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Liu Xiaobo (1955-2017)

A major part of the capstone for my Teachers for Global Education project was a unit project for a campaign to free oppressed writers. For a sample, I created a Voicethread on China’s only Nobel Peace Prize winner, imprisoned dissident and literary critic, Liu Xiaobo.

Liu died Wednesday from liver cancer, having been denied travel to the United States for treatment. See reports from BBC, CNN, Fox News, and India’s First PostUSA Today report that the last regime to hold a Nobel Peace Prize winner in custody until death was Nazi Germany, which imprisoned Carl von Ossietzky.

The Chinese government has gone into classic the-beatings-will-continue-until-morale-improves modelodging protests with any country for statements about Liu’s death, accusing the West of victimizing Liu for its own purposessingling out especially Taiwan’s “reckless” comments that contribute to a string of “repeated arbitrary attacks:” The comment in question? President Tsai Ing-Wen’s statement, “Only through democracy, in which every Chinese person has freedom and respect, can China truly become a proud and important country.”

China has also been working its censors double-time, continuing to prevent mainlanders from finding any information about the death of a man they don’t know anything about, going as far as censoring “RIP” and the candle emoji from social media posts.

The United States response has been ambiguous and unfocused. President Trump, at a press conference in Paris, in response to a Chinese reporter’s question described Chinese President Xi Jinping as “a terrific guy” rather than speak about Liu. The White House shortly afterward issued a statement that President Trump was “deeply saddened” by Liu’s death, and U. S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on China to release his wife, Liu Xia, from house arrest.

In Hong Kong, where the grip of Chinese state power is not as firm (although four pro-democracy lawmakers were removed today for showboating during their oaths of allegiance to China), memorials have been left at the door of government offices. and a column has been posted about Charter 08, the pro-democracy manifesto for which Liu was imprisoned, in the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s English-language newspaper.

Dissidents’ and human rights advocates’ concerns now turn to Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since her husband’s imprisonment. The New York Times reports that Liu Xiaobo’s last writings were handwritten notes to and for his wife.

More reports here, here. Also, a great column by John Timpane of the Philadelphia Inquirer about governments’ desire to control journalism around the world is here,

Happy 20th, Malala!

Just a  quick note that one of Globalcitizenshipe’s favorite students in the world is no longer a student: Malala Yousafzai graduated from her secondary school in Birmingham, England on July 7, and–typical teen–celebrated by posting on Twitter.

That’s probably the only typical teenage thing Malala did to commemorate the occasion (she didn’t even start her Twitter account until she was done with exams). Graduating high school here in the States usually comes with a little to a lot of fear about leaving the nest and going out into the world and actually forging your own future, partly thanks to the common myth that high school is the best time of our lives (this attitude provides a big money-maker for high school memorabilia companies, and a big debt-maker for unwary families). There is, I think, the unconscious worry of being, like Brenda and Eddie in Billy Joel’s “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” someone “who peaked too early in life.”

So how can Malala’s accomplishments after graduation match up those before: surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban, who seek to prevent the education of girls; founding and promoting the Malala Fund to champion the universal right of every girl in the world to 12 years of free, safe, quality education; winning a Nobel Prize for Peace; …. Heck, she even was bestowed honorary Canadian citizenship. Her 16th birthday was named Malala Day by the United Nations, which gave her the gift of addressing the General Assembly.

How does one top that? Well, for Malala, who turns 20 today, you go to Iraq:

“I chose to spend my birthday this year in Iraq to meet girls like 13-year-old Nayir. When extremists occupied Mosul, Nayir could not go to school for three years. Her family fled the city in April, when her father was captured by ISIS. They haven’t heard from him since.

“Nayir is one of three million displaced people in Iraq. Half are children and almost half of them aren’t in school. The odds are worse for girls.

“When Nayir fled Mosul, she was determined to go back to school. ‘No matter what, nothing will keep me from finishing my studies,’ she told me. Her new classroom is a small tent in the camp. She just took her exams in sweltering heat.”

You go, girl! Or, perhaps, now that you’re 20, keep up the good work, young lady!

Below are more links pertaining to Malala Day.

“Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy, and every girl who has raised their voice for their rights.”

Malala’s life story on Biography
10 inspirational quotes by Malala
How Malala inspires us all

Refugees, TIMSS, happiness, and miscellany

If it’s springtime, it’s time for spring cleaning–or at least the spring cleaning of my inbox of interesting happenings in global education.

The word of the 2016-17 school year in global education is refugees. UNICEF reports that 28 million children around the world are displaced, including 10 million refugees and 1 million seeking asylum. And there is considerable effort, including that by Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousefzai, going into the question of how to educate them.

First, we have to get them to school. In Syria, 187,000 children are not going to school. Think about what a difference that will make on the long-term future of the country. Thirty thousand Syrian are university-age refugees in Turkey; some go to college, most don’t. Here’s an article from The Atlantic about their plight.

One country that is welcoming the refugees is Canada. Here’s a story about an elementary school in Ottawa where 110 of the 288 students are Syrian refugees. Germany meanwhile has about 400,000 refugee children in its schools. Greece has about 18,000 refugee students in its schools.

In London, a university has figured out that refugees make excellent tutors of languages like Arabic, Swahili and Korean. The Guardian offers teachers five ways to help migrants adjust to your classroom and school. While not applicable only to migrant students and refugees, The U. S. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development offers 10 ways to help students overcome barriers.

For a global perspective, former British prime minister Gordon Brown says about 250 million children around the world are unable to go to school, and 600 million go to school, but learn little due to a variety of factors. Investing in education for these children is the primary means to change the world for the better, he says. Unfortunately, according to UNESCO, the goal for all children in the world to have at least a primary education has been pushed back 12 years to 2042.

What’s a Global Citizenshipe post without a mention of international tests and a roll call of what is happening in those countries that could be appropriated elsewhere?  We often focus on PISA, but here’s an article on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)–topped by Singapore.

Singapore is encouraging, funding and developing alternative learning spaces, like outdoor classrooms.

New Zealand does a good job by not focusing on standards. They have standards, to be sure, but the schools–even the rural ones–don’t let them get in the way of makerspaces. That said, the biggest problem in New Zealand education is finding enough teachers.

In China, another usually high scorer on PISA and TIMSS, some schools are trying to focus more on critical thinking than the rote memorization that does well on standardized tests.

Speaking of PISA, while it tells us how students are doing around the world, what tells us how the students think they’re doing? Here’s a short article by a researcher who asked that question and got an interesting answer: “[T]hose who attended highly stratified, segregated schools were most likely to think only they were to blame for their failure. Conversely, students in less stratified, socioeconomically integrated, schools tended to attribute their academics to a range of factors within their control (effort, talent) and beyond their control (teachers, bad luck).”

Meanwhile in India, the reading curriculum is expanding to include more recent authors like J. K. Rowling and Malala Yousefzai. India was also the site in November of the World Robot Olympiad, won by two students from Taiwan. Samsung is donating 10,000 solar lamps to girls in India so that they can work on their studies at night, when many areas lack adequate electricity.

The focus on encouraging girls in education is a long-standing worldwide initiative. IREX, which administers the Teachers for Global Classrooms program that inspired this blog, has a wonderful resource on providing supporting teaching environments for boys and girls.

A Norwegian university completed a study that shows children who do regular, moderate to vigorous exercise are less likely to come down with depression as teens. Here are some ideas for incorporating movement in your classroom.

In Dubai, there’s a growing focus on teaching empathy and encouraging well-being and happiness. United Arab Emirates, by the way, is one of the few countries to have elevated happiness to a cabinet-level position; read this story from the Los Angeles Times about the UAE Minister of Happiness. Here’s another innovation they’re trying in the UAE: licensing teachers.

Here’s a British educator who thinks emotional well-being should be part of the test results schools must report. The Irish agree.

More about Ireland: The government has several plans for changing education in that country, including making computer science an exam-level subject.

An Australian teacher shows us all how to start the school year.

A Michigan middle-school science teacher found a way to get his students to act locally and think globally.

Minecraft is not just an addictive game. This article reports that 75,000 teachers are using it for lesson. And here’s a teacher in Brazil using Pokemon Go for teaching.

Speaking of games, here’s an article from Edutopia on how to incorporate games into your teaching.

With all this going on, let’s not lose sight of the second of the “three R’s”: writing. Here’s a study about how little writing is done in middle schools, and how to incorporate more across the curriculum.

Learn a new language, be a new you (maybe)

Just a quick post to link this article from Quartz that reports on research claiming a speaker’s personality changes depending on the language. There’s an interesting bit about the effect on personality of learning a second language: If you learn the language while immersed in that culture, your personality likely changes, but if you learn the language while immersed in your home culture, your personality likely won’t change very much.

How to prepare students for jobs that aren’t there

A very interesting article from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania wonders if there is anything any U. S. president can do to transform the labor market back to where it was 30-40 years ago. (Ironically, Penn is the alma mater of President Trump, and three of his children. Although this legacy is promoted on Penn’s website, Politico reports that the relationship is awkward.)

The article reports on a conference addressing that question. The general answer was no. Some wow moments:

“Within 20 years, 47% of all jobs are at risk of being replaced by technology, according to an Oxford University study.”

“[T]here are larger forces at work, according to Art Bilger, founder and CEO of WorkingNation, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that highlights the challenges facing U.S. employment. The main forces he named were technology, globalization, people’s increased longevity and an outdated educational system. He stated that one of the most significant issues facing our nation is the prospect of up to 40% structural unemployment — that is, long-lasting and caused by fundamental shifts in our economy.”

“Martin Scaglione, the president and CEO of the nonprofit Hope Street Group which accelerates solutions for social impact … asserted that apart from any particular industry, the one job skill that will be needed by every worker is the ability to reinvent themselves to keep up with a swiftly-changing job market.”

The solution, conference attendees said, could come from partnerships between local governments, NGOs, academic institutions and corporations.

Globalization, education and the earnings gap

Just a quick post to link a very interesting article by Alana Semuels in The Atlantic about the widening gap in earnings between those in the United States with college degrees and those without. Among the causes: technology and globalization has shifted economic emphasis from manufacturing to information. Among the effects: College graduates moving into cities, helping those cities thrive socially and economically, and away from rural areas, depressing those areas socially and economically.

I wrote about the effects of this education gap in my post-Trump-victory post. Trump’s populist victory is certainly another effect of what Semuels describes. The question remains: How can we narrow these gaps? Education and training seem like obvious answers, but those cost government money, and–in a sort of Matthew effect–the least educated areas seem to be ruled by those whose education policy focuses on cutting “waste.” What about an infrastructure investment giving poor, rural areas like those described in the article free public Wi-Fi to attract college graduates and information entrepreneurs?

Speaking with an accent

When I was in India, some teachers were very concerned about their students’ accents when speaking English. Both in India and the United States, I have seen countless advertisements for accent reduction programs, and I admit that sometimes an accent is so strong that it is difficult to understand what someone is saying.

So, assuming ESOL teachers here and around the world are concerned, here is an interesting article in Fast Company by a speaking coach. Her main point to those concerned about their accents: Don’t worry so much.