Lincoln Public Schools Superintendent Steve Joel is on a two-week trip to China, sponsored by the Confucius Institute at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The experience is an educational and cultural exchange between the Confucius Institute and Xi’an Jiaotong University, sister university of UNL. The traveling group includes representatives from Lincoln Public Schools, UNL, the city of Lincoln and state government. The itinerary includes events – including several visits to Chinese schools – designed to exchange ideas and increase cross-cultural understanding between the two countries.
Joel will share periodic reports of the journey.
We spent yesterday and today on the campus of Xi’an Jiaotong University, a large campus with more than 30,000 students from all over China and the world. It is considered to be a “key” university, which means only the top-scoring high school students are admitted.
Our lessons are fascinating, but facilities here have very little air conditioning or paper towels (which can be uncomfortable). We have had lectures (remember those days??) on the Chinese economy (they seemed to suggest that things were not very good) and the country’s culture (I think we covered every dynasty). They truly were lectures with very basic Power Points. Of course, our group asked a number of questions and tried to get some political discussion going. Interestingly, the university professors approach those attempts very tentatively. There is a strong sense that communism is very good for the Chinese people despite the issues of slowing growth, rising unemployment and horrible pollution.
The best class had us learning basic Chinese language. The teacher demonstrated great technique in getting us involved and providing a great amount of guided practice. He had recently returned from a two-year Confucius Institute stint with Omaha Public Schools where he learned how to create lessons that engaged students in their learning. I think most in our group can now recite basic introductory phrases with a limited degree of proficiency.
The food continues to be interesting. The spices of Xi’an are different than what we experienced in Beijing and I’m always willing to give something a try.
The next few days will have us visiting schools and I am looking most forward to that.