Joe Biden’s education transition team lead has a long history of praising China’s school system—a system the Chinese Communist Party designed to indoctrinate students.
Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University professor and the president of the California State Board of Education, has praised the Chinese Communist Party’s education system for its “magical work” in establishing a strong teacher-government presence in student life. In her 2017 book Empowered Educators: How High-Performing Systems Shape Teaching Quality Around the World, she explained the centrality of the teacher to Chinese students’ lives.
“Teachers in China are revered as elders, role models, and those whom parents entrust to shape the future of their children,” Darling-Hammond wrote. “In the Tao traditions of ritual, the phrase ‘heaven-earth-sovereign-parent-teacher’ is repeated and becomes ingrained in how people see themselves holistically governed and supported.”
The Stanford educator failed to mention that any other teacher-student “relationship” could result in imprisonment. The Chinese government continually cracks down on “Western values” in the classroom by sending state-sponsored inspectors to monitor teachers—particularly in higher education—for “improper” remarks. Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has said that China’s schools and teachers must “serve the Communist Party in its management of the country.”
Not serving it can carry steep consequences. In July, for example, Chinese professor Xu Zhangrun was placed under house arrest after he criticized Xi’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. He was subsequently fired from his teaching position at Tsinghua University—one of China’s most elite institutions—after he spoke out against Xi’s removal of presidential term limits.
In her book, Darling-Hammond also praised China for dramatically increasing spending on education. But that money has been unevenly distributed, resulting in persistent inequalities. Sixty percent of rural students drop out by the time they reach high school, and of the remaining 40 percent, only a small fraction take college entrance exams.
Similar disparities apply to teachers—yet in a 2011 Washington Post article, Darling-Hammond lauded China for boosting spending on teachers’ professional development. She also took a “detailed statement” from the Chinese minister of education at face value, in which he claimed that China had allocated “billions of yuen” to improving teachers’ “working … and living conditions.”
Such omissions appear in Darling-Hammond’s Twitter feed as well. In 2018, she tweetedthat the United States had 71 times as many school shootings as China, but declined to note that Chinese crime statistics are notoriously inaccurate. She also ignored the numerous stabbings that plague Chinese schools. In October 2018, a woman stabbed 14 children in a kindergarten class. In April 2018, nine students were murdered at a middle school.
Darling-Hammond has spent nearly her entire life entrenched in Ivy League institutions, beginning at Yale University in 1969. In 2008, she served as the lead for Barack Obama’s education transition team. Darling-Hammond had been under consideration to be Biden’s secretary of education but claimed she was “not interested” in the position, citing her desire to continue working with California governor Gavin Newsom.
The Biden team did not respond to requests for comment.