Advise and Dissent: Harvey Monaghan

What would you like to tell president-elect Barack Obama? Advise and Dissent features opinions on what the new president should be thinking and doing.Dear President Obama: America needs a dream and a person to sell the dream. Thankfully, in you, America now has the person, and inimitable hope that there will be positive change in the country’s financial, social and political direction. America, however, still needs a dream that will galvanize its citizens – a goal that is intellectually elite, but simply stated; one that is ambitious and far reaching but within our grasp; and one that will reclaim America’s place as world leader in ideology as well as action. Harvey Monaghan is an Australian who is now living and working in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, P.R. China. Continue Reading

African American teacher recalls racism in China

Karla Forrest’s sojourn in the Far East left her with enlightenment, disappointment
Karla Forrest, a 2005 College of Saint Benedict graduate, has been a foreign teacher at Xiamen University in Fujian province in the People’s Republic of China for the past two years. Forrest describes her experiences as surreal with the pitfalls outnumbering the perks of being a foreigner. She gained valuable teaching experience, reshaped her political ideology, made good friends whom she “will have forever,” and enjoyed the food. In summary, Forrest observes that “The necessary attributes to living in China are thick skin and blinders.”
Forrest and her boyfriend, a 2006 Saint John’s University graduate, were two of over 60 foreign teachers at Xiamen University (XMU). They both taught oral English to freshman classes averaging 50 students per class during the 2006 and 2007 school years. Continue Reading

China’s Olympics an awesome spectacle

The Olympic flame has been extinguished, marking the end of the XXIX Summer Olympic Games. For me, the glow of the flame will not soon fade. I just returned home from Beijing with my heart full of admiration, pride, and a little sadness. I admire the marvel and the extraordinary efforts of millions who contributed to the production and success of the Games. I am proud of the accomplishments of the athletes, especially those from the country of my birth, Jamaica. Continue Reading

Remembering the Sichuan earthquake: “We are not alone”

HANGZHOU, CHINA—“Our President, Hu Jintao, said little, but did a lot,” reflected a Sichuan resident on the Chinese government’s actions in response to the earthquake that occurred on May 12 in the Sichuan province, 50 miles west northwest of the capital city of Chengdu. “Anders,” who requested I not use his real name, is a 25-year-old textile industry account executive in the city of Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, where people in high-rise office buildings felt the tremors of the 8.0 earthquake. Hangzhou is 960 miles to the east of Chengdu. “It was not only a slogan that we must try our best to save the lives of the people in the earthquake area,” observed Anders. “The PLA (People’s Liberation Army) did their best to save lives.” The Chinese government confirmed that the earthquake caused approximately 70,000 deaths. Continue Reading

Beijing huang yin nin: A volunteer’s story

BEIJING, CHINA—“Welcome to Beijing” has become a familiar phrase this week, heard all over China during the celebration of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. It is joyfully chanted by Chinese people in person, and on the airwaves in speech and in song. “Beijing huang yin nin,” “Beijing welcomes you.” On the streets of Beijing, people old and young alike, whose only English-speaking ability is that welcoming sentence, are only too happy to say it to every foreigner they meet. “Everybody wants to be a part of it [the Games],” gleefully announced volunteer “James Brown.” Continue Reading

Green Drinks of summer

Unfortunately the rainy weather did not cooperate with the organizers of the first Green Drinks of the summer on June 11. So, instead of meeting on the patio of Birchbark Café in Minneapolis, the group of approximately twenty energy conservation enthusiasts huddled together inside the café for their environmental happy hour. For more information, visit the Clean Energy Resource Teams Web site or contact Diana McKeown at for more information about Green Drinks. Green Drinks is held on the second Wednesday of the month through September, and is hosted by the Metro Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) Network, coordinated by The Green Institute. The group coordinator, Diana McKeown, said the goal of holding the themed happy hour, “is to have speakers share actions and examples you can take to be part of the solution.” “The average Minnesotan has a carbon footprint of over 50,000 pounds per year, which is above the national average,” Neely Crane-Smith, Energy Challenge Coordinator at Center for Energy and Environment, told the Green Drinks gathering on June 11. Continue Reading

Wilder research finds “stable and enriching” low income homes

“Many low-income children have stable and enriching homes, where parents provide ample early learning opportunities and are hopeful about their children’s future. Nevertheless, too many low-income parents, along with the early learning providers and agencies aiming to help them, face daunting challenges and potential barriers for achieving school readiness.” In a nutshell, that was the conclusion of a Wilder research study focusing on school readiness of low-income children. The study suggests that access to high-quality early care and education should be provided to low-income families. Researchers also found that race and ethnicity play a part in the early learning conditions of low-income, urban families. “Overall, White families fare the best; African-American families fare a little better than Latino and Somali families, and Hmong families experience the most challenges to school readiness.”
The Study: Early learning conditions: Low-income families in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Wilder Research, April 2008Funded by the McKnight Foundation and the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation (MELF).Pilot Areas: Selected low-income neighborhoods in North Minneapolis and St. Continue Reading