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Confucius Institute

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This was featured on the Drudge Report starting at 8:30 last night until 10:30 this morning.

How China Infiltrated U.S. Classrooms

Given the role of education in shaping young minds, and the notion that education is far too important to leave in the hands of the state, this adds a level of concern of allowing a foreign state to cast their lot into the fray.

Confucius Institute:

Hanban has been shrewd in compelling universities to host Confucius Institutes. Marshall Sahlins, a retired University of Chicago anthropologist and author of the 2014 pamphlet Confucius Institutes: Academic Malware, reports that each Confucius Institute comes with “$100,000 … in start up costs provided by Hanban, with annual payments of the like over a five-year period, and instruction subsidized as well, including the air fares and salaries of the teachers provided from China. … Hanban also agrees to send textbooks, videos, and other classroom materials for these courses—materials that are often welcome in institutions without an important China studies program of their own.” And each Confucius Institute typically partners with a Chinese university.

They’re kind of like restaurant franchises: Open the kit, and you’re in business. American universities can continue to collect full tuition from their students while essentially outsourcing instruction in Chinese. In other words, it’s free money for the schools. At many (though not all) Confucius-hosting campuses, students can receive course credit for classes completed at the institute.

But the institutes go to some length to obscure their political purpose. There’s the name, for example: Most Americans associate Confucius with wisdom, or cutesy aphorisms. It’s likely the centers would be less successful were they called Mao Institutes. The Institutes also offer a plethora of “fun” classes—not for academic credit, and often open to members of the general public—in subjects like dumpling making and tai chi.

Compelling, in a free market, would be an odd enough term. In this case agenda is being packaged and sold to a clientele that has been inured by decades of government encouragement. Is it really that big a step to extend egalitarianism at a governmental level?

A tip of the hat to McMaster University in Canada:

Meanwhile, if Hanban’s instructors are not adequately vetted back home, there can be trouble. Consider the case of Sonia Zhao. Zhao, a Chinese national, was dispatched by Hanban to McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, in 2011 to teach Chinese language. She’s also a practitioner of Falun Gong, the Buddhist-tinged spiritual movement that Beijing despises as a threat to its authority. Zhao quit a year into her tenure, arguing that McMaster University was “giving legitimization to discrimination.” That’s because, in order to secure her employment with Hanban, Zhao said she was forced to disguise her fealty to Falun Gong. Her employment contract with Hanban explicitly stated that she was “not allowed to join illegal organizations such as Falun Gong,” she said. This kind of open religious discrimination is illegal in Canada, as it would be in the United States. McMaster University, in light of this disclosure, subsequently shuttered its Confucius Institute in 2013, citing the institute’s “hiring practices.”

Starting in 2004 in South Korea, Confucius Institute has spread and now 40% of their export is being consumed stateside, a subsidized wolf with an authentic looking sheepskin.

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I'm not sure this is ethically wrong on China's part.  There are Objectivist professors whose employment at a university is sponsored by some outside source of funding.  I think Tara Smith's position is due to the bank BB&T from back when John Allison ran BB&T.   China can afford a more full featured program.  It may be "propagandistic" but if there is a problem with academic standards or objectivity that is on the university accepting the money not China.  

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According to a Wikipedia entree on Confucius Institute, in 2014 the University of Chicago and Pennsylvania State University cut ties with the Confucius Institute.

So yes, academic standards do have some sway still.

In The Establishing of An Establishment the critique was levied as follows:

Nothing could be as dangerous a threat to our institutions as a proposal to establish a government committee to deal with "antidemocratic thoughts" or B.F. Skinner's thoughts or anyone's thoughts. The liberal New Republic was quick to sense the danger and to protest (January 28, 1972). But, not questioning the propriety of government grants, it merely expounded the other side of the same contradiction: it objected to the notion of the government determining which ideas are right or acceptable and thus establishing a kind of intellectual orthodoxy.

In the same Wikipedia article:

On 4 December 2014, the United States House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations held a hearing entitled "Is Academic Freedom Threatened by China's Influence on U.S. Universities?". Chairman Chris Smith said, "U.S. colleges and universities should not be outsourcing academic control, faculty and student oversight or curriculum to a foreign government", and called for a GAO study into agreements between American universities and China.

 

In The Establishing of An Establishment, a distinction is drawn between private monies of a rich individual (I'll extend that to a private organization) and monies extorted by force from unwilling victims. Tara Smith at the behest of BB&T is private monies. Confucius Institute is paid for by the Chinese government along with the host university.

U.S. taxpayer subsidies for grants was excerpted as follows:

The fundamental evil of government grants is the fact that men are forced to pay for the support of ideas diametrically opposed to their own. This is a profound violation of an individual's integrity and conscience. It is viciously wrong to take the money of rational men for the support of B.F. Skinner—or vice versa.

With a little liberty, from early in her article, transform:

Governmental encouragement does not order men to believe that the false is true: it merely makes them indifferent to the issue of truth or falsehood.

into:

Governmental encouragement does not order men to believe that wrong is right: it merely makes them indifferent to the issue of right and wrong.

I would clarify that the indifference isn't across the board, encompassing what is undeniably right and wrong, but in the areas that are not as clear cut and easy to identify. Or put in a different way, did the earlier grants and subsidies picked from the pockets of the American taxpayer help pave the way to blurring the academic standards or objectivity resting on the universities?

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16 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

Or put in a different way, did the earlier grants and subsidies picked from the pockets of the American taxpayer help pave the way to blurring the academic standards or objectivity resting on the universities?

Well yes, I think of course it did.  If you really want to pursue that train of thought the host universities are all already illegitimate to the extent they accept taxpayer money from any government, foreign or domestic.  

And this little gem: "Governmental encouragement does not order men to believe that the false is true: it merely makes them indifferent to the issue of truth or falsehood."  Indifference to truth or falsehood is the essence of bullshit according to Harry G. Frankfurt in his slim booklet On Bullshit.

 

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