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Implications of Globalization, Technology and Education Presented by Professor Zhao

On Wednesday, December 14th, we attended the final City Club forum until January of 2017. The speaker was Professor Yong Zhao, Ph.D., who is, among other accomplishments, a Foundation Distinguished Professor in the School of Education at the University of Kansas. As the program notes stated, his work "focuses on the implications of globalization and technology and education. He has published over 100 articles and 30 books including his recent, "Counting What Counts: Re-framing Education Outcomes." Prof. Zhao was born in the Sichuan Province of China, the son of a farmer, and first came to the U.S. in 1992 as a visiting scholar. On this day his talk was titled, "Perils or Promises: Education in the Age of Smart Machines." Before the program started we told him that during the Q and A, we intended to ask him about the value of international students to the United States and he said he would welcome the question.

While we were waiting for lunch, we visited with Ms. Linda Styer, Senior Program Officer of the Community Foundation Lorain County. Ms. Styer appreciated the work that Ms. Margaret W. Wong does and invited us out to Lorain to have coffee with her which we intend to do after Christmas. Much like what the Cleveland Foundation does, the Community Foundation Lorain County makes grants to worthy organizations in its vicinity and has a Hispanic Fund Advisory Group.

We also spoke with a man who experienced very strict procedures pertaining to immigration when he worked in Canada years ago. His company obtained a visa for him so that he could work for several months at its counterpart in Canada and his family acompanied him there. His wife, unfortunately, was not allowed to work or attend school while she was there with him but, since their children were young, it is needless to say that she kept busy. 

During lunch we sat with Ms. Laura Putre who is a staff writer for "Industry Week" specializing in workforce and automotive industry issues and Ms. Pat Panchak, her editor. We enjoyed talking to Mr. Matt and Ms. Kendra Gilmer who sat right next to us; miraculously, Ms. Gilmer seemed to recall seeing us at a political rally in Columbus several years ago when we accompanied former U.S. Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich there.

Prof. Zhao proved to be a informative speaker who was also fun to listen to. His contention was that our educational system cheats the students by placing too much emphasis on programs like "No Child Left Behind" and, in earlier years, the "Education Defense Act" and "Education at Risk" and, above all, test scores. He said that we need to be studying the side effects of these programs just like one does the side effects of Tylenol; for example, do they raise the test scores at the risk of turning the student off to subjects like math and science because an inflexible agenda is being forced upon them. Instead, he believed that individual talents must be encouraged and these talents should be put to the service of others; in other words, a classroom should be a team effort. Of course, a person could learn a subject if he/she had to but just because a student could be taught to paint, the student would probably only be mediocre under these circumstances. 

Moreover, he believed that everyone has talents; it is a question of what they are. He, himself, only became a Ph.D. only because he couldn't cut it as a farmer herding water buffalo. He made good use of the the story of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Rudolph, as we know, had a shinny red nose and no one liked him because of it so he got shoved into special education. Then "one foggy Christmas Eve" his nose came into good use as he led the sleigh team.

Prof. Zhao believed that there was no doubt about it; we are in the midst of a technological revolution wherein machines will do things like play chess better than we can so it is up to us, as humans, to provide the innovation/creativity to advance ourselves by using technology as our tool instead of the other way around.

Along these lines, technology can be put to good use to help develop talent. Surprisingly, Prof. Zhao was not enthusiastic as some people about on-line learning because he believed that it can "instruct" as to how to perform certain functions but not educate us because education should be a process that includes socialization and human interaction so that the student will eventually become a well-developed, healthy human being that will prove to be invaluable if his/her particular talents are given a chance to blossom. Two important values that he believed that schools should be imparting to students are to have confidence in oneself and have empathy for one's fellow human beings.  If a person came to him for a job or because he/she wanted to advance himself/herself from an educational standpoint, Prof. Zhao said that the most important factor for him would be how the student conducted himself/herself in an interview and the values that the student displayed.

When it was time for us to ask our question about the value of international students, Prof. Zhao said that such people were valuable from a cultural standpoint because they bring with them different ideas and different ways of doing things that might be just as good if not better than our own; he believed that they are valuable from a practical standpoint because they have proven to be a tremendous financial resource; plus he believed them to be valuable from a political standpoint because they have the potential to be good-will ambassadors for the United States after they return home provided their experience here was a good one.


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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