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President Jill Tiefenthaler's Blog

Beijing and Guangzhou

Over the last few days, I visited Beijing and Guangzhou. In Beijing, I gave a talk on the liberal arts at Tsinghua University (the top university in China) and met with Deputy Dean Guizhi Yan to discuss potential collaborations between CC and Tsinghua.

In Guangzhou, I met with parents and students who participated in last summer’s CC program there. Professor Steve Hayward taught a writing course for high school students in Guangzhou. They loved him and look forward to continuing the collaboration. I also gave a public talk on the liberal arts in Guangzhou. This time my talk was followed by short remarks by three high school principals and then a Q&A session.

The questions that followed all three of my talks made it clear that there is growing interest in China in the liberal arts and the way we educate our students (small classes, faculty-student interaction, experiential education). As one speaker arguing for reform in China put it “with our current system and its focus on memorization and tests, we will produce labor but not innovators.” Professors and administrators at both universities were very interested in thinking about curriculum reform with more focus on the humanities and arts at the university-level. They were also intrigued by our Block Plan. We talked about potential collaborations around faculty development. Parents, high school principals, and students were very interested in learning more about liberal arts colleges in the US. I heard over and over again that while Chinese students used to be completely focused on gaining admission to top universities, they are now increasingly interested in liberal arts colleges.

It is an exciting time for higher education in China! While there is much discussion in the US about the relevance of a liberal arts education in today’s specialized world, many in China are embracing the liberal arts. They understand that a liberal education is more relevant for this generation of students than ever before. In a recent New York Times article (2-4-14), David Brooks writes about the skills that people need now that computers can do so many things for us. He writes: “Being able to be a straight-A student will be less valuable — gathering masses of information and regurgitating it back on tests.” Among the really valuable human traits will be curiosity, passion, networking and “the ability to grasp the essence of one thing, and then the essence of some very different thing, and smash them together to create some entirely new thing.” In other words, the liberal arts!

Tsinghua University

Tsinghua University

Guangzhao

Guangzhou

High school students in Guangzhao

High school students in Guangzhou

 

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