Michelle Obama’s Chinese Education Theater Shows Infotainment Politics

People write books about education in the United States and I’m sure they write them about China. Writing such a work involves research, statistics, demographics, and many other sources of study and information. If one looks closely at a few schools in order to draw conclusions about education in a country, one has to be careful to make sure that one chooses schools that are representative of the rest, not exceptional.

And then politicians get together and act like they are doing serious research by one or two show-tours in another country.

I’m referring of course, to the official explanation given for Michelle Obama’s secret vacation.

From AFP via Yahoo! News:

Obama said she was going to focus her visit on education, “which is an important issue to both of our countries”.


Beijing and Washington have hailed the week-long tour as an opportunity for both first ladies to highlight the importance of education and “people-to-people” exchange.

What exactly does a week-long tour do for either country’s educational system?

At the school’s Geometry Robotics Lab, students demonstrated their machines for the first ladies and Obama tried her hand at operating one by remote control.

Obama exchanged a few table tennis strokes with a young woman, and told the crowd she was a novice. “My husband plays,” she added. “He thinks he’s better than he really is.”

At a calligraphy demonstration a 16-year-old student taught Obama how to draw the Chinese character for “eternity”, before the visitors looked on as Peng adeptly wrote out a four-character aphorism meaning “Great virtue promotes growth”.

She signed her name and presented the calligraphy to Obama as a souvenir.

None of this teaches anyone anything about Chinese education. This is infomercial politics. Obama is posing for the camera to make it look like she is doing something important, when it is all just glorified tourism.

The story points out that we seem to have forgotten any “human rights” problems with China. I’m not surprised. Since we are hostile toward Russia right now I guess we’re dialing back our aggressive moves toward China. China will become faultless in our media and in our government’s propaganda so that we can afford to demonize the Russian Bear.

I understand that rulers entertain one another to demonstrate friendship with one another. Fine. But stop pretending that there is some substantial issue being addressed by a visit to a school.

It is just infotainment, at most.