The Case for Confucius Classrooms

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In the spring of 2010, the Hacienda La Puente School District (HLPUSD) Board voted to cooperate with China’s Hanban on a program called the Confucius Classrooms to be implemented at Cedarlane Middle School. People who opposed this decision started a controversy that spread across national news and was even satirized on the popular Comedy Central Daily Show with John Stewart.

Hacienda Heights is my home town. I graduated from Los Altos High School in HLPUSD and also worked as a teacher for the school district. I spent three years as a teacher at Cedarlane Middle School where the Confucius Classroom is being implemented.

When I first heard about the Confucius Classroom, I was of course at first wary. For me, accepting money from any country for our public education is not something to dive right into. Nevertheless, my American education and upbringing has taught me to do my homework and investigate to come to an informed decision about the matter.

I began by reading news on the issue, attending school district meetings, and looking at the books supplied by Hanban.

Here are the facts that I have confirmed:

• Cedarlane Middle School has had a Chinese language class running since at least the fall of 2009.

• In January 2010, the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District elected Board voted 4-1 to accept book materials and $30,000 from Hanban, an organization affiliated with China’s department of education, to change the existing Chinese language class into a Confucius Classroom.

• Confucius Classroom is a Chinese language program being established in countries all over the world (hundreds of classrooms currently running) including multiple schools in the United States.

• Hacienda Heights is the only district that has had opposition to this program.

• The Confucius Classroom at Cedarlane Middle School is taught by a California Credentialed American Citizen Teacher.

• The books donated by Hanban and the Confucius Classroom program have been thoroughly reviewed by teachers, administrators, students, parents, district board members, Teacher’s Union, and other community members. Keep in mind that we have plenty of bilingual Chinese/English people at every level in this community to check the Chinese and English aspects of these books. No “brainwashing” material has been identified.

• On September 7, 2010, the school district has announced that they will not accept the $30,000 dollars but will keep the materials and the name of the program Confucius Classroom, which is currently running at Cedarlane Middle School.

Based on these facts, I believe that the Confucius Classroom is a good idea for our public schools for the following reasons:

1. The class is being taught by a California Credentialed Teacher who is an American Citizen. I am a California Credentialed Teacher and American Citizen as well, and if I can trust myself to teach a Confucius Classroom in collaboration by Hanban to American youth, I can trust that teacher to do the same.

2. California State Standards 6.6 and 7.3 require learning about the language, history, and culture of China, and the Confucius Classroom can help our students meet those requirements. The relevant standards are:

California Grade 6 & Grade 7 History-Social Science Framework

Standard 6.6 = Students analyze the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures of the early civilizations of China.

6.6.3. Know about the life of Confucius and the fundamental teachings of Confucianism and Daoism.

6.6.4. Identify the political and cultural problems prevalent in the time of Confucius and how he sought to solve them.

Standard 7.3 = Students analyze the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures of the civilizations of China in the Middle Ages.

7.3.3 Analyze the influences of Confucianism and changes in Confucian thought during the Song and Mongol periods.

3. Chinese is the number one most widely spoken language in the world. An opportunity to learn the Chinese language and the cultural and historical heritage that we all have a right to have access to will only strengthen American youth as leaders on the global scene.

4. Peaceful cooperation, learning, and understanding between China and America should be promoted for the sake of the well-being and future of American youth. It is true that China’s current government has not had the most exemplary record in many respects, but no country is without its dirty laundry, and America is no different. America has had a history of enslaving its own African American population, preventing women from voting, forcibly detaining its Japanese American population, targeting Chinese Americans for direct legal exclusion, and supporting less than benevolent dictators across the world for our own benefit among other deplorable acts. The Confucius Classroom and the money and materials that come with it are a gesture of willingness to peaceably collaborate and cooperate with us. We should graciously accept such a gesture as it will increase the chances of good relations between our two countries.

5. As for the danger of brainwashing of our American youth, I think any American middle school teacher will tell you that American preteens aren’t exactly known for mindless obedience to authority. Any attempts to indoctrinate them will most assuredly be met with an unrelenting avalanche of “Why?” I pity anyone who attempts to brainwash them.

I believe that these reasons and facts make the implementation of the Confucius Classroom in public school classrooms a good idea. We have proper oversight and transparency in place to safeguard against any attempts to control or brainwash our American youth (as if that were easy), and the friendly cooperation and collaboration with Hanban can lead to a growing positive relationship that will promote learning, understanding and development between our two countries. As American adults, we should set a good example of diplomacy, maturity, and graciousness for our American youth to follow. We owe our next generation of leaders at least that much.

There is a community petition that anyone can sign and show their support. Please sign it

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