


… ohne Wenn und Aber: Freiheit, Willy Brandt, June 14, 1987

Monday, August 30, 2010

Languages: no particular Constraints

The languages our elders teach us don’t constrain our minds. But when we learn our mother tongue, we do after all acquire certain habits of thought that shape our experience in significant and often surprising ways, Guy Deutscher suggests.

Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt.
(Ludwig Wittgenstein)


May the Almighty Buddha give me Faith, Nov 7, 2008
Trying to Translate, Nov 7, 2008

Friday, July 30, 2010

Fourth Modernization, One Step Up

The days of National Higher Education Entrance Examination or gaokao (高考) count as days of judgment in the lives of those Chinese students who manage to take part in them. Preparing for and taking the exams is said to be extremely stressful – and it is costly, with entire families acting as investors in a hopeful young career.

Xinhua, in an article republished by Enorth, points out the apparent novelties in Beijing’s latest Outline of China’s National Plan for Medium and Long-Term Education Reform and Development for the 2010-2020 period (国家中长期教育改革和发展规划纲要 or shorter, 教育规划纲要), published on Thursday. The Outline wants to overcome the principle of one test defining a lifetime, and “to promote the implementation of quality education and the innovation of talent cultivation”. According to Zhang Li (张力), director of the ministry of education’s National Research Center for Educational Development, the Outline defines enrollment along the criteria of the choice of the best (择优), self-determination (自主), recommendation (推荐), orientation or direction (定向), and liberties to make exceptions (破格). With a more pluralistic set of methods in the enrollment system, the educational system will make good efforts so as not to leave out potentials and talented learners, Zhang believes.

The outline  also aims for more clarity and transparency in enrollment procedures, writes Xinhua, after incidents of fraud (舞弊事件) and confusion concerning extra points (加分) awarded in past exams.

A more pluralistic approach to enrollment notwithstanding, the Outline, for the sake of transparency, also tries to provide for standardization in enrollment.

Starting with elementary schools, teaching qualities are planned to be secured by establishing certification and registration systems, plus regular assessments of teachers’ performances. Payment for teachers, at the same time, should be brought into line with the incomes of other civil servants, the Outline reportedly stipulates. Also to the end of adequate remuneration (and probably because status continues to matter, too), standardized job titles are to be set forth.

People’s Daily Online (in English) lists a number of other (and frequently familiar-sounding) pledges from the Outline, and states that

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the State Council have issued a notice requiring local Party committees and governments to carefully implement the national education outline.  The outline vows to spare no efforts to “run every school well and bring quality education to every student. No child shall be allowed to drop out due to family financial difficulties.”

For sure, every step, however small, that can be made to meet the Outline’s lofty promises will be in the country’s public interest. China runs dry of crude labour, the Economist writes in its latest edition*).The number of 15- to 29-year-olds will sharply from next year, wages are rising, and to make similar gains in productivity as China did in the decade following 1995 (labor costs tripled, but productivity per worker quintupled, according to the paper), the country would have to increase its supply of skilled workers. And as labor is no longer abundant, China’s “floating population” – the migrant workers – needed to be provided with opportunities to “drop anchor” in the country’s urban areas.

According to this logic, “dropping anchor” would therefore be a macro-economic must, as much as a goal in social struggles. Guangdong Province has taken steps into this direction, with a provincial Service Management Regulation on Migrant Population (广东省流动人口服务管理条例), which came into effect all over the province on January 1 this year, after it had been tested in Shenzhen previously.

But there are setbacks, too. In April, precisely in Shenzhen, vice mayor Li Ming, apparently also in his capacity as the head of the police bureau, said that if Shenzhen could get the legal basis, it would restrict migrant workers who have been unemployed for longer than three months from renting houses.

No matter what the CCP’s central committee will tell local officials, neither a possible ease on household registration nor guaranteed school attendence of all children regardless of their families’ financial situations, will be achieved without a lot of fighting. Locally, that is.


*) The Economist, July 31st 2010, p. 7


Education in the PRC, Wikipedia (of today)
Little Desire for Head Teacher Positions, June 15, 2009
Crossroads: China’s Development, Febr 20, 2009

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