Like many of you, I have been spending more time thinking about China lately, based on recent events there. This would include the apparent unsustainability of China’s “Zero Covid” policy, the commencement of Xi Jinping’s third term (which required a change in China’s pliable constitution), and the street demonstrations and other public forms of protest that broke out across China in recent weeks. I used to consume news about China like a hungry child; the past few weeks have rekindled this appetite.
When I first moved from Beijing in July 2010 to San Francisco to begin working at CAIS, I knew a lot more about China than I did about running a private Preschool–8 school in an affluent West Coast city. There was a lot to learn, and in the process of clawing my way up the learning curve inch by inch I necessarily shifted my focus away from current events in China and more toward the needs of the school and my own knowledge and skill gaps that needed immediate attention. CAIS still made a lot of progress in those years related to China and Chinese—Kevin Chang was appointed to the newly created position of Chinese Program Director, we began administering standardized Mandarin assessments, and we developed a menu of global programs in Taiwan and Mainland China. We changed our Mission to “Embrace Chinese.” But it’s hard on a day-to-day basis to be both a so-called “China watcher” and attend to the most pressing needs of the school.
Recent events have reignited my commitment to the “China watcher” role. More importantly, my CAIS colleagues—the people who teach your children—have upped their games, and there is a real feeling of responsibility to “Embrace Chinese” and “contribute to a better world.” A big part of this is ensuring our students have a developmentally appropriate interest in and understanding of what is happening in China now, and how it fits into a broader context of historical patterns and global issues. I know that for many CAIS families, the things happening in China are quite personal, and as a school that embraces Chinese, we need to do our part to support student understanding of these events.
Over the last few weeks, our Division Heads and Curriculum Directors have fostered focused, professional conversations among teachers about how to bring contemporary Chinese events into the curriculum at different grade levels in both English and Chinese. I have attended great discussions with our Middle school Chinese faculty, Middle School humanities, social studies, and English language arts faculty, and the entire lower school faculty. In addition to addressing opportunities in the curriculum to include current events, we discussed our own duty to be more aware of and knowledgeable about China and Chinese than the typical teacher at a monolingual school. And we need to be sensitive to the ways in which events might be impacting our colleagues and families who are from Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other parts of the greater China cultural world.
It strikes me that as CAIS parents, you too may feel a duty to remain well-informed about these issues as well. The volume and complexity of the information can be daunting. There are many good sources for news and information; I’d suggest the following as good places to start:
As a one-stop shop, The China Project is a portal with links to a huge number of all sorts of China resources—politics, ecomics, business, culture … it’s a real treasure trove.
For those of you who enjoy getting information from podcasts, here are three good ones:
- Three-part podcast from The Economist, The Prince: Searching for Xi Jinping
- Recurring podcast from The Economist on current Chinese issues, The Drum Tower
- Weekly podcast from The China Project on politics, economics, society, and culture Sinica
As a school with a mission to embrace Chinese, keeping informed is one way to live the mission. Happy listening and reading, everyone.