Posts Tagged ‘ China ’

PISA Comparisons Don’t Hold Up to Scrutiny

Yes, as the NYT reports, the Shanghai students did better than the Americans, and we are shamefully, tragically behind our competitors in investing in education. But the idea that this was a valid test of Chinese–or even Shanghai–student performance is absurd. The article notes that the PISA testers “worked with Chinese authorities” but doesn’t question why they would or should have to. It also allows that the Shanghai kids were told the test was important and would reflect on their country. No other kid in the world taking this “standardized” test, and certainly no American, was treated in this way. The author tried to bring some balance by comparing performance by kids in highly educated Massachusetts in 2007, but that says more about the weakness of PISA’s approach than it does about US kids’ performance. How about this: give the test to kids in the most expensive Manhattan private schools, and tell the parents and the kids well ahead of time that the outcome will determine the prestige of their school (and thus the kids’ chances of getting into the best Ivy League schools). That might be comparable to the motivation the Shanghai test subjects, under the eye of Chinese authorities, would have felt.
American students and teachers have enough problems, and we are falling behind. We need to change our culture so that teachers are respected as we respect, say, investment bankers. We need to understand that education is a strategic investment, as the Chinese do. But that doesn’t mean journalists should believe the hype.

You know you need to rethink when…

…you purport to represent Jesus but you sound increasingly like the Chinese Communist Party. Seriously. Take a look:

“With this spirit today we rally close around you, successor to (St.) Peter, bishop of Rome, the unfailing rock of the holy church.” –Cardinal Angelo Sodano to Pope Benedict, 5 April 2010

…let us rally closely around the Party Central Committee and work with one heart and one mind in a joint and unyielding effort to advance the cause of building socialism with Chinese characteristics and create a happier life and a better future for us all!” –Chinese President Jiang Zemin, 8 November 2002

Notably, the Vatican is also taking a page out of the CCP style book in claiming unsubstantiated victimhood at the hand of nameless attackers. Just as criticism or disagreement with Beijing policy necessarily “hurts the feelings of the Chinese people,” so questioning the Vatican’s handling of the most vile of crimes is an anti-Catholic “hate” campaign, an organized “vile defamation operation.”

The faithful deserve better than the brittle spin of the Chinese Politburo, but that’s what they are getting. The similarities speak volumes about what’s wrong with the Vatican.

Beijing Stuns

The Chinese can be rightly proud.

The Chinese can be rightly proud.

Having watched China for much of the past 20 years, I had come to expect to be disappointed by the Chinese Communist Party’s inability to restrain its need for safe, conservative art. From the Beijing leadership’s perspective, art, like everything else, is judged not by its ability to move, but by its ability to serve the Party. As a result, major Chinese events broadcast to the world have consistently appeared just as stifling and archaic as the government that continues to hold a billion people back in the name of stability and harmony.

Against this backdrop, yesterday’s Olympic opening ceremonies were a marvelous surprise. Yes, it is clear that Zhang Yimou, the famed and acclaimed movie director, had to make compromises and accept a political imprimatur from the fearful men running Zhongnanhai. Nonetheless, the spirit, strength, and beauty of thousands of years of Chinese culture punched through the usual government crust to express, for the first time to so many at once, the majesty of China to the rest of the world.

Plenty of others have provided a play-by-play, so there’s no need to add to that volume here. Suffice it to say that if I was set back on my heels, I hope that many of my fellow countrymen now are also reconsidering their perception of this complex country that already plays a central role in our economy and will play an increasingly large role in the rest of our world over time.