[UPDATED: Recall Effort Dropped] Residents Petition to Recall Hacienda School Board Members for Supporting a Language Program Funded by the Chinese Government

Categories: School Daze
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UPDATE, JUNE 7, 1:46 P.M.: Opponents of the Confucius Classroom, a Chinese culture and language school program, have stopped their efforts to recall the four members of the Hacienda La Puente Unified School Board who voted to implement it. A small group of residents believed the program, which is funded by the Chinese government, is a vehicle for Communist brainwashing. 

For School Board President Jay Chen, the decision is a victory. "We will not allow our students' education to be held hostage by the narrow views of a few extremists," he said in a statement. 

ORIGINAL POST, FEB 15, 11:40 A.M.: Four members of the Hacienda La Puente Unified School Board have been targeted in a recall effort.  

The basis for the recall? They support a middle-school Chinese-language-and-culture program funded by the Chinese government.

The program, Confucius Classroom, is currently offered at Hacienda Heights' Cedarlane Middle School. An agreement with the Chinese government's Chinese Language Council International--which was voted for and approved last year by Board President Jay Chen and board members Norman Hsu, Joseph Chang and Anita Perez--would expand the existing program by providing additional books and up to $30,000 in funds for new computers or field trips.

The program has been a topic of extreme controversy, attacked by residents who believe it is a vehicle for Communist brainwashing. One resident wrote in a letter to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, "China already owns and changed most of the shopping centers in Hacienda Heights. Do we really want them to change our kids' minds, too?"

Anti-Commie activist Kai Chen (no relation to Jay Chen) and other opponents protested the program, and district officials announced last September that they would not accept the funds from China. (Previous to the Confucius Classroom spat, the L.A.-based Kai Chen made headlines for trying, unsuccessfully, to get the life-sized statue of Mao Tse-Tung removed from the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda.)

Last week, the four board members were served with a "Notice of Intention to Circulate Recall Petition" signed by 12 residents. Chen posted a scan of the petition on his Facebook page. A list of accusations includes a claim that Chen "believes that the United States will be subservient to China and manipulates students to serve China's government."

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Chen wrote about the controversy last year in a guest post on Asian American news blog Angry Asian Man: "In the midst of the worst economy since the Great Depression, in which the only things that seem poised for growth are budget cuts, layoffs and achievement gaps, who could have imagined that the most controversial issue to hit our school district would be the acceptance of free funding and books to expand a Chinese language class?"
 
According to a petition to reject the recall:

The Confucius Classroom is a Chinese language and culture program similar to France's Alliance Frances, Germany's Goethe Insitute, and the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Language and Culture. It promotes the understanding of Chinese language and culture, strengthens cultural cooperation, and encourages friendly relationships between China and other nations.

Thanks to a partnership with the U.S.-based Asia Society, it is already in place in more than 60 schools across the United States. Hacienda La Puente Unified is the first district to establish the program in Southern California, and it is one of the most popular electives at Cedarlane Middle School.

Phil Yu, creator of Angry Asian Man, blasted the intent to recall in a post today, writing about the accusations listed on Chen's notice. "Can I just say that this is utter bullshit? Straight up racist," he wrote. "They might as well be honest about it and add one more complaint: '6. Is Chinese American.' Most of the opponents of Confucius Classroom apparently don't even have children in the school district. Have fun with your awesome xenophobia while the rest of the world leaves you behind in your drooling pool of ignorance."

To sign the petition to reject the recall, go here

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