November 2006


The one thing that may end up forcing me out of China is the Great Firewall of China. Once again, Wikipedia is blocked after nearly a whole month of relatively unfettered access. What’s worse, my blog is again also blocked. This I really don’t get as my blog, while not necessarily supporting the Chinese government or condoning their practices, generally presents a more neutral view than most. I’m very active in many online debates about China and my stance is basically “take a little more critical look at your own country’s policies and you might find that they are close to 99% similar. ” Sure, that 1% makes a big difference, but painting the Chinese goverment as more “evil” than others is simply ignorant in my opinion. Sure, they have had a heavy hand in the not so distant past, and sure they still do in many ways, not the least of which is blocking my site!! But you’re kidding yourself if you believe that your own government is benevolent. So, as I distrust all goverments equally, they should unblock me!!!

Hey YOU!!! The guy who has the power to flip the switch and OK my domain again… Would you mind making my life a bit easier by not having to rely on slow and clunky proxy services to circumvent your meddlesome filtering and just go ahead unblock me? And while you’re at it… give me back my Wikipedia!!!

Your humble guest in your beautiful country,
+ Modok +

[tags] china, wikipedia, firewall, block, access [/tags] Reddit Slashdot Digg Facebook Technorati Google StumbleUpon Furl Yahoo Ask Mister Wong China Newsvine Simpy Spurl Wink Rawsugar Squidoo Fark

UK-based Quiet Revolution have done some great work with Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWT) that can be used in urban situations where the wind is not likely to come from one steady direction, but rather from all over the place. Unlike traditional pinwheel-like wind turbines, a VAWT can utilize wind from any direction. As long as you can maintain a minimum air-speed of 4 m/s you can supply generate enough electricity to supply one or more families or offices with power. They also operate in near silence, a real benefit as many wind projects never get off the ground because of the noise associated with horizontal axis wind turbines (HAWT). They also look very cool! They’ve even developed some display applications that use LEDs to a very cool effect, similar to the kids toys that using spinning LEDs to paint light pictures. Reddit Slashdot Digg Facebook Technorati Google StumbleUpon Furl Yahoo Ask Mister Wong China Newsvine Simpy Spurl Wink Rawsugar Squidoo Fark

After a few months, I can say that my kids are doing very well in the Chinese school system. My older daughter Blysse had a few years of international school, but had to stay at her Oma’s (grandma’s) house Mon - Thur as the school was right downtown next door to Oma’s and the travel time through rush hour traffic was torture. This worked reasonably well as Salomae and/or I would generally stop by during the week and eat dinner there, tuck Blysse in and go home. Of course, it was not very satisfying to Blysse, as she would much rather stay with us during the week or anytime. So, when they built a brand new school right across the street from us for the kids in our complex, we gave the kids a choice. International school or being the only two Americans in a Chinese school. Without hesitation they chose the local school. I must say, I believe it is working out for the best.

I talked about this with a German friend of mine who has lived in China for years and has always sent his daughter to the best private international schools. He pays over US$10,000 a year for the service, and I’m sure it’s worth it for him. We have very different objectives, however. One of the main reasons we moved to China is to provide an international perspective for the kids. This, to me, means breaking down barriers, not putting them up. Mind you, they are already up to begin with. When I told my friend that we had decided to take Blysse and Ellie out of international school and put them in the regular Chinese school system, he was horrified. It turns out, he was very concerned about the amount of communist indoctrination they would receive.

Now, even back at Fangcaodi International School, looking through Blysse’s books, I could see a degree of political thought in the text, especially in the poems they memorize. Where I disagree with my friend, however, is his apparent assumption that similarly questionable thought patterns are absent from his private school. Sure, they might not be teaching them about great communist heroes, but I believe what they are teaching them is actually in many ways worse. Even if we’d stayed in the States, we would have been very careful to make sure that we tell the kids that what they learn in school is largely controlled by the government, and has the ultimate unspoken objective of turning out vast quantities of wage slaves. Compared to the US, schools in any part of Asia are far more packed with rote memorization, especially of tedious details, that prepare kids for even more memorization at the university level. They also ensure that all of the top universities in the states are now utterly reliant on Asian grad students for scientific research.

The danger of education in any country is not what propaganda they get taught, but whether or not they accept it without question. As parents we have to pay attention to what goes in to their heads, and talk about it and to get them to come up with their own ideas. Usually its pretty obvious that they are already taking in what they want and ignoring the rest. I hope they can keep it up. For me, if my kids emerge from their schooling absolutely suspicious of everything they’ve ever learned, I will feel I’ve protected them from the most damaging aspect of education. If they still have an active imagination in the face of all the memorizing, we’ve done well.

In the end, my kids are in fact, still very American, and yet… more than simply American. Our household language is still English. Blysse and Ellie communicate to each other in English, unless their Chinese friends are over playing, which is now almost every day. Which is the best part of having a school across the street. We are actually part of our community. And the kids are learning more than just school subjects. Yesterday Blysse told me that it was her turn to clean the classroom with a few other girls and that the other kids finished up in about five minutes and went out to play. Having been subjected to this when I was studying at in Japan, where I initially reacted with outrage but later learned to accept it, I realized that if everyone takes care of their personal environment, that can lead to a healthy work ethic, I was very pleased when Blysse mentioned that the other girls didn’t really know how to clean well, so she went through the whole classroom wiping all the surfaces that regularly got missed, cleaned all the chalk dust off the tray and put out new pieces of chalk for the teacher. I remember doing the same thing when I was her age back in Ohio. No one saw her do it. But she was proud. So, I’m proud. Reddit Slashdot Digg Facebook Technorati Google StumbleUpon Furl Yahoo Ask Mister Wong China Newsvine Simpy Spurl Wink Rawsugar Squidoo Fark

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