Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Global Competence - In Practical Terms

Both pieces are persuasive arguments advocating increased global literacy and competence in education.  Since I've been at BB&N, the school has made considerable progress in increasing multi-cultural inclusion in our curricula.  These articles argue for expanding these efforts to perspectives beyond American shores with a real and important emphasis on preparing students to take action in their adult lives.   The action can be defined in terms of both career preparedness and actions as citizens that promote global justice, physical well-being, and environmental sustainability.  I am inspired by these ideas, and am left wondering what this means for the MS and our English curriculum.

Currently, we have no easy way in the MS to do deep curriculum collaboration cross-departmentally.  Nor do we have an easy way to get off campus to take advantage of the city and its cultural and community service opportunities.  (The Belize Trip - an opportunity for a small group of students during spring break - is an excellent exception to these obstacles, but, as a rule, we are far from the kinds of hands-on work these articles suggest are necessary to achieve ideals of global education.)

So, where does that leave us in MS English?  We have a curriculum that reflects thoughtful attention to multi-cultural and international perspectives (although there is always room for improvement in this area.)  I will clarify, though, that our work with these texts has a clear and explicitly stated goal of honing students’ analytical and critical thinking skills, rather than what these summer reading articles seem to advocate, which is to use the texts to raise cultural awareness in students in order to increase their database of knowledge and someday to spur them to some action.  

Of course, when we read a story about the land yielding no crops in a rural village in Kenya or a poem about a son leaving his father's farm in a remote village in China, we discuss the content, look at maps, provide some historical context, etc.  But, the heart of what we do is to take these texts and pay them the respect (in literary terms) of close analysis of language, style, literary devises, and to connect them to other pieces and the students’ own experience.  In this way we focus on the specific as it relates to the universal.  The students connect to the world around them by using their imaginations.


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