Three Days in Shangai



I have just arrived in L.A. after a day of travel that started about 20 hours ago.

I will do my best to make sense.

I visited Shanghai in 1986,before the Tianemen Square student uprising. It was a big, sleepy town in a Third World culture, reeking of Mao worship and completely lacking a work ethic. I remember going into a store, and the employees were asleep on the floor with the lights out.

Shanghai today is high-rise. Loaded with luxury buildings, luxury shops, luxury restaurants. Unlike Vietnam and Cambodia, the main mode of transportation is auto, not motorbikes. People were getting ready for the New Year, so there was a festive air and many decorations. Most of the high rise buildings are ablaze with moving neon graphics, and the city oozes money, entrepreneurship, dynamism, great wealth. Porsche’s, Mercedes, BMWs, and other luxury cars zip around.

From talking to service people, I learned that the public schools are not free. There is a fee for every child.classes are crowded, 40 or more. Private schools have small classes but they are expensive. Medical care is not free. There is no social security. Parents put all their hopes and savings into their child or children’s education. There is enormous pressure to do well, because education is the determinant of one’s life chances.

We had a very smart, well-spoken tour guide. She commutes nearly two hours a day each way to work. She can’t afford to live in the city. She worked at MacDonald’s but was paid only $.50 an hour. Being a guide is good and pays well.

She was knowledgeable about ancient Chinese history. She loves her country and is very proud of it. I asked what she learned about the Cultural Revolution, and she said it was at most a paragraph in a textbook. There was no discussion in school but she had learned from other sources. She knew about the famous photograph of the young man in front of the line of tanks but not from school. She could not explain Why sites like Twitter, Google, and Facebook are banned but said there are ways to bypass the bans.

We stayed in a very beautiful high-tech hotel on The Bund, a major thoroughfare. Every afternoon, they served tea in a large Art Deco room that seated about 200 people, and a string quartet played western classical music. At night, during cocktails and dinner, there was a six-piece band and a singer. She sang American songs-Broadway tunes, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Billy Joel, Karen Carpenter. She was really good. At the end of each song, we four Americans applauded but no one else did. Almost everyone else was on their cellphone, reading and texting and completely oblivious to the music. I found it rude and alienating.

One morning at breakfast, we saw a family of three-Father, mother, child about 6, all on their own cells. No conversation.

I thought about Marc Tucker’s book, “Surpassing Shanghai.” I thought, I don’t want to surpass Shanghai. I hope we are never like Shanghai. The city is successful, if success is measured by test scores and dollars (but I don’t think the two have any relationship.) The City is booming because an authoritarian government invested in infrastructure and lured business and made profit its goal.

I don’t have any answers. But it was unsettling to think that the economic giant of the 21st century thinks it can and should control communications and thought.


Florida: Union Denounces Bill to Hurt Union


Statement by Joanne McCall, Florida Education Association President on HB 25 House vote:

“Today, the Florida House of Representatives passed HB 25, a bill with the sole purpose of damaging certain public sector unions in our state.

As evidenced by the ever-changing, unprincipled reasons given by the supporters, the intent of HB 25 is very clear. This legislation is nothing more than a political strategy to silence the voice of teachers, nurses and other public-sector workers.

We greatly appreciate the united Democratic caucus and Republican Representative Goodson in their efforts to stop this politically motivated attack against our unions. Our fight now moves to the Florida Senate.

We will not be deterred from our mission by this single bad bill. We will continue our fight to ensure that every child has a high quality public education with a well-trained teacher in a welcoming and safe environment.”

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The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with more than 140,000 members. FEA represents pre K-12 teachers, higher education faculty, educational staff professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.


Ashland Theatre Foundation Names New President and CEO

After a nationwide search, the Ashland Theatre Foundation has named Douglas Love as its new president and chief executive officer. The art deco Ashland Theater at 205 England St. celebrates its 70th year in fall of 2018.

“Douglas Love has created IP businesses for some of the largest film, television, publishing and digital companies in the world. As an acclaimed non-profit arts administrator, executive, producer, author and director, he has advanced the convergence of entertainment and education around the globe,” said Meredith Handakas, Founding Principal of Virginia Non-Profit Associates in a press release.

A little biographical info on Love from the release:

Formerly the CEO of Walden Family Playhouse, a live entertainment venture of Anschutz Film

Group (Walden Media Film Studios), Love recently worked to raise millions to build a Children’s Museum in Western New York as a catalyst for economic development, social equity and new concepts in education.

He is the Creator of World Book Encyclopedia’s Dramatic Learning, the most popular online arts education program in the world with 11 million paid subscribers in 23 countries. Love is also the Creator and Executive Producer of Disney’s top rated daytime television series, Out of the Box, winning three Parents’ Choice Awards and an Emmy nomination, as well as the animated series, Jammin’ Animals, for HBO.

A published author of over 30 works for HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Disney Press and others, Love is a widely noted expert on educational programming, curriculum and arts education. He has served as the Creativity Expert for ABC News and Lifetime television, and has taught for the University of Miami Professional Theater Conservatory.

Love arrives at a good time: the Ashland Theatre has just been awarded a $150,000 matching grant from the Cabell Foundation to help with construction. The board has committed to raising an additional $1.5 million for additional state of the art cinema, live music, theatre equipment and new comfortable seats” according to the release.

“We were searching for a star leader to launch our soon-to-be renovated world-class facility in the “Center of the Universe” (Ashland, VA),” said Clark Mercer, President of Ashland Theatre Foundation’s Board of Directors, in the release. “He is not only going to be a visionary leader for Ashland Theatre Foundation, but also a tremendous asset for Richmond and the entire region.”