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Northwestern, UChicago Scholars Debate Confucius Institutes

Asian language professor at Northwestern weighs in on value of institutes

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Paola Zamperini, chair of the department of Asian Languages and Cultures at Northwestern University, underscored the importance and need for more investment in foreign language instruction in America in a recent segment on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” program with host Phil Ponce.

Zamperini appeared on the public television program this week (Jan. 19) to discuss the value of the Confucius Institutes, providers of academic and cultural programs financed by the People’s Republic of China that have raised controversy in the United States.

Zamperini, however, said the institutes offer valuable language instruction, providing students with a “quintessential” skill to become effective citizens in a globalizing 21st century world.

 “The benefit of teaching Chinese language and culture in American classrooms is that you spark students’ curiosity and broaden their perspective,” she said in the “Chicago Tonight” interview. “Having Chinese taught extensively is a great way to open the door for students to travel.

“If the Chinese government provides funding to American institutions, then it is an asset. It would, however, be the best scenario if the United States provided additional funding. The serious issue needs to be around the fact that the North American government is no longer willing to sponsor language education in North American classrooms,” she added.

Also discussing the Confucius Institutes with Zamperini on the program was Marshall Sahlins, anthropologist and professor emeritus at The University of Chicago. Sahlins has been an outspoken opponent of the institutes and their work in U.S. colleges and universities, WTTW said in a write-up on their website.

To see the full interview, go to:

Topics: Chicago, Opinion

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