confucius institute

CI Held the First Seminar on Teaching about China

On Oct. 8th, CI held its first seminar on teaching about China: Learning China: Establishing a Global Context.

As one of world’s sophisticated civilizations and with its increasingly more important role in international affairs, China is an important subject of study for today’s students. At the same time, it is a great challenge for teachers to effectively teach Chinese history and culture in the classroom to students in the United States. To assist teachers in integrating “China” into their various curricula (whether history, literature, or social studies), the University at Albany Confucius Institute for China’s Culture and the Economy has organized a one day seminar led by scholars working in various fields that will address the goals of integrating China into curricula and techniques for introducing students to Chinese cultural content. Initiated by CI’s former Executive Director Professor Toney DeBlasi at the East Asian Studies, CI invited four distinguished professors to UAlbany to talk about how to learn and teach about Chinese culture and history.

Attended by nearly 40 local Chinese teachers and UAlbany faculty, the Seminar inaugurated in the Massry Center for Business Room 141 at 8:30am. The new CI Director Prof. Youqin Huang expressed the warm welcome to the audience on behalf of CI. She also briefed the CI’s mission and recent cultural events. She assured audiences that CI would held more academic and cultural activities in the future. Addressing the seminar, Chinese Director of CI Prof. Dejun Cao claimed that this seminar was the first substantial step towards one of the CI’s goals to make this CI an influential center of teaching Chinese Language as well as culture in the Capital Region.

The one-day seminar started with Prof. Jeffrey Richey from Berea College, who gave a presentation titled “China as Living Text and Moving Picture: Learning about China through Literature and Film”. He argued Chinese fiction and film are windows onto the continuing transformation and vitality of Chinese cultural traditions, especially Confucianism. Prof. Richey not only demonstrated his familiarity with Chinese pop culture through contemporary literature and film, but also showed an effective way to connect with the young generation of American students and how to effectively teach them Chinese culture and history.

Prof. Rebecca Bates, also from Berea College, is a historian, and she presented “why the West Needs (to Know) China”. From tracing the history, she argued by shifting the lens to focus on China offers both new historical insights and some great pedagogical advantages for teaching world history.

Prof. Ken Hammond, from New Mexico State University, spoke on “Knowing and Showing: Mapping knowledge in early modern China and Europe”. Prof. Hammond argued that maps have often been a form of communication which could transcend cultural and linguistic barriers more easily than purely written texts. Through analyzing a few historical maps, Prof. Hammond showed how maps can be used as educational devices to encourage students to envision the changing world of the early modern era, and to appreciate the ways in which ideas, information, and technologies of knowledge were shared, adapted, and enriched through the encounter between Europe and China from the late Ming through the High Qing periods.

Prof. Robert Foster’s speech focused on “The Burden of Historical Memory: The Logic of Chinese Politics”. National historical narratives presented in museums, textbooks, and other formats profoundly shape the self-understanding of a people. The historical memory in these narratives promote values and ideals in today's society and serve as motivation for achieving future goals. The historical narrative in the People's Republic of China focuses on two seemingly contradictory themes — 5,000 years of glorious civilization and 150 years of humiliation--to encourage China's continuing rise and development. Prof. Foster argues that understanding these two themes helps make sense of current policies pursued by the PRC.

Prof. Tony DeBlasi facilitated the hour-long heated discussion in the afternoon. The seminar addressed both pedagogical issues and offered concrete examples to illustrate the educational value of the education about China. Audiences were impressed by the presentations, and they were very enthusiastic, with many questions and suggestions. It is clear that teachers and professors were all thinking about how to improve their teaching by using the tips and perspectives they learn from the workshop.

In the thank-you letter to CI, TVHS Chinese Teacher Sophia appreciated this good chance of learning. She said this seminar allowed the audience to have a wonderful day of learning and being inspired by each of the speakers. She said that maybe someday one or more of her students would attend the colleges/universities that speakers are teaching at, then they would be lucky to take the courses and learn from speakers.