NANJING, China — The U.S. and China are often portrayed as existential foes, but leaders of educational institutions in each country are finding common ground. As schools have resorted to emergency measures to cope with new challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the face of education. From rural midwestern America to urban China, stories of educational leadership amidst this crisis reflect a common vision of pragmatic collaboration that can serve as the basis for cooperation, both during and after the pandemic.
中国南京 – 美国和中国经常被刻画成彼此的敌人，但两国教育机构的领导者们正在意识到双方之间的共同点。在新型冠状病毒肺炎（COVID-19）的影响下，不仅各学校开始采用紧急措施来应对新的挑战，整个教育体系的面貌都被改变了。从美国中西部的乡村到中国的城镇，危机期间有关教育领导力的故事不断涌现，反映出务实合作的共同愿景。无论是在疫情期间还是疫情结束之后，这一愿景都可以成为双方合作的基础。
Virtually all educational institutions worldwide have changed profoundly since early 2020. At Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin, classes have been online since March 18. Like other colleges and universities, Ripon is under immense financial pressure. According to Dr. Zach Messitte, President of Ripon College and SAIS alumnus, emergency funding from the Payroll Protection Program and other parts of the CARES Act is helpful but does not alleviate structural problems the college is facing. “We just have no idea how many students will come back in August for fall semester…and if they do come back will they want to live [or] eat on campus…[the challenge is] not just get more students, now it is retain the ones we have and try to make sure we can continue to employ our faculty and staff,” Messitte said. He sees extensive changes on the horizon, commenting, “I am not sure that higher education will ever be the same again.”
自2020年初起，世界上几乎所有教育机构都被彻底改变了。从3月18日起，威斯康星州里彭市的里彭学院所有的课程都以网课方式进行。像其它大学和学院那样，里彭学院面临着巨大的经济压力。里彭学院校长、SAIS校友扎克・梅西提(Zach Messitte)表示，美国联邦政府制定的《薪酬保障计划》以及《冠状病毒援助、救济与经济安全法案》虽然提供了紧急拨款，能够帮助缓解里彭学院的压力，但并未减轻学院面临的结构性问题。“我们不知道多少学生会在八月返校，参与秋季学期……（我们也不知道）如果他们回来的话，他们是否愿意在校园内居住和用餐……（我们面临的挑战很多，）不仅要扩大招生，还要留住目前的学生，并试图保证教职员工的工作，” 梅西提说道。他预测巨变将会发生：“我不太确定高校教育是否还能回到从前那样。”
Schools in China are also experiencing unprecedented stress. According to a high school administrator in Jiangsu province who spoke on the condition of anonymity, an estimated 60-70% of the school’s foreign teachers were abroad when China’s entry ban on foreigners was put into place. As a consequence, this affluent school’s basic operating model cannot function as it used to. They have developed a teaching arrangement that combines online and in-person classes, but “teacher morale definitely plummeted due to pressure from the school and self-imposed pressure to perform at your best despite your lack of resources and time,” the administrator said. The school is likely to survive in the short term but it’s long-term future is uncertain.
Although the Hopkins-Nanjing Center (HNC) is facing extraordinary logistical and financial challenges, these challenges have not caused Dr. Adam K. Webb, the American Co-Director of the HNC, to doubt his fundamental beliefs about leadership. “In confronting any unfamiliar challenge, I think the key question is to ask what our most important goals are and what would be a consistent set of principles to apply…we can recognise the exceptional constraints within which we’re operating, and find the best way to apply those principles in context, while insisting on as much normality as possible,” he said. Similarly, Dr. Chen Yunsong, the Chinese Co-Director of the HNC, agreed that this crisis has not made him doubt or re-examine his perspective on leadership.
Since the 1970s, Dr. Jack Christ has been creating educational and leadership initiatives such as the Wisconsin Leadership Institute, Our Better Angels, Video Age Productions and the world’s first undergraduate Leadership Studies Program at Ripon College. When asked about leadership during this pandemic, he replied, “The best summary would be to note the four core values of my curriculum at Ripon College: courage, compassion, continuous learning, and service to the human community.” In his view, these values will persevere through the current challenges.
从二十世纪七十年代开始，杰克・克里斯特博士(Dr. Jack Christ)发起了一系列与教育和领导有关的倡议，比如威斯康星领导院 (Wisconsin Leadership Institute)、人性中的良善天使(Our Better Angels)、录像时代制作(Video Age Production)，并在里彭学院开展了世界上最早的领导学本科课程项目。当被问及疫情期间的领导力时，他表示：“我在里彭学院的课程所包含的四项核心价值观就是（对这一问题）最好的概括，这四项价值观分别是勇气、同情、持续学习以及对人类社会的服务。” 在他看来，这些价值观将会战胜挑战，延续下去。
The values that Dr. Christ enumerated speak to his vision for a global community. On the other hand, culturally-based value differences can hinder mutual understanding. Managing a crisis is never easy, and it is made all the harder when those who are meant to lead in the crisis bring differing cultural values to the table. According to Co-Director Webb, one such difference relates to making and communicating decisions. “Some societies are more likely to have top-down decision making that is opaque as to both process and priorities. Others may have more consultation and see the need for buy-in from different actors.” When decisions are meant to serve people from both types of societies, these processes are likely to conflict.
Co-Director Webb also mentioned cultural perspectives regarding time and urgency. “Time horizons also vary a lot when it comes to planning for uncertainty some way into the future,” he said. This issue may remind China watchers of Deng Xiaoping’s belief that China should “cross the river by feeling the stones” in its course of development. Slow and steady progress is preferable to immediate, wholesale reform, he thought. From The Great Hall of the People in Beijing to the millions of schools scattered throughout China, this concept is embedded in the ethos of Chinese leadership. In contrast, American leaders often have limited windows of opportunity due to public expectations and elections. Superintendents, principals and other officials can lose power if they delay action on important issues, whereas their Chinese counterparts who do the same may be hailed as pragmatic visionaries.
魏亚当主任还提到了不同文化视角下对时间和紧迫性的不同看法。他认为：“人们会因为不确定的未来而早做打算，这一过程持续的时长因地而异。” 这可能会让中国观察家们想起邓小平，因为邓小平认为中国的发展应该“摸着石头过河”， 与其一蹴而就，不如稳扎稳打。从北京的人民大会堂到中国的几百万所学校，这一观念扎根于中国领导力的特质之中。与之相反的是，美国领导者因为要考虑公众预期和选举，所以他们很少有机会像中国领导者这样做。同样是在重要的事务上推迟行动，美国的教育厅长、校长以及其它公务员有可能会失去权力，而他们的中国同行则可能被认为是务实且有远见的人。
Notwithstanding these significant cultural differences, Co-Director Chen views the pandemic as an opportunity. “I think even though the cultures of America and China are different, I think as we’ve faced the pandemic, the two sides of management at the HNC have communicated and collaborated very well. I think the pandemic is a moment wherein leadership abilities are being tested, and it’s an opportunity to promote trust between the two sides,” he said.
Educational institutions and their leaders have been on the front lines of society’s adaptation to this pandemic. With their resources scattered across the globe, they have been tasked with delivering the services they promised last August under vastly different conditions. These leaders are showing that common ground for meaningful collaboration is based on pragmatic coordination and prioritization of their shared goals.
The Chinese idiom 化危为机 (huà wēi wéi jī) means “to make an opportunity out of a crisis.” This idea speaks to a deeper desire shared by people around the world: to somehow emerge from this tragedy with new insight and appreciation. Students and educators are strengthening their online communication skills and creatively rethinking the face of education. From small towns in America to big cities in China, educational institutions are trailblazing ahead.
Daniel Mikesell is reporting from Waukesha, Wisconsin.