Dignitaries Help Germantown Academy Dedicate Chinese Classroom Connection
It's not every day that county commissioner Josh Shapiro or Germantown Academy Head of School Jim Connor get to welcome Chinese officials with the Mandarin greeting of "Ni hao."
However, that was just the case on Monday, as dignitaries from far and wide gathered in Germantown Academy's Honickman Auditorium for the dedication of Pennsylvania's first Confucius classroom. The program, sponsored by schools in China and the Chinese Language Council International, has a mission to make cultural studies available in schools around the globe.
"Today, we formally begin an education connection to the great civilization that is China," said Connor, speaking to a full auditorium. "A people and country whose rich culture has intrigued, inspired, and shaped the course of the world's nation-states since well before the time of Confucius himself."
The Confucius Classroom program has linked over 600 education institutions in 88 countries to Chinese educational opportunities. Germantown Academy will now partner with "High School Attached to Capital Normal University" in Beijing to begin student and faculty exchanges, as well as assistance in curriculum creation. Germantown Academy has already implemented a number of educational programs since originally signing an agreement in October 2009.
"This will be a great honor for us to continue the program with Germantown Academy," said Jie Shen, Principal at the Beijing high school, through a translator. "We are deeply impressed by the rigors of the academic institution and administration, and also the wonderful campus life here."
Academy students honored the foreign visitors with a number of cultural performances, including the singing of the Star Spangled Banner in both Chinese and English by select members of the Singing Patriots. Students from different age groups also danced in traditional Chinese attire and played music using a harp and erhu, a stringed instrument.
In addition, county commissioners Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards, an '85 alumna of the academy, attended.
"What GA understands by virtue of having this classroom, is that we live in a world of interconnectedness," Shapiro told the audience. "We live in a world where we could do a little better if we were just a little bit more respectful of other cultures and countries and ways of life."
The theme of mutual respect was also emphasized by Cen Jianjun, the head counselor of the Education Office of the Chinese Consulate General, located in New York City. Jianjun pointed to the creation of cultural exchanges between Germany and France in 1963 as an example of what education can do to build relationships.
"80 million French and German students visited each other [over forty years], learned each other's languages, and learned to trust," Jianjun said. "These students made a foundation to promote mutual understanding and mutual trust to deepen their friendships."
Students and faculty then received a taste for just what that friendship will feel like, when Shen played a video of several Chinese students welcoming their new American counterparts.
Besides a number of greetings, a trio of students also linked arms to create a heart shape, drawing applause from the audience.
"On this special day, on behalf of all the students in our schools, we'd like to say congratulations!" the video concluded.