Freeman Foundation Funds USC Institute
Grants for the U.S-China Institute will provide California teachers with background on the cultures of East Asia.
Currently, three groups totaling 75 teachers from the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District are enrolled in 40-hour seminars on East Asia offered in several Los Angeles locations. A fourth session this summer will be offered to San Diego-area teachers. These seminars are designed to prepare them to teach their students about the region that looms so large in 21st-century life as well as to share their knowledge with fellow teachers.
The institute’s seminars are meeting a profoundly felt need, said Clayton Dube, the institute’s associate director. The California State Board of Education has mandated that secondary school students learn about East Asia’s past and present.
“The average age of teachers in Los Angeles County is 45. Most didn’t study East Asia when they were in college a couple of decades ago,” Dube said. “These teachers are leaders at their schools. They know their students need this material, and they want to be prepared to teach it to them.” Two-thirds of those participating teach social studies and one-third teach language arts.
The reaction from the schools has been enthusiastic. Rosemary Claire, former associate superintendent at the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District and now a consultant to the district, noted that well over 35 percent of the students in Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified were either born in Asia or are of Asian heritage.
Yet, she said, “most of our teachers know very little about East Asia and China in particular. Even our social studies teachers have rarely taken a course related to East Asia. Rather, they majored in history with a focus on either U.S. history or European history. The USC seminar series has been their introduction to Asia.”
The teachers in the Palos Verdes-based program will be going to China from March 31 to April 14. This trip and one for the teachers in last year’s group is possible because of the generosity of a private donor. Teachers from other districts who complete the seminar requirements become eligible to apply for a Freeman Foundation underwritten trip in summer 2008. Dube said that 18 to 20 teachers will be selected for that study tour.
Claire said that new courses have resulted from teachers completing the seminars and visiting China. Their experiences “have had a far-reaching influence on our students and our community,” she said. “We expect that our Mandarin Chinese language program will grow and that our students will learn far more than the rather meager content on Asia set forth in our California Content Standards for Language and Social Students.
“We can’t thank Clay enough for all his assistance and enthusiasm. Without his efforts and the funding from the Freeman Foundation, we would never have been able to enrich our instructional program,” she added.
The Freeman Foundation seeks to augment international understanding between the United States and East Asia through its support for the National Consortium for Teaching About Asia. The foundation honors the memory of businessman Mansfield Freeman, a longtime resident of East Asia and a devoted student of Chinese history and philosophy. To date, the foundation has given more than $1.5 million to support the local teacher training program, which Dube directed at UCLA before moving to USC this year.
The USC U.S.-China Institute seminars currently are offered in Palos Verdes, the San Fernando Valley and central Los Angeles at the United Teachers of Los Angeles building. In addition to the seminars, the teachers are expected to participate in online discussions, evaluate films, review Web sites on East Asia and design lessons incorporating the material and methods they have discussed.
The teachers also convey some of what they have learned to other instructors through workshops and other means. They receive a broad overview of East Asian history, Dube said, and also discuss current social structures, cultural attitudes and aspects of life such as China’s one-child policy.
Dube said that in addition to the seminars, many participating teachers have attended public talks at USC, and some will attend the April 20-21 inaugural conference of the USC U.S.-China Institute on the future of U.S.-Chinese relations. The conference, to be held at the USC Davidson Conference Center, will feature the Herbert G. Klein Lecture given by J. Stapleton Roy, the former U.S. Ambassador to China.
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