China tightens its grip on freedom in academics

Scholars often debate risking their livelihoods and personal safety in order to conduct research in certain areas.

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  • Authoritarian governments that rely heavily on coercion must be more intrusive about how education shapes the personality and character of its members.
  • In China, there are topics that scholars know to avoid — especially, the Three Ts: Taiwan, Tibet, and Tiananmen Square.
  • While the majority of scholars are likely toeing the party line when it comes to their research, some are working toward encouraging academic freedom in the country, often at significant risk to themselves and their families.
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China's schoolkids beat American students in all academic categories

The academic performance of American schoolchildren hasn't budged in two decades, despite billions of dollars in increased funding.

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  • The results come from the PISA survey, OECD's triennial study of 15 year-old students across the world.
  • Compared to other OECD member nations, American students performed especially poorly in math.
  • Alarmingly, only 14 percent of American students were able to reliably distinguish fact from opinion in reading tests.
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How Mengzi came up with something better than the Golden Rule

What could be better than "do unto others as you would have others do unto you"?

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There's something I don't like about the 'Golden Rule,' the admonition to do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

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"Cocaine of the sea" — the illegal fish trade of the Mexican cartel and Chinese mafia

"Sea of Shadows" is a documentary you can't afford to miss.

National Geographic
  • "Sea of Shadows" tells the story of an illegal fish trade between the Mexican cartel and Chinese mafia.
  • The fish bladders, bought for $5,000 from local fisherman, are sold in China for over $100,000 to make an unproven medicine.
  • Director Richard Ladkani talks about the intensity and danger of making this film, as well as the hopeful ending.
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China grew a plant on the moon — it sprouted two leaves, data indicates

It marks the first time a plant has been grown on the moon.

Image source: Chongqing University
  • In January, China became the first nation to land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon.
  • Chang'e-4 lunar rover carried among its payload a small biosphere that housed six lifeforms, including cotton seeds.
  • Using data from that biosphere experiment, researchers constructed a digital image of the cotton plant that reveals it grew two leaves before dying from the cold.
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