President Biden canceled the U.S. policy requiring U.S. schools and universities to disclose all agreements with the China-funded Confucius Institutes.  The Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania received over $70 million from Chinese donors, including $22 million in “anonymous” donations (federal law requires full disclosure for donations over $250,000).

No wonder Biden was so quick to revoke the Trump Administration policy that prevented educational institutions from hiding details of contracts, partnerships, or financial transactions with Confucius Institutes. As Politico reported in 2018, these institutes had “sprouted up at more than 500 college campuses worldwide, with more than 100 of them in the United States.”

Back in 1950 science fiction writer Damon Knight wrote a short story, “To Serve Man,” that Rod Serling in 1962 adapted for a classic episode of The Twilight Zone. An alien race, the Kanamit, come to Earth promising peace and sharing technologies that provided limitless energy, cured all diseases, and converted deserts into lush gardens. Kinda like Belt and Road.

To assuage skeptics, the Kanamit delegate replied in English, “The motives of intelligent beings, though they at times appear obscure, are simple things compared to the complex workings of the natural universe…. When your world has no more hunger, no more war, no more needless suffering, that will be our reward.”

One skeptic, the linguist Gregori, replied that language reflects the basic assumptions of the people who use it. He pilfered a handbook used by Kanamit staff, which was “in ideographs, worse than Chinese” — not intended for human eyes. He first deciphered the title: “How to Serve Man,” then told colleagues, “I’ve read the first paragraph of that book… It’s a cookbook.”

Politico author Ethan Epstein warned that the Confucius institutes are part of an estimated $10 billion per year Chinese propaganda initiative, overseen by the Chinese Ministry of Education. These institutes teach a very particular, Beijing-approved version of Chinese culture and history that ignores concerns over human rights.

Epstein further asserted that the Confucius Institutes’ goals “are a little less wholesome and edifying than they sound.” He cited a 2011 speech by Politburo member Li Changchun: “The Confucius Institute is an appealing brand for expanding our culture abroad. It has made an important contribution toward improving our soft power.”

Earlier, Li had boasted that these institutes are “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda setup” that works to silence opposition to China’s less than virtuous human rights record – or any criticism of China.

As early as 2012, it was reported that up to 350 million Chinese were learning or already using English, which is required in Chinese schools. In 2011, American educators were boasting that 60,000 U.S. public school students were learning a Chinese language in 2008. U.S. News reported that as of 2013, maybe 200,000 U.S. students – less than 0.4 percent – were studying (not necessarily becoming fluent in) Mandarin Chinese.

The Politico article further revealed that Confucius’ informal Chinese language courses “only teach simplified characters, which are used on Mainland China but not in Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Singapore.” Retired University of Chicago religion professor Bruce Lincoln fears these institutes are imposing “a hostile takeover of U.S. higher education by a foreign power.”

As to religion, Daksha Devnani recently wrote that Chinese students are told that their parents and relatives will be detained if they visit churches or religious places where there is a god above the state. The human rights magazine Bitter Winter reported that President Xi Jinping has long emphasized the need to instill “the red gene” in students and “pass down the revolutionary cause from generation to generation.” Moreover, Tang Zhe reports that “adherence to the Communist Party ideology has become the most important content of education in China.”

Why does all this matter to Americans? First off, for decades China has bludgeoned American firms – especially those dependent upon rare-earth metals – to surrender their technologies to their Chinese partners. Today, Chinese interests continue to increase their ownership of U.S. corporations, such that fluency in Chinese may soon become essential for anyone seeking to climb the corporate ladder or hold any job.

Second, many U.S.-based companies are adopting the basic tenets of Chinese propaganda and mind control by banning speech that does not toe the “party line” on issues ranging from hydroxychloroquine to Hunter Biden. YouTube is even censoring comments critical of China.

Meanwhile, the Biden Administration is intent on neutering the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. And Biden’s pick for CIA Director, William Burns, spent his last six years heading up the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which the Daily Caller says received up to $2 million from entities linked to the Chinese Communist Party.

America’s educational institutions at all levels have become more politicized – more like China’s. The primary concerns of many educators today appear to be such issues as whether to keep schools shuttered; whether STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), advanced placement, and gifted and talented classes are racist and must be abandoned; and which public schools must be renamed.

None of this bodes well for the future of our children, only one in five of whom study ANY foreign language (mostly Spanish or French). But that is just the tip of this Titanic iceberg.

The 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment tested 15-year-old students from dozens of countries in reading ability, math and science literacy, and other key skills. As Evita Duffy reported in The Federalist, American students scored in the middle of the pack for all categories. Chinese students outperformed American students in every category.

Perhaps most damning, only 14 percent of American students were able to reliably distinguish fact from opinion in reading tests. PISA also found that 20 percent of American 15-year-olds are reading below age 10 level and that American performance in reading and math has been flat since 2000. These results suggest that federal initiatives like No Child Left Behind and Common Core have been multi-billion-dollar wastes of money.

Yet the “Biden Plan for Educators, Students and Our Future” listed as its top priorities increasing teacher salaries and forgiving student loans; doubling the number of psychologists, counselors, nurses, social workers, etc. at schools; federally funded school infrastructure projects; and defeating the National Rifle Association. All these increase our dependence on Washington; none addresses preparing students to compete in the global economy.

The educational mainstream is likewise focused on structure. A 2017 Edutopia report listed five key takeaways from polls conducted by education establishment professionals. Topping that list was more money, followed by rigorous academics, career and technical education, better technology, and access to college.

By contrast, the online Western Governors University recently listed five skills parents want their children to learn. Topping that list was educating students toward self-reliance and independence. Next was problem solving, followed by networking, self-advocacy, and presentation skills. It will take all these skills for America’s next generations to compete with Chinese and other students from emerging nations for tomorrow’s jobs – and their own freedom.

This will not happen with the fog-heavy Confucius confusion emanating from Washington or Beijing.


  • Duggan Flanakin

    Duggan Flanakin is the Director of Policy Research at the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow. A former Senior Fellow with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Mr. Flanakin authored definitive works on the creation of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and on environmental education in Texas. A brief history of his multifaceted career appears in his book, "Infinite Galaxies: Poems from the Dugout."