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Archive for July, 2008

The differences between Chinese and American education environments

A powerful, sobering look at American students today and why we need to re-think technology interfaces, Social Media and trends….

My students were always asking for examples of the differences in Eastern and Western education and social environ…Here is an answer from students themselves…

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Lethal Injections of Doubt…

It is not only the athletes warming up for the games: activist groups, the Chinese censorship squads, and extremists have all announced their plans to dominate the ceremonies.

Beijing has craw-fished on not just a few promises to the IOC, and the heavy spenders in media and advertising: They now say unfettered access meant that media could go to sites they thought journalists might need to call on in order to report a story. As widely reported, reporters the last two days have been unable to access many sites from the Press Headquarters-particularly those URLS that start with the letter “T”. This has so flustered some writers that every glicth is now in quesiton: some have started blaming routinely dismal connection speeds on deliberate sabotougue by authorities. we who live here know that you can brew coffee and prepare lunch waiting for Facebook to load.

And Beijing, rather than retreat from the pressure or do anything to dispel doubts, has given credence to the clains by such bonehead activity as employing cartoon police that will appear on users screens and remind resident and visiting Netizens to behave themselves when surfing. That law enforcement figures will be peering at me through virtual doe-eyes psychologically frightens me even more than would the real soldiers of censorship that could appear at any time.

And outside of Beijing we hear from the gifted blogger Michael Manning, thankfully back at the keyboard on the Opposite End of China, and he gives voice to many doubts about the veracity of claims by a supposed militant group, The Turkistan Islamic Party. TIP has claimed responsibility for an unlikely number of deadly incidents in China in recent weeks, and they may or may not be just a PR creation dreamed up by Beijing to give license to ever more oppressive security measures against ethnic minorities in the Northwest. The Youtubed militants issued warnings and called for support from fellow Muslims to wreck havoc throughout china during the games.nAs suspect as the videos calling for Jihad looked and as incredible as the footage was of a device-making member of the Turkistan movement, the damage to the international psyche, already conditoned by the US administration to believe Islam itself is an enemy combatant, has been done.

I made light two days ago of the ticket thriller episode in Beijing this week because it did not live up its the media hype, but there is a lot to be concerned about and I stand solidly opposed to increasing acts of censorship, and I remain (even for what little good i can do)  staunchly behind jailed activists like Hu Jia who were silenced by imprisonment in advance of the games.

But, I am equally disappointed and frightened by the actions of organizations who, in my view, are inappropriately orchestrating  campaigns that, while raising their International profile, might be putting their recruits in harm’s way.

Am-nasty International, who just backhanded Beijing for its human rights record today, is recruiting human shields to test ping sites they want to determine can be accessed or not by journalists:

“While you are in China, we will email you secret, anonymous links to the testing site (which don’t connect directly to Amnesty’s computers). The sites chosen for testing are ones which a tourist or journalist would feasibly want to access in China. Amnesty International believes that participating in these tests presents no risk to visitors to China.” Does Australian Amnesty know that you have to surrender your passport to get into some iInternet bars, and that college servers usuallly block site access before the IP request makes it off campus? The data collected will be weak at best and at what potential cost? Is Amnesty Australia going to pay for bail, legal defense or a ticket home if the shills get deported?

I am certain they know that they cannot guarantee the security of a routinely transmitted email (just ask the snitches at Yahoo). Hell, A.I. trusts people so much that the organizer of the Facebook cause for this initiative can’t be contacted even though the pictures and profiles of her supporters can be fleshed out even if the users’ privacy settings prohibit collection of information.

I visited several of the sites they want tested today. One reported a Senator’s claim, on the front page, that Internet spying equipment was long ago installed in major hotels in Beijing beore the games. Maybe so–Cisco helped out with that on a country-wide basis years ago. The story was positioned near an article about a  former astronaut who claims to have been briefed by the US Government about UFO landings. Really.

There are better ways to do this. But, my past experience with Amnesty’s procedures, once leaving a friend tortured and near death and signing false confessions just to remain alive while Amnesty passed on visiting him, but they sent a inquiry form instead thru his captors, has never struck me as particularly a well though out way to protect human rights. Why  doesn’t AI  just poll the horde of reporters (25-30,000) actually using the equipment without soliciting volunteers to wind their computer signals around some secret decoder IP?  I would rather see an e-blast poll, post-games, than know some kid was stared down by a cartoon cop until the flesh and blood cyber-screws showed up.

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It Wasn’t Anything Like the Beatles Concert at Shea Stadium….

So you thought the ticket sales ruckus in Beijing was culturally tied to the Chinese aversion to orderly lines, didn’t you? Actually, I thought they did pretty well considering 30,000 Olympic hopefuls stood  in line for two days waiting for the last of the tickets in the final phase of Beijing’s ill-conceived distribution scheme. Heck, I remember hawking my dignity to get the final seats available for a New Kids on the Block gig for my teen daughters (just a few years ago) and was happy to have escaped the sales booth with all my parts attached. Of course, my typically prepubescent girls complained later of nosebleeds at balcony altitude, but I digress…

The bump-and-run incident in Beijing that landed a Hong Kong (unaccredited) reporter in custody didn’t last as long nor was it nearly as interesting as the hair pulling I’ve seen on double coupon days in American Supermarkets. And i seem to remember an incident several years back where some poor woman was trampled into unconsciousness in Florida during a $29.00 DVD sale at The Great Wallmart. The best part of that story, as I recall, was the paramedics arriving to find her out cold, but till draped over her prize DVD. The manager, an altruist to make you proud, later called to check on her in the hospital and offered to put another DVD “on hold” for her. Uh, no the manager was not a teenager nor related to the victim (or me) in any way.

After the melee in Beijing the HK press began shouting that Beijing had reneged on its promise to offer open access to reporters. I am ready to take a bit of flack here by asserting that it looked more like an act of individual fatigue born of a weary, unprepared police force than it did a conspiracy to disembowel and and transplant fear from what’s left of China’s human rights carcass.

I suspect that among the million daily scribbles made by the prickle of press porcupines now inhabiting China’s capitol city a fair number of them will have to be a tad flamboyant in order to stand out enough to see print. With that many reporters in search of a sell-able story, it makes a midnight stroll through Baghdad feel safer than being on the other end of one of those writer’s quills.

I had a man start following me on Twitter two days ago who claims he is able to stop hurricanes and tropical storms with a special meditation technique–one he teaches for an undisclosed price. I wonder if he has a similarly gifted mutant in his group who can put a psychic finger in the Olympic Public Relations dike or a tiding of teenagers who can provide regular humility checks.

Report by LBH: Offical Collective Noun Spokesman for the 2008 Games

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Sichuan Volunteer Teachers Visit Chengdu

Video of first ever visit to Zoo by Sichuan Survivors. One of the Chidren lost 300 of  900 schoolmates in the quake. The father considers the dead children to be the “lucky” ones as there is little opportunity for handicapped workers in China and even less for those coming from poor areas.

GAmes given by Sichuan Volunteer Teachers

Another child who lost 2/3 of her classmates in a school collapse. Her best friend, trapped by rubble, died in her mother’s arms while waiting for help.

One of the Volunteers from the University of Michigan who is also helping to organize the Sichuan Teachers initiative. This is not easy work and there is an element of risk involved, but this volunteer says that the experience has forever changed his worldview and strengthened his commitment to others.

Pictures of rural area near Chengdu. Tent cities have little or no working facilities. Many toilets are hand dug holes in the ground covered with bits wood. Temporary houses (tin work sheds) have no ventilation and the temperature is running 10-20  degrees higher indoors than outside.

One of the volunteers became ill and left a day early. An aftershock struck shortly after his departure and destroyed the dorm in which volunteers were housed.

In Taekowndo we used to call this indomitable spirit”.

One of two amazing young students with incredible skills and enviable enthusiasm.

The site to visit for Sichuan Teacher matching is: http://sichuanteachers.org or a new in development which will showcase the Sichuan and other credible groups with needs: http://china-volunteer-teachers.org

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And let the real games begin…

Beijing Olympics

Four years ago I befriended a Vietnam veteran who was clean and sober after years of Cocaine addiction. He was one of the hardest working and congenial men I’d met at the VA hospital. He was employed in a minimum wage rehab program where he pushed wheelchair bound patients to and from appointments.

He had his own apartment in a declining and dangerous section of Chicago and custody of twin boys. It was like a sad scene from a predictable Hollywood tragedy when two young gang members approached one of the twins at his home. One of the gang members shot the young man, an top African-American student with college ambitions, in the head. They had intended to murder the other sibling who was who was less inclined to social conformity.

When my friend went to the police with information on the possible killers he was turned away in an angry exchange that ended when the white policeman told him that he would lock him up. When asked for what reason the officer replied, “I don’t need a fucking reason, boy. Since 9-11 it has been one long year of the cop.” He was right: Law enforcement was, overnight, accorded special privileges and many did not do well with the responsibility and instead used it as a personal weapon in their own private wars. My buddy finally found someone who would take him seriously and the killer was jailed when a plea bargain let the accomplice go free in exchange for his testimony. The veteran, demoralized by the struggle and grieving, relapsed into depression and drug use.

The same is happening here in China. A friend came to me after being detained and beaten by local police. Local constables now have the right to ask for your passport and visa on the spot. Those that have not carried their papers up to now, have started…The police have used it as a way to intimidate local Africans (blacks have an especially tough time maintaining work and cultural relationships here due to rampant racism) and Muslims. Some area police are extracting protection monies from Africans and calling it an immigration fee assessment.

When my friend pulled out his cell phone to answer a text from his wife, wondering where he was so late at night, the police who had been manhandling his countryman, thought he was snapping pictures of the assault. That is when they gave him a dose of the same treatment. His countryman was detained past his scheduled departure out of the city and missed his plane back to Africa.

With sudden power arbitrarily given to street cops, the heat hanging in the 90s along with similar humidity levels, and increasing paranoia over possible security threats it is tense here.

Below is a Youtube video of a scuffle in Beijing that left police and reporters injured. People hoping to get the last remaining tickets for the games spent two days in the heat and in unruly, close-quarter lines that we who live here can barely tolerate for a short time on a good day.

Some are calling it infringement on freedom of the press and chastising Beijing for not making good on its promise to allow reporters unfettered access to stories in and around the Olympics. I tend to see it as a lack of preparation for the enormous crowds and throngs of media personnel. Defects in crowd and traffic management planning have paralyzed the city more than once in the last few weeks.

The games have already begun, but outside the stadium.

The original story here at the ever vigilant Shanghaiist:

HK reporter and cameraman taken away after Olympic ticketing kerffufle

AJ report on Beijing:

Beijing Olympics,Censorship,China Editorials,China Law,China Olympics,China Sports,Chinese Media,Hong Kong,Human Rights China,In the news,Intercultural Issues,The Great Firewall,Videos,Vietnam,Violence,中国

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Chinese & American Online Searchers …

I enjoyed an article today about the search habits of Chinese and American youth. The short story is that the search stats for product information are incredibly similar:

Give advice to others about products/services purchased
*

Chinese 18-34       **Americans 18-34

 Regularly            Regularly

 Search Online        Search Online

Regularly          56.1%                53.8%

Occasionally       42.5%                43.9%

Never               1.4%                 2.3%

Source: BIGresearch, *China Quarterly (Q2 2008), **SIMM 12 (Jun 08)

What was not a shock to me, but might interest the folks who most read this blog (56% from the US)  was the way they shared information after they secured what they were looking for online: where American young adults prefer to pass information person to person or via email, Chinese Netizens text message, or call each other. So, that’s what is going on in most classrooms in China: They are not sending the exam answers to their buddies, they are just doing SMS reviews of that new i-BOD or i-Fone at the local electronics speakeasy.

As seriousness aside, it is a shock to a first-time visitor to see how prevalent SMS texting is here. I pampered myself a few weeks go with a movie and a pizza. It costs about 20%  more here (and 60% if adjusted for cost of living) for that combo than in the states–and we want them to quit buying 60 cent DVDs, but I digress. At Pizza Hut I guestimated that  2/3 of the people within view were either on the phone, sending a message or playing a game. And later, IN the theater, about 10% of the crowd there for Kung Fu Panda appeared to be glowing in the dark from ambient light coming off their cell phones.

What I found when i was teaching was that a rumor, truemor, or current event release could travel to every student residing at the far reaches of the campus faster than any Public Address system. Smart application designers are going to learn how to leverage that power in the very near future. I look toward mobile entrpreneurs to find ways to effectively deliver viral ads in the body of messages.

Me? I am still looking for a cheap James Bondian style pen that will jam non-emergency calls on the train, at restaurants and movie houses and broadcast parental style admonitions to the offending parties.

The more authoritative post is here:

Both Young Chinese & American Online Searchers Spread the Word but Differ in How They Communicate Findings, According to BIGresearch – MarketWatch

American Professor in China,cartoons,China Editorials,China Humor,China web 2.0,Chinese Education,Chinese Internet,Education in China,Humor,In the news,Intercultural Issues,Internet marketing China,IWOM,Uncategorized

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So, how old would you be if you didn’t ….

The advice often given someone who laments their age and uses it as an excuse to not to go on for training or a degree is:”So how old would you be in “X” years if you didn’t go? The same age, right? So, wouldn’t it be nice to be a (insert specialty here)  by then?”

A friend of mine in Mississippi picked up his PhD in Fisheries Biology at the age of 60-something. But, was on the fast track compared to a Brit’ who started his doctoral research at 62 and just graduated, at the age of 91, from Cambridge. A big salute to a fellow veteran (no I wasn’t in WWII) who became the first in his family to get a terminal degree–though one should never say terminal to a 91-year old new graduate.

One of my favorite lines of encouragement is: So what is 2-3 years compared to the rest of your life? And I have, until this last year, lived life with that in mind. I am headed back to that lifestyle soon. I see Chinese classes, Photoshop tutoring, some volunteer teaching in Gansu and a new book of prose poems in my not-so-distant future.

Here is the original reference to the story of the most augustine (I made it up) grad’ of an pretty august institution:

War veteran Michael Cobb’s PHD at 91 – Telegraph

The Graduate

Suppose you can get a job at 91 that will pay off a student loan bill from Cambridge?

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Curse of the girdled Bosom

Gong Li

More than two months after its release and the media storm about Gong Li’s near explosive role in Curse of the Golden Flower online and print media can’t let go. China Rising (NFTMK) did a great post, in December, on the possibility of industry fabricated hype designed only to recoup the $44.6 million US dollars that it took to stage this monumental undertaking. This week, The Record (TR) takes a different bent on the whole controversy and reports on an article out printed in a paper in nearby Shenzhen. It seems that Curse… has prompted a call for ratings surprisingly by cinematographers who believe that government censors, if following guidelines, will have less lee-way when panning or permitting a film to show in China or at festivals abroad. The law requires approval of a work prior to export or the film maker is likely looking at years of suspension from the craft. Several directors are currently exiled from the film community and would welcome a fairer system before remorsefully coming back into the good graces of the government. The movie is rated R for its violence, not its cleavage, in the United States and that means that children younger than 17 must be accompanied by an adult to see it. But, media hype or not, Gong Li’s barely reticent flesh is causing real debate over the appropriateness of certain stimuli for young Chinese children. I am a huge fan of Gong Li and have followed her since her role in Zhang, Yimou’s world revered classic Raise the Red Lantern in the late 80’s. And I want to see Curse badly enough that I will brave a Chinese theatre soon to do so: Chinese cinemas generally have the sound up so high that you need hearing protection to keep your ears from bleeding. I had a good laugh recently when I returned to a mall where the movie has been playing since November. The cutout of a tightly wrapped Li that was a lobby traffic stopper has been replaced by a tamer version of the film star that most native Chinese don’t think is so hot with or without enhancements.

I wish I knew where that offending cardboard ended up….

By Lonnie Hodge

Asian Humor,Asian Women,China Olympics,China Photos,Hong Kong Stars,Photos,中国

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