University of Memphis Gets Tennessee’s First Confucius Institute

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Nov 052007

Tennessee is getting its first Confucius Institute earlier than I expected:

The U of M’s Institute is the 24th in the U.S. and one of more than 100 worldwide. The U of M’s institute will partner with Hubei University in China. The two institutions will engage in information and cultural exchange for professors and students….

Even more surprising is that the school chosen is the University of Memphis. Apparently I was not the only one:

Chinese officials wanted to know why an institute should be housed at the U of M, and not at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, among other potential sites.

Kung and the others came back to Memphis to begin answering that question and to begin working on their proposal, which they wrote in both English and Chinese. They spent a month on the 68-page document and submitted it Dec. 1….

It is the only one in Tennessee and the Mid-South – an honor for Kung and his colleagues….

The Confucius Institutes have been controversial because of their ties to the Chinese government. The U of M’s director definitely isn’t hiding these connections:

Kung has five objectives to make the Confucius Institute a success. He said he plans to work closely with, in order: the Chinese Embassy; the Chinese government – namely the ministry of education; Hubei University; the U of M; and communities in both China and the U.S.

The best explanation for why Memphis won the bid comes at the end of the article:

One offshoot of the institute has been the exchange of American and Chinese basketball coaches. That sport has boomed in China, and when the U of M basketball team travels to China next year, Kung said he believes it will only enhance the city’s stature there.

Most of my Chinese friends don’t know much about Tennessee, but those who are into sports probably know about the Grizzlies.

Chinese Classes Coming to Knox County Schools?

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Jun 252007

Knox County may be adding Chinese to the curriculum (I’m still looking for a link to the full article):

Trio’s China visit explores bringing language to Knox schools
By Lola Alapo
Monday, June 25, 2007

Three Knox County school officials headed to China this weekend on a cultural exchange program as well as a mission to explore the possibility of bringing Chinese language classes to Knox County schools.

Ed Hedgepeth, Knox County school systems director of secondary education; Donna Wright, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction; and Karen Carson, Knox County school board chairwoman, were scheduled to leave Sunday from San Francisco, where they were attending another conference.

“We’ll learn a little bit more and hopefully see about putting this language into a school or more than one school,” Hedgepeth said. “I think (the trip) will be interesting and informative.”

The trip, entitled the Chinese Bridge Delegation, was arranged through the national College Board and is funded by the Chinese government. It will run through July 2.

The Knox County officials are among 800 school administrators from across the country. Participants are selected by invitation.

This is the program’s second year. Participants will begin the Chinese leg of their trip in Beijing and then travel to other provinces to meet with Chinese education leaders and visit schools.

Knox County officials have long discussed implementing a Chinese foreign language class to help students be more competitive in a global economy. [Really? First I’ve heard of it.]

Sallee Reynolds, principal of the new Hardin Valley High School, has said she hopes to pilot the program in her school when it opens in fall 2008.

Finding a teacher will be an issue in implementing the program, Hedgepeth said.

Another hurdle is trying to schedule the classes.

“Because Chinese is very difficult to learn,” Hedgepeth said, “It can’t be done in the normal time sequence we do with other romance languages.”