West Meets East: SPU School of Education Partners With Colleagues in China
HANGZHOU, CHINA, IS A two-hour train ride southwest of Shanghai. It is not an easy place to get to from Seattle, but every year for the past 10 years, faculty and doctoral students from Seattle Pacific University’s
School of Education have traveled there.
| Posing with their Chinese hosts (at left), the SPU team included (from left to right) Richard Scheuerman, Carol Rowley,
Bill Rowley, Marianna Richardson, and Colin Greene. Not pictured is Art Ellis.
Representing the School’s International Center for Curriculum Studies
(ICSS), they partner with colleagues at Zhejiang University, reading academic
papers and fielding questions from eager students.
Not too surprising, perhaps, until one learns that the SPU scholars are
speaking freely in communist China about topics such as Judeo-Christian
values and the work of Christian apologist C.S. Lewis.
Says Bill Rowley, dean of the School of Education, “When SPU first read papers there, people were surprised that Christians could be scholars. Now they see that we are sharing what we know of Christianity in an academic light. And that is of prime interest to those who come to hear the papers.”
The Chinese government ranks Zhejiang University, with more than 30,000 students, as the fourth most esteemed university in China. Though it is a state-run institution, it has been selected as the university in China to study Christianity as a world religion. Other universities in China have been selected to study religions such as Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam.
Professors from Zhejiang also visit Seattle Pacific to read their own papers. Last autumn, at the School of Education’s Conference on Moral Education, four of Zhejiang’s professors participated in an exchange program set up with ICSS.
Five SPU faculty members and a graduate student made this year’s trek to China in December 2004. Giving presentations in Zhejiang’s Philosophy Department were ICSS Program Director Art Ellis, Dean of the School of Theology Colin Greene, Professor of Education Richard Scheuerman, and School of Education doctoral student Marianna Richardson. At Zhejiang’s College of Education, Rowley and Adjunct Professor of Education Carol Rowley presented a model for transferring values to children. “The students were fully engaged, asking questions,” says Bill Rowley.
What is the significance of a Christian university in America being invited to present papers on Judeo-Christian values at a state-run university in the communist nation of China? Ellis quotes the philosopher Woody Allen. “Eighty percent of life is showing up,” he says. “Since we’ve shown up at Zhejiang University for the past 10 years, we’ve gained the respect and trust of our peers halfway around the world. And that has resulted in benefits for scholars in both countries.”
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