Lately I've been dreaming of Italy. Just 2 months ago I was frolicking around the Venician cobblestones. Feels like so long ago!
Well today a few folks brought some Italian dust with them as the Italian Education companyEduLife rolled into town to attend/conduct a seminar on Entrepreneurial Education. As the time I spend in a Chine.se Uni becomes longer, I am becoming familiar with popular buzzwords (I am - after all - just an observer here). A few popular words with the natives are, "innovation," and "entrepreneur."
Now, I have a bajillion observations and feelings about all this - but the short version is this: when a society's education exists solely for the purpose of boosting economy and lacks any vision for human needs or societal justice - it. will. falter.
I am sick of hearing about economy and entrepreneurship and profit. I am an EDUCATION major. I care about educating people. About sharing information and knowledge. About creating a better world through education reform and educational systems based on honesty and forthrightness. Unfortunately, all of my ideals place me at exactly the opposite end of the spectrum as my host country whose only thought is, "money money money."
It was interesting to hear the Italian speakers present. A thought that stuck with me was that a small business should never be opened solely for the purpose of creating a profit - that businesses should be human centered and have a vision of creativity and gift to society, not just to suck money from customers.
While the Italians spoke of the importance for people-centered business and social obligations within a burgeoning society - the Chin.ese professors spoke about profit and the goals of Chi.na during this 10 year education reform (2010-2020 - as set by the gov).
My advisor was a key-note speaker and spoke about the idea that all Chin.ese students should be required to take an entrepreneur class as a required course in their undergrad. He spoke about the need for the Ch.inese to "innovate" and create, since while most things are made in Ch.ina, they are not developed here. Nothing comes from the Chi.nese people's brains, products just come from their factories.
My advisor also showed pictures of the Occupy Wallstreet riots and of protests in Libya and London. This made me angry because while he is showing this as a sign of unrest in democratic countries (besides Libya), he would never mention any unrest here in Chi.na. And if anyone were to try to speak their opinion - who knows what would happen. I wish the Occupy people realized how dumb they make America look abroad and how those news pictures can be construed in so many different ways by countries with different agendas. His agenda was, "dear little Chin.ese students, look at the unhappy people in other countries under non-Commie gov's...be happy where you are and stay quiet and peaceful."
I have absolutely no interest in entrepreneurship (or innovation for that matter). But I was required to attend the conference so that I would "give face" to the Chin.ese people. The more foreigners that were in attendance, the better the Chi.nese Uni looks.
My advisor is giving me the cold shoulder after my amazingly bad attitude via text this past week (yay). But I was able to mingle and meet the EduLife Italians and was invited to another even tomorrow afternoon.
At one point during a break, one of the Italians asked me about my experience in a Chine.se school. "It's...interesting," I said, trying to be diplomatic without lying. She nodded her head and looked at me understandingly. "Good choice of words," she smiled.
It was difficult because they all praised my advisor and told me how lucky I am to have him (apparently he is really famous in Chi.na, dear God.) I just bit my tongue and nodded my head and thought to myself, "If only you knew he was a creepy pervert and he might be missing balls by the time I graduate."
After the break, most of the Chine.se students had left, and those that were left were talking. I just kept thinking to myself what a waste for these Italians to fly all the way here.
You can give as many speeches as you want (and I'm not sure how much English was understood....especially with Italian accents) but if the culture of a country is unable to grasp the concepts of what you are saying (people-centered business, globally minded business originating from the start-up), then there is no point in coming. It all looks "Hooodyhoooo yay we are together - one world!," but if there is no real understanding or any principles that will be put into place - you might as well stay home.
What is true global teamwork if one side is unable to think like the other? Sharing of ideas takes two sides being open and able to understand - and I do not think that the Chine.se students are capable of understanding most of the points that were made by the Italian professors because they do not come from a system where they are taught to think critically or sympathetically.
All of this got me thinking about my dissertation and how culture really affects an educational system's ability for reform. What I'm dealing with here is not necessarily just values of education based on culture (what I plan to study), but also where those values come from, their ability to morph over time, and the potential of sharing information over a culture line. It was an "interesting" morning.
I came home looking like Mu Shu.....
Another random day in Chinatown. What the heck is my life?
I miss 'Merica. Land of the free (thinkers), baby.
walk slow. xoxo.