I came across this post on youthpolicy.org on Theresia Degener, a German professor who focuses on the rights of children with disabilities to obtain a proper education and a member of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Her story reminded me of my time in China and resonated with my interest in disability rights and education and my participation in a summit next month centered on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.
I knew little about China the first time I was there for my semester abroad other than what had been mentioned in my language classes. One of the first books I read after I arrived was Out of Mao’s Shadow by journalist Philip Pan. The book highlights the gripping stories of China’s local men and women fighting for political, social, and economic change.
For example, Pan wrote a chapter in Out of Mao’s Shadow about Chen Guangcheng, the blind lawyer and human rights activist most known for his work around disability rights and family planning. Four years after Pan’s book was published, Chen’s story dominated the media outlets last month when Chen ultimately was able to arrive safely in NYC after seven years of prison and house arrest in China. Stories like this highlight the social intricacies and human rights issues of China today. I particularly became interested in education and physical disability in China, where it was once quoted that despite competitive college entrance exam scores, “schools all emphasize ‘moral, intellectual and physical development,’ and they know these students are not physically perfect. So they turn them down.”
This summer, I will be back for Education Association for China Tomorrow’s (EACT) 2nd annual US-China International Youth Festival, a summer program consisting of a 3-day summit where we will discuss the UN’s Millennium Development Goals and a 3-week teaching service learning program. I’m looking forward to re-immersing myself in China.
Originally published on June 20, 2012 on GYC Village