One evening in 2011, the high school cafeteria was filled with an unusual sound: Chinese.
The community turned out to welcome 25 students and faculty for a two-week visit and to celebrate the 13th year of the exchange between Stissing Mountain High School and High School #29 of Nanjing. The head of the delegation, Ying Aimin, made the opening remarks.
Not to be outdone in language skills, Michael Hirson followed with greetings to the visitors in their native language. (A bit of disclosure here: Michael is my son, but that is not why he is in this video.) Michael, an international economist with the Treasury Department was in Pine Plains on a family visit. We thought it would be a good idea to show that yes, an American can learn Chinese and that there were interesting careers that took advantage of foreign language skills.
The following day the visitors were given what I can only describe as a “participatory” tour of the high school. They went to regular classes but, as you will see, they had plenty of “hands on” experiences.
I posted this story under the category of Economic Development for several reasons. The most apparent is the growing interdependence of the economies of our two countries. But communities like Pine Plains, no matter how small or rural, are turning out young people who will be entering the world at large, not just a local job market. They can see other cultures as competition for resources or as opportunities and markets. Exchange programs can prepare our young people for their smaller “flat” world by giving them the experiences and exposure to new opportunities and careers.