Education About Asia: Online Archives

Philosophy and the Early Chinese World View: An Interview with Roger Ames

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Roger Ames is both a highly productive scholar and a master teacher. We are extremely grateful to EAA Editorial Board member Professor David Jones for procuring this interview, and to Professor Roger Ames for his comments.

David Jones: Roger, it is indeed an honor, and a pleasure, to be asked by EAA to interview you concerning the important inclusion of Chinese Philosophy in the curriculum, especially in World History courses.

You are a distinguished scholar of Chinese philosophy, author of many books in the area of Chinese philosophy and studies, and translator of classical Chinese texts. However, you have also found the time and invested energy in the development and unremitting nurturing of the Asian Studies Development Program, a joint program between the University of Hawai‘i and the East-West Center, which is now in its thirteenth year. The program was in large part your idea. Could you elaborate on why you felt the program was necessary and how the goals of the program resonate with the larger project of Asian Studies in the US and Canada?

Roger Ames: ASDP was established as a considered response to what we believe is a continuing crisis in American education—the growing importance of Asia for the future lives of young Americans, and the need in our tertiary level institutions for the kind of faculty development that would enable educators to infuse Asia into the undergraduate core curriculum. It has been an ongoing collaboration among many generous people, where the shared goal has been to produce the resources to enable our educators. Over the thirteen years of the program, we have had an overwhelming response by faculty and by administrators who recognize this changing world-scape, and who want to be able to provide their students with the education they will need to thrive in a new international order. The program has grown enormously, with five or six major residential institutes and field seminars every summer, with workshops and speakers programs throughout the year, and with a veritable avalanche of applications for these opportunities.

There are other groups in the country who have been working in different ways and with different constituencies to achieve the same goal. Asia-Network and the Columbia University program come immediately to mind, and foundations such as Freeman, Luce, and NEH have been generous supporters. Slowly, one faculty member at a time, America is waking up to Asia.