Tuesday, June 01, 2010


Two texts that caught my eye

I'd like to share two interesting pieces of text that I read today. The first comes from the Metrofans BBS subforum for the Zhangjiang Tram. A few days ago there was an incident where a car crashed into the tram, which lead people to discuss the safety of the new tram line (incidentally, the car was totaled but the tram came off with only a few scratches). Some posters suggested that tram-only lanes should be demarcated on wider streets and that narrow roads, including the horrible mess at Guanglan Rd near our house, are responsible for the accident and for the elimination of Shanghai's historical trolley buses. This poster thinks otherwise:


You know what? Back in the day Puxi had lots of tram lines, more than ten, and all of them ran on very narrow streets, like Zhejiang Road, Hubei Road, Chongqing S Road, Sichuan Road, etc. Even so, there were very few accidents; people just knew to stay out of the trolley's way. The trolley lines were dismantled due to far-Leftist thinking, that they were shadows of the Concession era and the British and French merchants that used to run them. That was back in the GPRC, so of course nobody dared speak out against it. Actually, a lot of Shanghainese feel it was a shame to lose the old trolley lines!

These streets were in the British concession near People's Square or farther south in the French concession.

That's sorta cool. Makes me want to go look for evidence of the old trolley lines.

The other is from a series of posts by Jiang Xueqin on The Diplomat's China weblog about Chinese education and the former principal of Shenzhen Middle School, Wang Zheng.

By far, Principal Wang Zheng's biggest impact was on student life. He divided the students into eight different houses, and each house had its own student management system. With the house system, imposing and intimidating Shenzhen Middle School (with a campus the size of three city blocks and 2,400 students spread over three grades) became friendly and intimate. Helping the lowerclassmen adapt to this new education system were the Prefects, upperclassmen mentors who liked to organize surprise birthday parties for the lowerclassmen. And organizing activities and competitions among the houses was student government.

Student life was vibrant and diverse, but its most striking characteristic was that it was entirely student-built and managed. Student cadres were not just the glorified hall monitors found at other Chinese schools—they were democratically elected representatives who served the interests of their classmates. They solicited corporate sponsors for basketball and soccer tournaments (one student was so charming that he received $30,000 from China Mobile). They organized masquerade balls and "American Idol" competitions. On December 31st of each year hundreds of volunteers stayed up all night to organize the school's annual winter carnival; on New Year's Day, over 100,000 Shenzhen residents would come to buy goods and play games, listen to concerts and watch performances.

This reminds me a lot of the house system at Caltech but better, and I think that this kind of grade-to-grade interaction would lend a lot to a high school. Read on for a fuller description of Wang Zheng's reforms, and the reaction from parents to changes at one of Shenzhen's top middle (high) schools.

Also, for some more background reading on the subject, see these links:


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