China and U.S. Schools

Salvatore Vuono /

The Economist announced in their January 28, 2012 issue that they’ll be “launch[ing] a weekly section devoted to China.”  To prove how momentous an occasion this is for the publication, they add

It is the first time since we began our detailed coverage of the United States in 1942 that we have singled out a country in this way. The principal reason is that China is now an economic superpower and is fast becoming a military force capable of unsettling America. . . . China will both fascinate and agitate the rest of the world for a long time to come.

When I read this, I immediately thought about U.S. schools.  I wonder how many leaders, teachers, and students are talking about this.  As educators, we need to be.

Schools and school leaders need to be doing more than talking.  I would argue that they need to be doing at least the following (and kudos to those schools and school leaders I know – public and private – who are doing all this and more):

  1. including Mandarin as part of the world language offerings
  2. partnering with schools in China for exchanges and cultural immersion experiences
  3. offering courses on Chinese culture and history
  4. connecting students via Skype and other social media to Chinese students and adults, especially adults working in one or both countries in all types of fields
  5. establishing satellite campuses in China

Here’s what I hope we’re not doing:

  1. burying our heads in the sand and taking a U.S. vs. China stance (I love Rome and Roman history, but we all recognize that the Roman Empire is no more)
  2. operating out of complete ignorance that this shift has happened (notice I’m using the past tense)
  3. ignoring the fact that learning all we can about China – from language to culture to business – will only help our young people as they move into the work force

What are schools doing that I haven’t listed?