Nothing To Concern You

If you want a glimpse of one potential future use for social media, listen to this episode of the Marketplace Tech podcast (5:10). The host and her guest discuss a plan in China that assigns a “social credit score”, based on a variety of factors including financial responsibility and “social responsibility”, to every one of their citizens.

However, the really depressing part of this story comes at the very end.

The Chinese government hopes to have a national social credit framework in place by 2020. The scheme has raised alarm bells among human rights activists, but Pak says, everyday citizens don’t seem overly concerned.

Everyday citizens not being overly concerned with a government plan to track them is exactly how people lose their rights. The same is true for companies that are track those same citizens.

And, despite all the high-profile stories about the crappy way Facebook and other companies mishandle user data, too many US citizens still don’t seem “overly concerned”.

At what point will that change?

Building For The Future

Interesting article in the business section of the Sunday Post about how China is making big investments in infrastructure. Building huge cities in some of the poorest and most remote areas of the country, along with the high speed rail system to connect them.

We got a very small glimpse of this change while riding those trains during a trip earlier this year. Large blocks of high rise apartments and other buildings, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

All of this is part of the government’s plan to spread their economic success to areas other than the traditional business centers like Shanghai, as well as pushing the overall manufacturing focus beyond producing inexpensive goods for the rest of the world. It is far from certain that such a challenging plan will work.

But one line from the piece really summarizes what is happening in China, and offers a lesson for us here on the other side of the Pacific.

Whether it is Beijing’s ring roads, Shanghai’s subway lines or Lanzhou’s high-rises, China has not built what it needs today, but what it will need tomorrow.

The United States used to build for the future. Instead of wallowing in the arguments of the past.

Whatever happened to that?

We’re Just Test Prep Wimps

If US students are going to beat their Asian counterparts on international standardized assessments, which seems to be the educational goal of most politicians, we better stop being wimps when it comes to test prep.

The Shanghai students performed well, experts say, for the same reason students from other parts of Asia – including South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong – do: Their education systems are steeped in discipline, rote learning and obsessive test preparation.

So, there’s our goal. We simply need to get American schools to rise to that same “obsessive” level.

Just ignore those misguided educators who whine  that “Chinese schools emphasized testing too much, and produced students who lacked curiosity and the ability to think critically or independently”.

Stuff Happens Elsewhere

With all the naval gazing we’ve been doing in the US over the economy going in the crapper and pigs with lipstick, it’s hard for news from outside to grab any media attention.

For example, did you know that China this week launched it’s third manned space mission?

I shouldn’t have to find this out from the BBC.

You’d think we’d be interested in major events from that part of the world considering how much of our debt is owned by the Chinese, not to mention our manufacturing capacity.

Locally Global Views

While many classrooms still have the pull-down or bulletin board-sized map of the world, increasingly these days we teach our students about the world using online mapping technology such as Google Earth.

But whose version of geography are we using?

Case in point, the Chinese government is not happy with the almost 10,000 web sites in that country which use “unapproved” maps.

Maps “…that make mistakes such as labeling Taiwan a ‘country’, wrongly drawing national boundaries, or omitting islands such as the South China Islands, Diaoyu Islands and Chiwei Island.”

So, will Google, the company whose motto is “Don’t be evil” adapt Earth to fit the Chinese version of the world, use the US version, or create multiple realities?

As the media focuses on China as the site of the 2008 Olympic Games, these interesting questions about censorship and more will be raised.

Hopefully, we will take some time from test prep to include our students in the discussion.