Millinocket, Maine’s Stearns High School will be welcoming a large number of Chinese high schoolers this fall
In a time of heated academic competition, many Chinese parents are turning to what might be seen as desperate measures to get their kids ahead. It is becoming increasingly common for parents in the mainland to send their children to high schools overseas—particularly in the United States—in hopes that a foreign education will put them on the fast track to academic success. While the majority of Chinese students heading off to the US for secondary school attend competitive private schools in wealthy areas, Millinocket, Maine’s 200-student Stearns public high school attracted the attention of The New York Times for its decision to recruit students from China.
Millinocket: only a 9-hour drive from NYC
The article described Millinocket as “remote,” with a population of only 5,000 and vacant storefronts littering its main street. Kenneth Smith, the schools’ superintendent and mastermind behind the project, justified the USD 27,000 price tag that the Chinese students will be paying with promises of the town’s beauty and extensive efforts made to welcome them.
Nonetheless, it wasn’t long before the Global Times published a biting reply. In the article, columnist Peter Mattimore described Stearns as a “run-of-the-mill” high school looking to make a quick buck off of unsuspecting Chinese students.
To nobody’s surprise, the article’s bitter criticism of Dr. Smith’s plan only spurred the controversy further. Articles on the websites of both The Atlantic magazine and Bangor Daily News slammed Mattimore for his “propaganda,” claiming the Chinese government was simply afraid of “leaking” its top academic talent to American schools.
But while the readership of the Global Times is certainly sizable, these magazines may be the ones taking the issue out of proportion. The column was published only on the English-speaking version of the website, whose reach is miniscule compared to that of its Chinese counterpart. As it caters primarily to expatriates—not remotely a part of Dr. Smith’s intended audience—it is unlikely that the article would have much effect in the Chinese community, but rather serve simply as food for thought.
As of now, the conflict has yet to find resolution. A follow-up article in the Bangor Daily News confirmed Mattimore’s staunch stance on the issue; he plans to visit Stearns around July to back up his criticisms. If all goes well for Millinocket, American public schools might just see an influx of Chinese students. Whether they are welcomed as ambassadors of cross-culturalism or a source of revenue, the foreign-student trend is not one to be ignored.