Editorial
July 3, 2009

Tragically, Iran’s government appears to have driven back the most significant challenge to its repressive rule since the 1979 revolution.

First, the hard-line mullahs brazenly stole the election for the hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. When hundreds of thousands of Iranians protested, they sent their thugs to beat and shoot them. At least 20 people are dead, and hundreds of journalists, political activists and former government officials have been detained.

Even before the elections, Iranians — likely the majority — were fed up with Mr. Ahmadinejad. They were sick of the corruption and incompetence. They wanted more say in how they are governed and more engagement with the world, including the United States. The regime’s refusal to listen has now exposed deep fault lines in Iranian society. Even some members of the clerical elite seemed to question the thuggery.

Predictably, Mr. Ahmadinejad and his backers were eager to blame others, especially the United States. President Obama rightly has worked hard not to play into that. There is no sign that the government in Tehran is close to toppling. The opposition has not asked for outside help. They know any direct American involvement would discredit them and strengthen the regime.

The difficult challenge now for the United States and other major powers is to come up with policies that give hope to the opposition and reinforce the doubts of Iran’s political elites — without provoking a backlash. The European Union is debating whether to withdraw all of its 27 ambassadors from Tehran to protest the detention of two Iranian employees of the British Embassy. We don’t believe in permanent isolation, but that kind of unified action would send an important message.

When they meet in Italy next week, leaders of the Group of 8 leading industrial nations should issue their own clear statement that Iran has violated international norms with its bogus election and repression.

There are other approaches worth exploring. The Europeans and Americans can quietly withhold visas to selected Iranian officials — or grant them, depending on what is deemed more effective at the time. Europe and the United States should look for ways to expand contacts with Iranian academics, artists and other members of civil society and with more moderate Iranian mullahs.

The fact that Mr. Obama has offered a new relationship with Iran’s rulers could make it harder for the government to discredit such contacts. After a decent interval, the White House should take a serious look at the idea of opening an “interests section” in Tehran to allow direct contact with the Iranian people. If the government rejects the offer, it would only highlight its own insecurity.

There is no question that the events of the last few weeks have complicated Mr. Obama’s offer to negotiate with Iran. Mr. Obama’s critics are already charging that talks will legitimize Tehran’s rulers and reward them for their abuses. But the United States and its allies deal with unelected and unsavory leaders all the time.

And there are too many important issues to talk about. Tehran’s nuclear program is advancing relentlessly. The United States also has a strong interest in trying to enlist Tehran’s help in stabilizing Afghanistan — there was a time when the Iranians saw the Taliban as their enemy — and restraining Iran’s meddling and worse in Iraq.

Mr. Obama has offered improved relations based on respect. But he also warned there will be heavy costs for Iran if it doesn’t abandon its nuclear ambitions. Our concern has always been that Europe, Russia and China would not follow through with tougher sanctions if Iran made the wrong choice. The events of the last few weeks are a reminder of why that line must be held.

Advertisements

郑永年
2009/05/19

  随着数以百万计的大学毕业生(包括大量的硕士研究生和博士生)加入数以千万计的失业农民工队伍,中国高等教育的泡沫破灭了。尽管大学生找不到工作并不是一件新鲜事,世界各国都会出现这种现象,但像中国那样大规模的大学生失业队伍为世界所少见。

  同样,尽管大量的大学生失业和这次金融危机有关,但只能说金融危机使得大学生就业雪上加霜。就是说,金融危机并非大学生就业危机的根源。在金融危机发生之前的很多年里,中国的经济高速增长,但已经有很多迹象显示大学生的就业危机,只是有关部门没有加以重视罢了。

  上世纪90年代中期以来,中国的高等教育经历了大改革和大变革。高等教育的大规模升级(如从学院到大学)、大学的大合并、大规模的校园建设(大学城)、无限制的大量扩招,中国的大学改革者们发挥了前所未有的企业家精神。

  的确,种种发展给人眼花缭乱的感觉。中国的教育成就令海内外人士感叹不已。多少年来,中国的教育改革者们本身也沉醉在年年攀升的各项数据指标上。

  在海外,受中国惊人发展的影响,许许多多高等教育机构的目光转向中国,视中国为一块新的财富宝地,要不到中国办教育,要不大量吸引中国学生到国外就学。

教育资源迅速向少数人集中

  中国的教育取得了举世成就,但同时也造就了在可预见的未来难以克服和解决的恶果。恶果不仅仅是大学生失业那么简单。其实,从总体看,失业只是一种表象,其背后隐藏着的危机更令人担忧。

  企业家式的教育改革已经给中国的教育事业注入了一种新的精神、新的思维方式和新的路径依赖,那就是教育的产业化精神和与之相关的GDP主义。

  中国的教育必须改革,这是社会的共识。建设高等教育基础设施、扩展教育使得更多的人获得接受教育的权利、为国家的建设培养更多的人才,这些都是社会所接受的。但令人遗憾的是,改革的结果和人们的期望相去甚远,甚至相反。

  很难否认,改革的结果是,教育资源加速向少数人集中,越来越多的贫穷人家的子弟上不起学,而培养出来的人也不是社会所需要的。在国际层面,中国急起直追,但教育科研水平实际上离国际先进水平越来越远。
  除了“山寨版”式的模仿(如各种教育评估体系),中国本身并没有任何教育创新。山寨版的特点就是比原版的功能更“全面”和“先进”。中国教育的评估体系就是这样,把世界上的东西拼凑在一起。

  尽管是向西方学习,但在西方的任何一个地方,找不到中国版的评估体系。例如,西方的学校也会鼓励博士生去发表文章,但绝对没有像中国那样硬性规定博士生要在特定的刊物上发表文章后才能毕业的。类似的荒唐不堪的例子举不胜数。名目繁多的学术的恶性腐败也因此而生。

  为什么轰轰烈烈的教育改革会导致泡沫的破灭?这就要看谁来改革的问题。在中国,从事教育改革的并非教育专家。企业家式教育改革的主体是政治企业家,商业企业家,再加上一些带有浓厚商业气或者政治气的教育界人士。

  商业企业家强调数字,政治企业家也强调数字。他们各自获得了商业利益和政治利益,但却牺牲了教育本身的利益。

缺乏与社会经济发展的密切结合

  公平地说,如果没有政治企业家和商业企业家精神的结合,中国的高等教育(和所有其他方面的教育)不可能发展得那么快。例如前些年炒得沸沸扬扬的遍布各省的大学城就是政治和商业利益结合的杰作。政治人物给政策,商业人士借此圈地发财。

  很难想象,如果没有这两方面力量的合作,中国的银行能够提供给大学那么庞大的贷款吗?结果怎样呢?大学背上了数以千亿计的债务。

  要是在其他国家,中国很多负债累累的大学早已经破产了。因为有各级政府在背后强行撑着,才没有倒下来。大学的负担成为政府的负担,政府的负担最终还是社会的负担。

  就是说,大学拿着从社会的钱财来搞大跃进,但负面的恶果还是要转嫁给社会。社会一次又一次成为受害者。

  利益导向的教育改革可以造就大跃进和泡沫,但泡沫的破灭也是期望之中的。从很多方面来说,这种方式的教育改革是不可持续的。

  从人才培养的角度来看,这种教育体制培养的并不是社会的有用之才。原因在于中国的教育改革并没有同中国本身经济社会发展的需要有任何的结合。为了改革而改革,为了教育的GDP而改革。

  在今天很多发达国家,教育的改革总是和一个国家的经济社会发展密切结合在一起的。中国没有这种关联,因此造成了一方面企业缺乏技能人才,而大学生找不到工作。

  在中国的企业,无论是外资还是内资,都发现中国的大学生并不具备一、两种有用的技能。很多外资企业需要亲自到中国培养有用的学生很能说明这个问题。

  大学抢走了中国大量的人才,但却把这些人才“培养”成无用之才。这是中国人才的大浪费。实际上,缺乏有用的人才已经成了中国产业升级和技术升级的一大障碍。中国的很多基础研究并不错,但就是转化不了有用的技术。一种产品在中国加工和在德国或者日本加工,其附加值相差万里。

大学、政府和社会走上恶性循环

  粗放式、低层次的教育扩张也使得生源的不可持续。对中国高等教育的低品质,大多数人是非常了解的。很多年来,从政府官员到一般有钱人家,纷纷送子女出国留学,希望子女能够在国外学到一些有用的知识。(当然,他们的子女能否真正学到东西拿就是另外一件事情了。因为很多的国外大学就是看准了中国父母的口袋,也在搞教育的产业化。)

  今年在重庆等地一些高中生不想参加高考,这是以另一种形式表示了对大学培养无用之才的抗议。在很大程度上,农民工比很多大学生更有用。

  农民工至少不会对工作有太多的要求,但大学生则不然。化了那么多的钱拿了一个学位,找到的工作还不如一个没有受过教育的人,这实在是悲剧。

  这种教育制度在财政上更不可持续。教育发展的资源一来自政府财政,二来自社会。现在看来,这两方面都难以为继。很多的大学都已经背负沉重的债务。

  政府的财政支持不可能毫无限制。从很大程度上说,如果没有好的教改政策,政府投入越多,教育品质就越坏。社会的投入更少。
  教育部门一直在利用中国家长“望子成龙”的心态,从民间收取钱财。但如上所说,从干部和普通民众已经开始对中国的高等教育失去了信任。

  一般说来,如果学校能够培养社会有用人才,社会和政府就会对教育有更多的投入,这应当是一个良性的循环。因为中国的大学不能履行这个功能,大学、政府和社会之间已经开始走上恶性循环。

  现在泡沫破灭了,然而中国的教改方向还是没有改变。中国的政治体制在推进教改方面上实际上是有很多优势的。从毛泽东到邓小平,几代领导人都强调在路线方针确定之后,干部是决定因素。这也适用在教改上。

  中国的教改现在面临的困境是,没有强有力的领导层,既没有能力去纠正已经被证明为无效的路线和政策,更没有能力去确立有效的路线和政策。

  如果不能改变现存的路线和政策,引入真正能够从事教改的干部,中国的教育还是会依赖现在的路径衰落,直至出现谁也不想看到的结局。

作者是新加坡国立大学东亚研究所所长

何亮亮(凤凰卫视评论员)
2009年4月30日

中国当前的读书风气以实用、消遣为主流,无论是成年人还是孩子,都是如此。蔡伟的事迹令人耳目一新,如果中国每年能够出现和培养一百个蔡伟这样的学子,如果有关蔡伟的报道能够带动更多的年轻人按自己的兴趣读书而学校也能够为他们创造条件,如果中国的社会能够真正地不拘一格降人才,中华民族就大有希望。

前些时候,内地一个只有高中毕业的古文字研究爱好者被批准破格参加博士生考试,当时这则消息就引起我的关注。

辽宁锦州一个38岁的下岗工人,从小喜欢研究中国的古文字,20年前高考没有考上大学,此后一直打杂工包括蹬三轮车维生,但始终没有放弃古文字领域的研究。蔡伟曾经多次和著名古文字学者、上海复旦大学的裘锡圭教授商讨古文字方面的问题,深得裘教授的欣赏,裘还为他创造条件在复旦大学的出土文献与古文字研究中心参与《长沙马王堆汉墓简帛集成》专案的研究工作。裘锡圭一方面鼓励蔡伟报名参加博士生考试,同时邀得另外两名专家的连署,要求教育部特批只有高中学历的蔡伟参加考试并且获得教育部的同意。最新的消息是:4月23日,复旦大学经过专家考试与招生领导小组的讨论,将蔡伟列入今年博士生拟录取名单。这个消息使我非常兴奋,从蔡伟身上看到了真正热心读书的中国青年一代,从裘锡圭教授身上看到了中国学术界的希望。

学校官场化 一切为升学率

近十几年来,中国的高等教育大发展,官场化和学店化的趋势越来越严重,中国的学术界对学者的要求以论文的数量作为标准;教授不教书,学生不好好读书,一切向钱看,使得中国在国际学术界地位不高,中国至今无法出现诺贝尔科技奖的学者。

另一方面,整个社会弥漫着浮躁的习气,读书只是为了考上名校,读书只是为了以后当官或谋取一份好的工作,孩子们无法按照自己的兴趣读书,家长和学校也不鼓励学生按兴趣读书,一切都是为了升学率。结果尽管中国每年培养的工程师和教师人数在世界上名列前茅,中国的自主创新科技却仍然远远落后于先进国家,中国的学生仍然以死读书、会考试而不是富于创新精神而出名。

真正做学问的精神

蔡伟身上体现了真正做学问的精神。裘锡圭教授这样评价蔡伟:「现在搞古文字学的,许多人名义上是教授了,实际上没有他这个水平。有些地方,我也没有他这个水平。」复旦大学出土文献与古文字研究中心主任刘钊说,蔡伟没有受过专业的学术训练,很多最新出土的文献也没机会读到,但自学了大量传世典籍,许多到了倒背如流的程度。「蔡伟心无旁骛,对古书的文字、句法及古人用语习惯都烂熟于心,甚至比许多专业研究者更熟悉,他较常人更容易融入到古代的语言环境中,对于古人的行为和想法更能够感同身受,时间久了,对古书有了触类旁通的能力。」当然蔡伟还需要专业的训练,包括补上语言学、历史学和考古学的课程,外语学习也是不可或缺的,学校让他攻读日语,因为日本在中国的古文字研究方面成绩突出,今后的交流需要外语。

蔡伟体现了失传的读书人精神

蔡伟并非出身书香门第,父母都是普通市民,但他从小就对古文字有兴趣,从不感到研究古文字枯燥。高中毕业后近20年的时间里,他对古文字的钻研从没有间断过。他的学习条件不好,图书馆里有很多古籍找不到,有些书又不能外借,就只好坐在图书馆里,把整本整本的书抄下来。他的妻子张悦找到了蔡伟的一本读书笔记,里面抄录了很多「甲骨文」。他的儿子说:我爸一看书就看一大天。

有了这种精神才能真正读书做学问,才能成为学者,才能让中国的传统文化继承和发扬,才能把外来的优秀文化介绍到中国。蔡伟体现了一种几乎失传的中国读书人的精神,而裘锡圭和复旦大学能够慧眼识人,教育部能够批准蔡伟破格参加考试,都令人激赏。

April 22, 2009
From The New York Times

Speaking of financial crises and how they can expose weak companies and weak countries, Warren Buffett once famously quipped that “only when the tide goes out do you find out who is not wearing a bathing suit.” So true. But what’s really unnerving is that America appears to be one of those countries that has been swimming buck naked — in more ways than one.

Credit bubbles are like the tide. They can cover up a lot of rot. In our case, the excess consumer demand and jobs created by our credit and housing bubbles have masked not only our weaknesses in manufacturing and other economic fundamentals, but something worse: how far we have fallen behind in K-12 education and how much it is now costing us. That is the conclusion I drew from a new study by the consulting firm McKinsey, entitled “The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools.”

Just a quick review: In the 1950s and 1960s, the U.S. dominated the world in K-12 education. We also dominated economically. In the 1970s and 1980s, we still had a lead, albeit smaller, in educating our population through secondary school, and America continued to lead the world economically, albeit with other big economies, like China, closing in. Today, we have fallen behind in both per capita high school graduates and their quality. Consequences to follow.

For instance, in the 2006 Program for International Student Assessment that measured the applied learning and problem-solving skills of 15-year-olds in 30 industrialized countries, the U.S. ranked 25th out of the 30 in math and 24th in science. That put our average youth on par with those from Portugal and the Slovak Republic, “rather than with students in countries that are more relevant competitors for service-sector and high-value jobs, like Canada, the Netherlands, Korea, and Australia,” McKinsey noted.

Actually, our fourth-graders compare well on such global tests with, say, Singapore. But our high school kids really lag, which means that “the longer American children are in school, the worse they perform compared to their international peers,” said McKinsey.

There are millions of kids who are in modern suburban schools “who don’t realize how far behind they are,” said Matt Miller, one of the authors. “They are being prepared for $12-an-hour jobs — not $40 to $50 an hour.”

It is not that we are failing across the board. There are huge numbers of exciting education innovations in America today — from new modes of teacher compensation to charter schools to school districts scattered around the country that are showing real improvements based on better methods, better principals and higher standards. The problem is that they are too scattered — leaving all kinds of achievement gaps between whites, African-Americans, Latinos and different income levels.

Using an economic model created for this study, McKinsey showed how much those gaps are costing us. Suppose, it noted, “that in the 15 years after the 1983 report ‘A Nation at Risk’ sounded the alarm about the ‘rising tide of mediocrity’ in American education,” the U.S. had lifted lagging student achievement to higher benchmarks of performance? What would have happened?

The answer, says McKinsey: If America had closed the international achievement gap between 1983 and 1998 and had raised its performance to the level of such nations as Finland and South Korea, United States G.D.P. in 2008 would have been between $1.3 trillion and $2.3 trillion higher. If we had closed the racial achievement gap and black and Latino student performance had caught up with that of white students by 1998, G.D.P. in 2008 would have been between $310 billion and $525 billion higher. If the gap between low-income students and the rest had been narrowed, G.D.P. in 2008 would have been $400 billion to $670 billion higher.

There are some hopeful signs. President Obama recognizes that we urgently need to invest the money and energy to take those schools and best practices that are working from islands of excellence to a new national norm. But we need to do it with the sense of urgency and follow-through that the economic and moral stakes demand.

With Wall Street’s decline, though, many more educated and idealistic youth want to try teaching. Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach for America, called the other day with these statistics about college graduates signing up to join her organization to teach in some of our neediest schools next year: “Our total applications are up 40 percent. Eleven percent of all Ivy League seniors applied, 16 percent of Yale’s senior class, 15 percent of Princeton’s, 25 percent of Spellman’s and 35 percent of the African-American seniors at Harvard. In 130 colleges, between 5 and 15 percent of the senior class applied.”

Part of it, said Kopp, is a lack of jobs elsewhere. But part of it is “students responding to the call that this is a problem our generation can solve.” May it be so, because today, educationally, we are not a nation at risk. We are a nation in decline, and our nakedness is really showing.

April 19, 2009
From The New York Times

I’ve been thinking lately of starting a new school of foreign service to train U.S. diplomats. My school, though, would be very simple. It would consist of a single classroom with a desk and a chair. At the desk would be a teacher, pretending to be a foreign leader. The student would come in and have to persuade the foreign leader to do something — to pull this or that lever. At one point, the foreign leader would nod vigorously in agreement and then reach behind him and pull the lever — and it would come off the wall in his hands. Or, he would nod vigorously and say, “Yes, yes, of course, I will pull that lever,” but then would only pretend to do so.

The student would then have to figure out what to do next. …

I’m wondering if President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton aren’t those students, trying to deal with the leaders of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea. I say that not to criticize but to sympathize. “Mama, don’t let your children grow up to be diplomats.”

This is not the great age of diplomacy.

A secretary of state can broker deals only when other states or parties are ready or able to make them. In the cold war, an age of great powers, grand bargains and reasonably solid client states, there were ample opportunities for that — whether in arms control with the Soviet Union or peacemaking between our respective client states around the globe. But this is increasingly an age of pirates, failed states, nonstate actors and nation-building — the stuff of snipers, drones and generals, not diplomats.

Hence the déjà vu all over again quality of U.S. foreign policy right now — the sense that when it comes to our major problems (Afghanistan and Pakistan and North Korea and Iran), we just go around and around, buying the same carpets from the same people, over and over, but nothing changes.

“We are dealing with states and leaders who either cannot deliver or will not deliver,” notes the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy professor Michael Mandelbaum. “The issues we have with them look less like problems that can be solved and more like conditions that we have to manage.”

The ones who can’t deliver — the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan — are the ones who promise to do all sorts of good things, and pull all sorts of levers, but at the end of the day the levers come off the wall because the governments in these countries have only limited powers. The ones who won’t deliver — Iran and North Korea — time and again tell us: “Yes, we need to talk.” But at the end of the day, their hostile relationships with America or the West are so central to the survival strategy of their regimes, so much at the core of their justifications for remaining in power, that it is not in their interest to deliver real reconciliation, but just to pretend to deliver it.

The only thing that could change this is a greater exercise of U.S. and allied power. In the case of Afghanistan and Pakistan, that power would have to be used to actually rebuild these states from the inside into modern nations. We would literally have to build the institutions — the pulleys and wheels — so that when the leaders of these states pulled a lever something actually happened, and the lever wouldn’t just break off in their hands.

And in the case of the strong states — Iran and North Korea — we would have to generate much more effective leverage from the outside to get them to change their behavior along the lines we seek. In both cases, though, success surely would require a bigger and longer U.S. investment of money and power, not to mention allies.

Instead, I fear that we are adopting a middle-ground strategy — doing just enough to avoid collapse but not enough to solve the problems. If our goal in Afghanistan and Pakistan is nation-building, so they will have self-sustaining moderate governments, we surely don’t have enough troops or resources inside devoted to either. If our goal is changing regime behavior in Iran and North Korea, we surely have not generated enough leverage from outside. North Korea’s defiant missile launch and Iran’s continued development of its nuclear capability testify to that.

So, in sum, we have four problem countries at the heart of U.S. foreign policy today that we don’t have the will or ability to ignore but seem to lack the leverage or the allies to decisively change. The big wild card — a critical mass of people who share our aspirations inside these countries, rising up and leading the fight, which is ultimately what tipped Iraq for the better — I don’t see. As such, I fear we are sliding into commitments in Afghanistan and Pakistan without a real national debate about the ends or the means or the exits. That is a recipe for trouble.

Given all that is on his plate, you cannot blame President Obama for looking for a middle ground — not wanting to abandon progressives and women in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but not wanting to get in too deeply. But history teaches that the middle ground can be a perilous place. Think of Iraq before the surge — not enough to win or lose, but just enough to be stuck.

Editorial
Published: October 10, 2008

After a wild week of plunging world markets, it was welcome news on Friday night that the United States was working with other nations to stem the financial crisis and also moving ahead with plans to take equity stakes in struggling banks instead of just buying up their bad assets.

It is now clear that the leading nations must develop a clear, coherent and coordinated plan for this time of global financial peril. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson promised after a day of meetings to do just that, and he said that the government was actively developing a plan to protect taxpayers by giving them a stake in banks that Washington is trying to rescue after years of reckless mortgage lending.

We hope that Mr. Paulson and the finance ministers of other industrialized nations will come up with a detailed joint plan this weekend.

Banks in Europe and the United States have virtually stopped lending to each other, mistrustful of the value of the bundles of American mortgages packaged into complex financial products on each other’s balance sheets. Efforts by the Federal Reserve and other central banks to flood the world with cheap money have failed to restart the engine of private credit.

So far, governments on both sides of the Atlantic have bungled their responses. The Bush administration’s $700 billion package to buy bad assets from banks failed to convince anybody that it would solve the problem. Meanwhile, leaders in the European Union pointed fingers, squabbled over burden-sharing and made matters worse with ad-hoc actions on a national level that just pushed the problem onto their neighbors.

Fortunately, a consensus is emerging on the immediate need to stabilize the financial system. With most of the world’s finance ministers and central bankers gathered in Washington this weekend for the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, there is an opportunity to convert this consensus into a concrete strategy.

The plan should offer some temporary government guarantee for deposits and loans to unlock interbank lending and gain some time to figure out which banks can be saved and which cannot. It should provide for governments to quickly inject equity capital into banks. It should be coordinated internationally, with burden-sharing provisions that specify which governments will provide capital to banks that do cross-border business.

The approach need not be identical in each country, but the bank rescue announced by the British government this week provides a useful template. It offers to insure up to about $425 billion worth of new bank debt, forces banks to raise new equity capital and makes government money available to buy equity.

The approach is not perfect. It does not eliminate the toxic assets. It will require a lot of government oversight and clear rules. For instance, banks that benefit from government guarantees should not be allowed to pay dividends. Regulators will have to quickly find which banks are insolvent and need to be shut down.

Some countries, like Switzerland, might not have the wherewithal to recapitalize their national banks on their own. So a mechanism might be necessary — perhaps through the I.M.F. — to provide funds to prop up their banking systems.

In the medium-term, many countries will need stimulus packages to mitigate the inevitable economic slowdown. Washington has to do more to help homeowners, as well as pensioners and near-retirees whose savings have been wiped out. And the regulatory regime governing the world’s financial system has to be rethought.

But at this crucial juncture, the task is to stop the panic that is unraveling the world’s financial system. This weekend is the time to do it.