The not-for-profit College Board gave the Chinese Communist Party unprecedented access to America’s K-12 education programs in exchange for funding, according to a new report from the National Association of Scholars.
The report, titled “Corrupting the College Board: Confucius Institutes and K-12 Education,” found that since at least 2003, “the College Board has sponsored Confucius Institutes at K-12 schools, served as a recruiter for Chinese government programs, and helped the Chinese Communist Party design and gain control over American teacher training programs.”
A press release for the report stated that the College Board worked with the CCP “to develop an AP Chinese Language and Culture course, served as a recruiter for Chinese government initiatives, and helped the CCP design and gain control over American teacher-training programs such as the National Chinese Language Conference.”
The College Board was founded in 1899 and develops and administers standardized tests as well as curricula for American education institutions. The Board is probably best known for the SAT and Advanced Placement Tests. The NAS report found that the Board worked closely with Hanban, the Chinese government agency that oversees Confucius Institutes, which have been targeted by the Trump administration as a threat to America. In February, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a speech at the National Governors Association winter meeting that universities across the country were shutting down their Confucius Institute programs after independent reviews.
“Many of you are familiar with Confucius Institutes. Confucius Institutes purport to have the sole purpose of teaching Mandarin language skills and Chinese culture. A bipartisan Senate committee found last year in 2019 that the Chinese Communist Party controls nearly every aspect of the Confucius Institutes’ activities here in the United States,” Pompeo said at the time. “Sadly, China’s propaganda campaign starts even earlier than college. China has targeted K through 12 schools through its ‘Confucius Classrooms,’ the CCP’s program to influence kids at elementary, middle, and high schools around the world.”
The NAS report found the College Board “strongly promoted Confucius Institutes” and allowed the Chinese government to become a stakeholder by providing millions in funding for the curriculum.
From the report:
Early critics of the AP partnership expressed concern that the College Board had behaved inappropriately by making a foreign government a stakeholder in its course design. Bob Schaeffer, public education director for the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, asked, “What is the Chinese or Italian government buying for their sponsorship? Will they be able to specify or influence the content of the exam, which is, in turn, designed to drive the AP course curriculum? Can they, for example, urge the inclusion of reading passages from the ‘Little Red Book’?”
The AP test asks students to learn simplified Chinese characters, a more basic set of brush strokes imposed by the Chinese government in the 1950s and 1960s, with particular fervor during the Cultural Revolution. The PRC praised simplified characters as a boon for literacy: easier characters meant more people could master Chinese, a language notoriously difficult to write even for native speakers. But the promotion of simplified characters also served a political purpose. It prevented readers from accessing the older, traditional Chinese literature that Mao sought to supplant, leaving readers reliant on newer materials put forth by the Chinese government and Chinese Communist Party. Contemporary readers of simplified characters are likewise cut off from much of traditional Chinese literature, as well as materials coming from Taiwan and Hong Kong—including dissident literature—where traditional characters remain in use.
Perhaps, in choosing simplified characters, the College Board simply decided that ease of reading was paramount. But regardless, the College Board has aided the Hanban in rendering traditional Chinese literature increasingly inaccessible—leaving readers more and more reliant on post-Mao materials.
The report made five policy recommendations to try and fix the American education system’s corruption from China:
- Replace the AP Chinese Language and Culture Test. The Department of Education and Department of Defense should convene a working group to prepare an alternative high school Chinese language and culture test.
- Require schools to close Confucius Classrooms. The Department of Education should warn all school districts of the risks of hosting a Confucius Classroom or using the Chinese Guest Teacher Program, and Congress should require, on penalty of losing public funding, the closure of Confucius Classrooms.
- Require the College Board to cut ties with the Chinese government. Congress should condition federal funding to the College Board on the immediate severance of all partnerships with the Hanban or any of its replacement organizations.
- Investigate the College Board’s corruption. The Department of Justice should open up an inquiry at once.
- Replace the National Chinese Language Conference. The Department of Defense should sponsor an alternative program to train and provide professional development for American teachers of Chinese language.