going global in a writing class

My writing classes are working on their final project for the semester: a researched position/argument essay on a global (international) issue. 

They’ve been guided to the college’s library’s databases (such as Global Issues in Context, which is a FANTASTIC database, as well as CQ Researcher Global).  Also, thanks to my colleagues, I introduced the students two great documentary websites: www.snagfilms.com and www.mediathatmattersfest.org.  These documentaries are a great way for a young person to be “hooked” onto a topic. 

My hope, of course, is that the students will find a topic they can be passionate about – something that interests them and therefore make them curious.  The idea for this project comes from the fact that one of the new course objectives for freshmen writing courses at our college includes, “Demonstrate in writing awareness of and appreciation for other world cultures.”  At our college, we are not just talking about global competencies and global or cultural awareness because they’re the buzz words… we are infusing them into our current, existing course materials.  

(image from globalresearch.ca)

In class, we began discussing this last project by reading an article by Nicholas Kristof called “Teach for the World” (The New York Times, March 11, 2010).  In it, he proposes a program called Teach for the World that would  send young Americans on one-year service trips to developing countries.  They’d be placed in schools to teach English, computer skills, yoga (?), music, and so on.  Kristof says that programs like the Peace Corps and Teach for America or WorldTeach can’t seem to meet the demand of young people to serve abroad. 

I love these lines from Kristof’s article: “What’s the word for doorknob?  People who have studied a language in a classroom rarely know the answer.  But those who have been embedded in a country know.  America would be a wiser country if we had more people who knew how to translate ‘doorknob’.  I would bet that those people who know how to say doorknob in Farsi almost invariably oppose a military strike on Iran.” 

I love the idea that if we just opened our arms, our eyes, our ears, and our minds to our human connectedness (or sameness) as well as the cultural differences, then we’d be living in a more less conflicted (though complex and maybe complicated) world.  And this is the value of a global education. 

I will report back with my students’ ingenious topics for this project!

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