Saturday, July 12, 2008

China's Warning to France

Stereotypes get their force because they are based in at least partial truth.  The joke about European heaven being a place where the French are the cooks and the Germans are the engineers is one example of a stereotype that rings true.  The joke about European hell being a place where the French are the engineers and the Germans the police an example of a stereotype that doesn't work.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy is going to the Olympics in China.  The country of Napoleon has not even a Napoleonic complex today. The Chinese are developing a reputation for bullying. President Sarkozy has been vague about whether he intends to meet with Tibet's Dalai Lama. China has warned of  "serious consequences" to relations between the two nations should the meeting occur. And so, two stereotypes meet.  

President Sarkozy is a conservative on the French political scale and got elected as a pro-American.  There's a presumption of a certain fortitude there.  To this American, there is not even fortitude required of the French president here, merely self-respect, for himself and his country.  That is to say he should meet with the Dalia Lama now even if he was ambivalent before.  

France has a different reputation for fortitude however and here is one American who doesn't want to see that French reputation reinforced in this minor standoff.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

China's Great Wall of Silence: Yan Song nee Song Binbin

"Yan Song" is the name Song Binbin adopted while living in the U.S. At the height of her celebrity in China as a Red Guard she also used Song Yaowu ("Be violent"), the given name given her by Mao Zedong. In Morning Sun Song claimed Yan ("stone," "rock") was selected randomly for her by her friends so that she could escape the ignominy of Yaowu. As noted on this site previously there is a symmetry between Yan and Song's course of study in the U.S. at M.I.T.: geology.

If given her by friends, they evidently had not consulted Chinese history beforehand. The astounding entry below on another Yan Song is excerpted from Wikipedia.


Yan Song was the prime minister who had served under the emperor Jia Jing... Under Yan Song, the nation fell into an era of moral decadence and corruption, where righteous officers were sidelined and the Ming national strength fell rapidly. Yan Song's wealth is said to be so rich that it is said to be comparable to that of the emperor. He is also well known for his corruption and had been known to openly sell government positions for cash during the Jia Qing reign. However, his corruption and treachery had also incurred the indignation of righteous officers and created many political opponents. Yan Song was finally disgraced in his later years and died in poverty not long after that, while his son, the infamous Yan Shifan, was executed for collaborating with Japanese pirates who invaded Chinese coastal provinces at the time.
He was the subject of the Chinese opera called Beating Yan Song (打嚴嵩 Dǎ Yán Sōng).

Friday, July 04, 2008

China's Great Wall of Silence: Ma Liping's Resume

Dear Ms. Ma,

I ran across this quote from you, apparently from a speech that you gave:
"There are a few pieces of knowledge and skills 'missing' in the U.S. elementary mathematics. I will discuss what these missing pieces are, why they have been 'missed', and how these pieces may play a significant role in students' mathematics learning."

Changing just a few words, I adopt your quote as my purpose here:

"There are a few pieces of your resume 'missing.' I will discuss what these
missing pieces are, why they have been 'missed', and how these pieces may play a significant role in understanding who you really are."

Yours in finding missing pieces,
Benjamin Harris

China's Great Wall of Silence: Ma Liping's Resume

Dear Ms. Ma,

At this link too, the reviewer of your book lists you as having a master's degree from East China Normal University.

Benjamin Harris

China's Great Wall of Silence: Ma Liping's Resume

Dear Ms. Ma,

Uh-oh. Your famous book Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics also has you as having a master's degree from East China Normal University. So your bio on the National Mathematics Advisory Panel does not appear to have been a typo or a misunderstanding. The book was published in 1999 and it made you famous. It's your book, for heaven's sake. You know that it claims that you have the master's degree.

Please explain.

Benjamin Harris, J.D.

China's Great Wall of Silence: Ma Liping's Resume

Dear Ms. Ma,

Here is an example of the discrepancy that I referred to in my initial post on you. On the U.S. Department of Education website you are listed as having a master's degree from East China Normal University, yet on the website of the Stanford Chinese School, where you are principal, you are listed as having been only a graduate student.

Liping, How could the Department of Education have gotten that wrong? Where would they have gotten that you had a masters degree if not from you? Certainly, you cannot claim ignorance of your own biography on the D.O.E. website. Why have you not had them change it? I'm sure you are very busy; would you like me to write to them and ask them to change it for you? I'll help in any way I can.

Always at your service,

Benjamin Harris, J.D.
Biography of Dr. Liping Ma
National Mathematics Advisory Panel
Liping Ma is senior scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching. Her book, Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics, is quoted on all sides of discussions about how to teach mathematics in elementary schools in the United States. She has a Ph.D. from Stanford University and earned a masters degree in education from East China Normal University.
1980 For the East China Normal University Graduate Department of Education. Studied under the famous educator, East China Normal University Vice-Chancellor Mr. Liu Fonian.

1980年 为华东师范大学教育系研究生。师从著名教育家、华东师大校长刘佛年先生。

A copy of this post was emailed to Ms. Ma at the Stanford Chinese School's general email address.

The Presidential Campaign

For the first time in my life I am an independent voter. Actually, I am designated officially as "no party" by my state which is more narcissistic than I wish but accurate as applied to my social proclivities.

So also for the first time in my life I actually have to think about for whom to vote and I don't like to think; it often gets me into trouble. But it's only four months till the election and I better start. Here then what I like and don't like about each candidate.

Obama. African-American. Race does matter to me a little, and I'm proud of my country and of the Democratic party that there is an African-American who is

the actual nominee of one of the major parties. Obama+

Associates. This is very important because whomever we elect we also elect an administration and a kitchen cabinet.
-Michelle Obama: Her comment that her husband's victory in a primary was the first time in her life that she was proud of her country.


-Cindy McCain: Too peroxide-botox-tacky looking for a first lady, but she doesn't seem to have anything to tell us about her husband's world-

view, as Mrs. Obama might. No factor.

-Cabinet appointments. If the usual suspects are appointed from each

party this will be a huge advantage for McCain. Too early.

-Supreme Court appointments. Also huge and a major McCain+

Okay, that's enough thinking for now.