Thursday, January 18, 2018

Today I received an email notification that the school my kids attend will receive a $675,000 gift to support educational and collaborative partnerships with China!

My children attend the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.  The Laboratory Schools teach children in 3 year old nursery through high school and was founded by John  Dewey.  Today I received an email indicating that the school received a $675,000 donation from Jun Zhou to support international collaborations between the Laboratory Schools and educators and students from China.  

I have copied and pasted the email below:

Gift to support educational and collaborative partnerships with China for Lab students and educators

A gift of $675,000 from Jun Zhou, chairman of Zhongtong Logistics Company, Ltd., Zhongshou Logistics Company in China, and the Jefferson Education Group, will support exciting international collaborations between the Laboratory Schools and educators and students from China.

The University of Chicago's rich history of scholarly collaboration in China dates to the early 1900s and Lab founder John Dewey spent two years there from 1919 to 1921. During Dewey's time in China, he gained what some have called "superstar" status with people flocking to his lectures or reading them in translation in books and newspapers and widely applying his philosophies of education. Mr. Zhou's gift is inspired by the work that unfolded on that trip, and which Mr. Zhou and Lab hope to continue, believing that Dewey's ideas are still relevant today. Specifically, the gift will allow Lab to:

  • Host a conference and commemorative activities celebrating the 100-year anniversary of that 1919 trip. The May 2019 conference will bring together researchers, policy-makers, and school-level educators from the United States and China. It will also invite the Lab community to honor Dewey through hands-on activities and shared explorations.
  • Fund student exchanges—study tours and community service work—in the summers of 2018 and 2019, that will focus on cultural understanding in areas such as the arts and leadership development.
  • Sponsor professional development for both Chinese and Lab teachers via summer educator exchange programs.

In the span of a century, research partnerships between University of Chicago scholars and their Chinese counterparts have blossomed into dozens of ongoing relationships spanning many fields of study. Lab educators are excited to deepen this connection in the areas of pre-collegiate education and student experience.

"Dewey had a lasting impact on Chinese education," says Laboratory Schools Director Charlie Abelmann. "His landmark trip in 1919 represented the introduction of new ideas that shaped policy and practice. And his travels overseas allowed the ideas that he and his wife, Alice, developed to spread and shape the global educational landscape."

Through his gift, Mr. Zhou hopes that Lab's students and teachers will learn more about "Chinese traditional culture, current China, meet people and see with their own eyes, and think." In this way students will "better prepare for college and have more options when they go to the real world to live and work in the future." Mr. Zhou sees the conference as the first step of new and important collaborations.

Former Lab parent Ling Zhao Markovitz was instrumental in introducing Mr. Zhou to Lab and helping to make this gift a reality. "I've known of Mr. Zhou's admiration for the legacy of John Dewey in China," she says. "As a Lab parent for the past 14 years, I believe in Dewey's approach to children's learning and development. I've seen my own and other children flourish under those founding and guiding ideas, and am confident that the tradition will be continued and extended under Charlie's leadership. That's why we've been motivated to help the Laboratory Schools in any possible way through our own philanthropy and through encouraging the philanthropy of others."

Mr. Zhou is also providing significant funds to support the expansion of Buddhist studies at the University of Chicago Divinity School, as well as a variety of other University-China initiatives.

Says Mr. Abelmann, "The learning partnerships that Mr. Zhou's gift will sponsor are exciting. And through the conference, Dewey's work—championed by an interested and engaged community—will support new ideas and help to shape future educational policy and practice."

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