Friday, October 28, 2005

Computer Science in the NYT

but maybe not in the way we wanted.

Nearly a year ago, I had mentioned that Andy Yao had returned to China to teach there. Today, he leads off a NYT article on Chinese universities:
When Andrew Chi-chih Yao, a Princeton professor who is recognized as one of the United States' top computer scientists, was approached by Qinghua University in Beijing last year to lead an advanced computer studies program, he did not hesitate.

It did not matter that he would be leaving one of America's top universities for one little known outside China. Or that after his birth in Shanghai, he was raised in Taiwan and spent his entire academic career in the United States. He felt he could contribute to his fast-rising homeland.

"Patriotism does have something to do with it, because I just cannot imagine going anywhere else, even if the conditions were equal," said Dr. Yao, who is 58.

The rest of the article talks about the challenges of building up world-class universities in China. It did have this interesting line from Prof. Yao:
Dr. Yao said he had expected to concentrate on creating a world-class Ph.D. program but had found surprising weaknesses in undergraduate training and had decided to teach at that level. "You can't just say I'll only do the cutting-edge stuff," he said. "You've got to teach the basics really well first."
Sounds like something you could say about the U.S. system as well.

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