Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Three "A"s and linking the global with the local

In his introduction, Reimers distills "the tri-dimensional nature of global competency" into three "A"s: the affective dimension, the action dimension, and the academic dimension.  I am struck by how hard that second dimension is for a school to pull off well.  In US English, we can involve the affective and the academic dimensions somewhat easily, through readings and discussions that encourage empathic and intellectual interest in other places, cultures, and ways of living and seeing.  Part of the "action" dimension entails learning new languages and understanding different cultures, which is also somewhat easy for a school like BB&N to facilitate.

Yet, all too often, we see that students translate the "action" dimension into something trite: tourism or week-long "community service" trips that are as much about padding a college resume or going on developing-world adventures as they are about helping people in other corners of the globe.  I wonder how we can link global studies and understanding with something tangible and meaningful here at BB&N.  Some of the best conversations we've had in my classes have taken place when a student from an "other" place or culture (students from India or Ethiopia come to mind) speaks or writes about that place or culture in a way that connects the rest of us in via a personal link.  I wonder how we can get rid of the dichotomy between what students see as "global" and what they see right here at BB&N or in Boston.  It would be wonderful to have students take globally-minded "action" that is rooted in something here, something that they can connect to year-round rather than to perpetuate the sense that global things happen "out there" and real life happens "here."  Perhaps we can find ways to encourage/sponsor global experiences that link directly to what kids here study, to their local community service organizations, or that link them with others based on a shared passion or talent (such as Chorale trips).  If we see travel as an extension of what we study and do here (travel as homework?) rather than as a separate and distinct entity, then that "action" dimension would be much more meaningful.

Sam Prouty
US English

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