We congratulate Cardozo High School Principal Gerald Martori for recognizing just how important it is that students in the 21st century understand China and the Asian culture.
Just over 1 billion people live in China, and yet the city’s public school system has been myopically focused on the West. High schools offer classes in Spanish, French and Italian. More schools offer classes in Latin, a dead language, than Chinese.
In November, after returning from a trip to China, Martori decided to expand his school’s Chinese program.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of trip that I really enjoyed,” he said. “I learned a lot and look forward to taking that back to this school.”
The goal of the new curriculum “is to give the kids an opportunity to learn Chinese in a dynamic sort of way. It can only help — certainly in this area.”
The change recognizes the fact that 200,000 Chinese Americans live in Queens. But the new emphasis on Chinese language and culture will benefit more than just Chinese-American students.
Martori hopes to create an exchange program for teachers and students. He has teamed up with two high school principals in China who will work together from their opposite sides of the world. Students at Cardozo will have the opportunity to have pen pals in China. They will learn about the culture there and how it compares with their own.
“Visiting China and seeing how they teach and learn firsthand kills all stereotypes and preconceived ideas,” he said. “When you see their culture and experience it, you see things very differently.”
Martori said he has found a great deal of enthusiasm for the Chinese program. Although that enthusiasm is strongest among Chinese Americans, it is growing among other students.
It’s about time the school system understands that a well-rounded education cannot exclude half the world. The Chinese program is a good start, but it should also include other Asian countries.
Every high school in Queens should, at least, be offering classes in Chinese and social studies should include the Far East. Until that, happens the schools will be preparing students for the 20th century, which has passed.