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Chinese government's funding of school's language program fuels controversy

April 4, 2010 |  8:10 am

Learning Chinese

Most students in the Chinese language class at Cedarlane Middle School in Hacienda Heights have never heard of Confucius.

"Con what?" asked Ricardo Ramirez, 11, who loves to impress classmates with his loud and clear greetings of "Hello!" and "I love you!" in Mandarin.

But a proposal to bring more resources to his school's Chinese program has sparked heated debate over whether the Chinese government -- in the ancient philosopher's name -- should have a role in helping American schoolchildren learn. It's a controversy that lays bare tensions in a community that has undergone a major demographic shift and is now more than a third Asian.

In January, the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District board voted 4 to 1 to adopt a new Chinese language and culture class at Cedarlane next fall, at no cost to the district.

Confucius Classroom is paid for by the Chinese government's Chinese Language Council International, also known as Hanban.

"I am not against the teaching of foreign languages, but this is a propaganda machine from the People's Republic of China that has no place anywhere in the United States," said John Kramer, 73, a former superintendent of the district who has been vocal in the debate.

Read the full story here.

--Ching-Ching Ni in Hacienda Heights

Photo: Ricardo Ramirez, Alexis Perez, Emily Cowan and Rafael Chavez, from left, practice their Chinese. Most students in the class are Latino. (Katie Falkenberg / For The Times / March 25, 2010)