GUEST COLUMN

Is a Millinocket education a good buy for Chinese families?

Posted June 15, 2011, at 4:45 p.m.
Last modified June 16, 2011, at 6:29 a.m.

I wrote the OpEd in the English-language Chinese newspaper, the Global Times, questioning whether spending $27,000 was a worthwhile expenditure for Chinese parents who might be thinking about sending their child to an American high school for one year. I implied that an investment in a Stearns High education in Millinocket would not justify that expense.

I’m planning to visit Millinocket within the next month and speak with some of the interested school stakeholders to find out specifically what kinds of programs and supports Stearns will have in place for the up to 60 new Chinese students the school hopes to attract this coming fall.

I am an American and lived in the U.S. for 57 years. I now live in Beijing where I write regular web columns for China Daily Online, which gets over 31 million page views per day. I was invited to write for their website after having freelanced for the Global Times and People’s Daily Online. The newspaper China Daily has also asked me to write occasional commentary about education and media issues and my “expert’s take” on the media was included in the June 1st, 30th anniversary edition of that newspaper.

As to the Global Times article, most of the material I used as background about Stearns came from a New York Times news story from last fall and I wish the background had been credited. I included credits to the Times in the original commentary I sent the Global Times, but the editors cut the Times’ references from the final version.

The overall OpEd that was published did fairly represent my views. However, some of the material I wrote cautioning Chinese parents that not every recruiter wishing to attract their sons and daughters to schools and colleges had their (the Chinese families) best interests at heart, was cut. Hence, the tone of the final Global Times OpEd was a little more “Mattimore versus Millinocket” than I would have liked.

I intend to rectify that when I get to Maine.

I will be interested in learning about how the school feels it will best be able to challenge the Chinese students academically and compensate for a paucity of AP classes in an environment that has less than half its students meeting or exceeding state standards.

I’m hoping to find out if Stearns’ teachers have received or will receive any special training to deal with the influx of new students and how the school plans to integrate the students so that they don’t just become a small Chinese school within the larger school.

I will be curious as to what types of special programs the school is planning that might include field trips so that the Chinese visitors can get a sense of Maine and New England beyond Millinocket.

I am optimistic that I will be able to speak with people at Stearns, especially students, to find out what they think about all this. I invite interested Stearns residents to contact me via email before my visit if they would be willing to share their thoughts.

In other words, I am going to try and ask the same types of questions and answer the same types of concerns Chinese families might have about sending their children over 10,000 miles away for an expensive education as American families would have about sending their children to a Chinese high school.

Maybe I’m wrong in the assumptions I made about Stearns High and Millinocket. If I think so after talking to some folks in the town, I’ll be glad to swallow a heaping helping of Maine crow — or chickadee — and submit a revised opinion to the media here.

Patrick Mattimore is a fellow at the American-based Institute for Analytic Journalism and an adjunct instructor of law in the Tsinghua University-Temple University Law School LLM Program in Beijing. His email address is patrickmattimore1@yahoo.com.

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