Global Education in the U.S.

To receive credit for my College of International Studies internship this semester, I did some research on the relatively new, but incredibly important K-12 curriculum “global education.” My research left me feeling inspired, angry, and full of unanswered questions. Here is what I learned and what I’ve realized upon completing my research.

As an International Studies major, I knew little about the origins and development of my field. I suspected it was relatively new, and the confused reactions of my relatives upon telling them my course of study proves that it’s not exactly understood by most Americans or viewed as one of the esteemed or impressive academic paths among those outside academia (my relative’s next remark was usually “you’re so smart I thought you would’ve done engineering or gone to med school!”). I’ll spare you my angry rant about being misunderstood by most of my family, but this anecdote goes to show what little value most Americans give to a global mindset.

In my paper, I consider K-12 global education rather than that of higher education, but the same issues of above prevail in this context, as well. Despite various governmental and non-governmental efforts to sell a rhetoric of global understanding and embracing multiculturalism, educators have received practically no detailed instruction on how to form and teach a global curriculum. And it shows, trust me. The majority of Americans in K-12 stop studying a foreign language after two years, barely gaining a beginner’s grasp on one. Outside of a typically Eurocentric World History class, students learn next to nothing about the lives of people outside of their nation. And sadly, many people view the idea of global education as unnecessary, and even un-American and “leftist.”

Looking back on my early education, I’m disturbed upon realizing that I received nothing close to a global education. I took a Spanish class in the fourth and fifth grade as an elective, and we ended up watching a Spanish VHS twice a week for fifty minutes. Then, in highschool, my World History class was nothing more than a dense textbook listing British and French monarchs and their stories. French classes were my favorite, but ended after sophomore year was one among two other languages, Latin and Spanish.

So what can be done about this major gap in our education system? My paper touches on some potential answers, but it is ultimately something that can only be fixed gradually and with lots of cooperation among educators and willingness among Americans.

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Is Europe the Real ‘Digital Champion’ of the 21st Century? Towards a Sustainable Model for the Global (Digital) Economy.”

On October 18, I attended a lecture by Andrea Glorioso, a member of the EU Digital Economy Delegation to the US, as a part of OU’s ‘Germany Week.’ Here is what I learned & some questions that this fantastic lecture left me with.

One misconception that I had about the EU before last Wednesday was that the growth of the digital world would help to make a more united Europe. I assumed that more efficient communications and widespread use of the Internet would bring European countries closer together and give citizens more access to the institutions of the EU. However, while the EU may benefit from the above developments, it is surely being hurt by another byproduct of the digital age– online shopping. Mr. Glorioso said that when viewing the numbers of online purchasing in Europe, 70% of orders were with a company of the same nationality as the shopper, while only 4% of orders crossed national European borders. He then explained one reason why: an online business of one country can view the IP address of a shopper and charge more if the shopper is from a different European country.

Online purchases in which the seller has access to a trove of customer information enable racial and national bias. Although this action pales in comparison to more grave instances of racism and division, it nonetheless proves the existence of values contrary to the European dream of unity. Not to mention, it also hinders the flow of business and goods among European countries. It is startling to reformulate my view of the Internet as a tool for positive social change (overall) to a real challenge to the economy and unity of the EU. I’m sure there are other elements of “going digital” that have hurt the EU in some way (such as the dissemination of “fake,” Euro-skeptic news), as well.

With the above conclusion in mind, I would like to ask what power the EU has to prevent online businesses from this kind of price changing. Depending on what legal power the EU possesses or how it would have to approach solving this, is there currently any talk of or even work occurring on legislation for this issue?

“The North Korea Challenge in US-China Relations”

On October 18, I attended a CIS Lecture given by Dr. Jeffrey Lewis on North Korea’s developing nuclear program and what it means for the US and China. 

The event opened with an introduction by an OU Professor. It was ominous– he described how triangular relationships in International Relations are never stable. However, despite this, the intro had me anticipating Dr. Lewis’s presentation and curious as to how he would forecast the “North Korea problem.”

Dr. Lewis, from the start, spoke about some potentially terrifying themes with a refreshing sense of humor and realism. And as an expert in the politics of nuclear proliferation, he possesses an accurate sense of what the U.S. has, or does not have, in store in regards to Kim Jong Un. He understands that history tends to repeat itself, and that in order to make some sense of a nuclear future, we must first look to the past.

I know little about China’s nuclear program, when it developed, and how the U.S. responded to it on its advent. However, Dr. Lewis brought us through these things, and I learned that the U.S. was equally paranoid of China’s nuclear potential in the 1960s and 70s as it is today with North Korea. The U.S. refused to believe that China was capable of or would be willing to successfully create a nuclear weapon; so, China responded not-so-subtly by flying a live warhead on a missile over their country.

In the age of smartphones and social media, security experts, TV pundits, and politicians alike have access to the multiple pieces of propaganda released by North Korea, boasting of their latest achievements both in the lab and on the testing ground. Despite these desperate cries to be believed, many in the U.S. are clinging to the hope that North Korea will fail to develop a long-rage weapon. Yes, the thought is terrifying. But what Dr. Lewis finds even more terrifying is the U.S. refusing to accept the fact, thereby preventing any efforts on our part to prevent them from using these weapons. North Korea could easily concoct some attention-grabbing feat like China did– which would only raise tensions.

Dr. Lewis argues that we, as a nation, should not gaze upon these (slightly humorous) photos of Kim Jong Un and his h-bombs with fear or reject them all together, but instead, we should learn from them. Dr Lewis possesses the super-human ability to recognize their parts and how they function– something that I realize most people do not.

However, even the slightest, seemingly insignificant details of these photos have something to tell. For example, Dr. Lewis pointed out what looked to be a Rolex watch on the wrist of one of the men facilitating a test. For a nation plagued by poverty and food shortages, a Rolex watch on anyone outside of the Royal Family would probably mean that this man did something to please his leader. I cannot remember the results of the particular test in this photo, but it is safe to say that anything less than satisfactory would mean bye-bye Rolex. Basically, for a society so shrouded in mystery, ANYTHING we can glean on its internal workings will help us in our dealings with them.

As for how these issues affect US-China relations, Dr. Lewis was unsure. He emphasized, though, how we cannot understand China’s relationship with North Korea to be supportive or rosy. It may be the opposite, in fact. China had nothing to do with North Korea’s nuclear developments, nor does it encourage them. Just because China has preserved business relations with North Korea and refused to sanction them, does not mean they approve. It is simply an alternate model of working with the country, in which less is in the dark and communication is possible. I do not disagree with this model, but I think that the U.S. would have a long way to go before such a method is taken.

Bollywood, Bhangra, & Beyond

Today, I wrapped up a course that has filled a major gap in my knowledge of the world. Its title, MUNM 3513- Honors Music of South Asia, gives little insight on the wide range of topics covered. Our professor, an ethnomusicologist who lived in Tamil Nadu for several years, centered our course content around the music of India.

To my delight, an analytical approach to all genres of Indian music opened up a trove of issues (such as caste, religion, and gender) previously unknown to me; needless to say, I’m grateful for this small glimpse into a beautiful country.

I feel my (largely unintentional) Euro-centrism melting away with each new day. Higher Education plays a part, and so does Snapchat’s map feature. Regardless the vehicle, the knowledge I’ve gained of people outside of Western Europe (the Eiffel Tower used to be my immediate mental image evoked by the word ‘abroad’) has revealed to me the connections this world shares, along with the problems it faces.

Struggles of racism, sexism, and classicism exist in India just as they do here. Adolescents find expression and identity in their music. And a dichotomy of ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’ surround every choice made by Indians today.

Not only can comparisons be made, but countless aspects of Western and Indian culture have interacted and built upon each other. Who knew that the earliest Christian community to have formed outside of its regional origins was in Kerala, India, in 52 AD? Or that Indian drumming patterns influenced Dave Brubeck in the 1960’s?

As citizens of the world, we impact each other in ways we never imagined. We share, sometimes we steal, and should never underestimate the imprint (for better or for worse) that our global interactions will have. Going forward, I would like to see more sharing– of politics, of dress, of ideas, and especially of music.

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OU Cousins

It’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving…

so I’m taking some down time to reflect on what I’ve been thankful for this semester at OU (and simultaneously tackle some long-procrastinated to-do’s). Apart from stellar professors and my internship, I am thankful for OU Cousins for introducing me to my French pal, Emeline.

Emeline is an exchange student from Rennes, France. We met via OU Cousins and decided to make it OrgSync official so that I could practice my French with her, but we soon learned that the French language was not the only thing we held in common! It turns out we both love kiddos, queso (I introduced her to this lovely cheesy dip, by the way), and Frank Sinatra. We are both equally curious about each other’s culture, and our conversations often return to questions like “What about this? Do you guys have this in your culture?” and “Please tell me this isn’t an American stereotype in France.”

I’ve showed Emeline some of the best cuisine Norman has to offer, attended an OKC Thunder game with her, carved pumpkins, and feasted on some free Thanksgiving food thanks to OU Cousins! I love that she is so willing to experience, taste, and encounter every free event OU has to offer, even if they are cheesy or not her cup of tea. Having a cousin that is so ready to make the best of her experience makes my job pretty easy (and fun)!

Luckily, Emeline will not leave until the end of spring semester, but even so, I hope to study abroad in France. She even offered to let me room with her in Rennes if I choose to study there! It’s crazy to think that this casual club involvement has helped me forage a friendship to be the foundation of my future time abroad.

“Into the Mainstream: Explaining the Rise of Radical Populist Parties in Europe”

On May 2, I attended a lecture by Dr. Reinhard Heinisch from the University of Salzburg. As a renowned scholar of European politics, he offered a diverse and interesting account of the highly publicized phenomenon of once-fringe populist parties gaining considerable traction throughout Europe.

I’m familiar with right-wing populists parties such as the French National Front, UKIP, the Freedom Party and Alternative for Germany (along with their often humorous leaders), but Dr. Heinisch brought up a fascinating point that I did not know: several of these new parties are not right-wing and some are even far-left. This connected to his larger argument that while the media paints these parties as a connected occurrence and of similar agendas, they each possess key differences from one another. He gave six categories generally associated with the far-right (nativism, ethnocentricism, racism, heterophobia, religocentrism, and antisemetisim) and gave numerical figures for each party that reflecting their presence. The scores were all across the board. Dr. Heinisch basically wanted to prevent clumping these parties together as ideologically identical.

Despite their ideological diversity, these parties tend to share similar organization and methods. They all: “call into question liberal democracy, break rules and taboos, and preach nationalism.” They hate globalization (hence the latter characteristic). They tend to single out a group or occurrence on which to blame society’s ills. They are often represented by one, charismatic leader (although they are actually more complex behind-the-scenes). And most insidiously, they changes their ideologies to match the voters– which is why Dr. Heinisch referred to the “populist chameleon.” I also found it interesting how the parties followed regional trends. Western European parties are far-right and target immigrants and Islam as scapegoats. Eastern European parties blame Roma groups and the “liberal West.” Lastly, Southern European parties are leftits.

To conclude, I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Heinisch’s lecture. His first-hand experiences as an Austrian professor definitely shone through to make it all the more interesting. I have yet to attend a CIS lecture that didn’t leave me feeling more intrigued and informed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GEF Social Media Board Continued

This semester Sarah, Moriah, and I kept up with the GEF Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook. However, this time around was a bit fragmented due to Jaci’s departure. Despite that, we still brainstormed some pretty stellar ideas and met with challenges, as well.

Style vs. Substance?

So, this is something that I’ve debated on for awhile, regarding my own personal social media especially. While the goals and outreach differ for an organization’s account vs. one’s personal account, the power of look is undeniable in both. When mindlessly scrolling through my feed, a photo’s bold colors or a flyer’s spunky font tend to draw me in and then I consider the content. Variety, too, is an important factor in what makes a feed effective and eye-catching. It would be easy to fill our Instagram (I’m solely focusing on this platform because it is, in my opinion, the most visual) with only the text-heavy posters advertising various IAS events. While it’s great to spread the word and help out Fellows looking for International Events, I think that this limited approach would diminish the potential of our ‘gram. Which is why I want to start photographing the people and proceedings of these events, along with other the other faces of our program, to humanize & personalize our presence on social media! ALSO, TRAVEL PHOTOS LOOK AMAZING. SO Fellows, please please please send them our way!!!!

 Hear me, Hear me! (and please respond, too)

Arguably the greatest challenge running the GEF social media is getting feedback and engagement from other Fellows. This program values communication as a tool for global fluency and connection. Obviously, open communication and socialization with those we meet abroad is key– but something that is sometimes overlooked is the importance of communication at home as a part of this global awareness. Jaci intended for us to initiate and facilitate friendly debates on the Facebook page over relevant international articles. I think that if these online exchanges were to take off, we could each really expand our repertoire of knowledge and perspectives. For example, while I keep up with European politics, I know nothing about global health or scientific research in, say, the horn of Africa. The beautiful thing about this program is that its members cover a wide array of majors and interests– and we gotta share them with each other! Unfortunately, we tried two or three times to post an article with a following blurb expressing our own opinion and a discussion question, but never received much response. Not that I blame people; my schedule during the semester can be a grind and sometimes all of my brain-power is drained by classes and choir and what to make for dinner. I’m hoping that with a little persistence and even more Fellows in the fall, online discussions will take off.

“Ukraine- Still Looking Westward?”

I’ve always been fascinated by the history of Soviet Union, and while Russia makes the nightly news every-so-often (and more frequently lately), I personally don’t know much about the state of its former satellite countries. But on March 8 I attended a CIS event titled “Ukraine- Still Looking Westward? Relations with the EU, the United States and NATO” where speaker Volodymyr Dubovyk from Mechnikov National University, Ukraine offered some insight into Eastern European nation.

Professor Dubovyk, a native Ukrainian, started out by highlighting February 20th, 2014 as a key date in Ukrainian government; on that day members of Parliament voted to remove the current president in response to violent protests that broke out months earlier after the government passed Anti-Protest laws. While admitting the event’s shocking significance, Dubovyk took the tone of a seasoned veteran and shrugged it off as yet another marker in the “continual fight for Ukrainian independence.” While it’s true that Ukraine has been officially sovereign for 25 years now, its kinks are far from being worked out and political pressure, internal and external, makes it difficult for the government to settle on one, clear path. The country lacks government experience. It is in dire need of external aid. And fighting internal corruption is not an easy task for a government still in adolescence.

Clearly, Ukraine needs the counsel and cooperation of external allies to settle its internal problems. These external allies consist of both supranational bodies like the EU, UN, and NATO and individual nations. Dubovyk first dived into Ukraine’s relationship with the EU:

the European Union

While Ukraine is not a member of the EU, their communication began in 1993. However, a major milestone occurred just 12 hours before writing this: the EU approved visa-free travel for Ukrainians within Europe. Two months ago Dubovyk mentioned the possibility of this decision, but expressed skepticism because of the mounting anti-immigrant sentiment within Europe. sidenote: maybe procrastinating this blogpost was the smart thing to do??? The EU’s decision is by no means a sign of impending membership, but it is a step in the right direction for those leaders in Ukraine pushing for European integration. While the EU currently assists Ukraine some in creating and implementing reforms and even works with their public and NGOs, EU membership would offer economic advantages and a stronghold against the ever-present Russian threat. But unfortunately, the EU’s dissatisfaction with former Ukranian president, Yanokovich, and widespread Euroskepticism that’s keeping it from acting boldly mean that Ukrainian membership is indefinate. Dubovyk’s retelling of a common joke pretty much sums it up:

‘When will Turkey be part of the EU?’

‘Never.’

‘And Ukraine?’

‘After Turkey.’

NATO

Ukraine’s communication with NATO began with the 1994 Partnership for Peace. The question of membership, though, is similar to that with the EU– there are no concrete signs or steps regarding when. However, the public is pretty split about the issue while elites remain optimistic. Playing into the question of membership is the larger conflict with Russia. Trump’s presidency has further muddled things– so far there have only been mixed signals from the White House.

 

 

Macron’s Triumph: A Victory for More Than Just France

This past Sunday, May 7, witnessed a much-needed victory in world news. France’s centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron took over 2/3s of the nation’s vote, securing his place as its next leader. Perhaps the collective sigh at seeing the results was less for Macron himself, though, and more in reaction to dodging a major bullet. I try to steer clear of political statements online, but I will not hesitate to oppose Marine Le Pen and the harmful messages sent by her far-right populist party, the National Front. Her election to the presidency would have been a death sentence for the European Union and a stepping stone for the countless other populist parties sprouting across Europe, many spewing hateful rhetoric and abusing the fear of their supporters. Le Pen’s militant nationalism and supposed wish to ban headscarves are repelling enough alone, but it’s her painfully direct link to one of the most incendiary figures in recent European politics that gives me the creeps. Jean-Marie Le Pen, father to our dear Marine, helped found the party in the 1970’s. He publicly criticized the French national football team for “having too many players of color” (more than once), denied the Holocaust, and has literally been convicted six times for his xenophobic and racist speech. Needless to say, Jean-Marie’s record is far from clean, and his blood link to Marine is evident (thankfully Marine’s opinions aren’t quite as awful as her father’s– although perhaps she simply lacks the audacity to share them).

With all these cons stacked against Le Pen it’s clear why news outlets and politicians weighed the French election as a matter of international concern. Still, though, I was surprised at seeing the number of Tweets and Facebook articles being shared by my peers on social media regarding the matter. “10 reasons why I’ll never vote for Hillary Clinton” or anti-Trump memes just became part of the social media landscape leading up to the U.S. election last fall, but major occurrences like the migrant crisis and Brexit didn’t seem to break much ground on millennial profiles. So, why now? Why the French presidential election? The average 20 year old on Twitter who’s neither French nor interested in politics would likely not be drawn to the event– it wasn’t violent or glamorous. I would argue, though, that its similarities to our last election had Americans anxiously holding their breath for either a setback or validation of the ideals shared by Le Pen and Trump. I’m not saying that the two matched each other to a tee on every policy, idea, and method, but for Americans left confused and distraught by their own election, this offered the closest thing to a “re-trial” of populism, nativism, and exclusionary politics. And perhaps images of joyous Frenchmen (of all ages, genders, and ethnicities might I add) waving their flag outside the Louvre gives hope to us Americans praying for our own version of the festivities four years from now.

 

photo from global.handelsblatt.com

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CIS Forum on Democracy

On February 23, I attended the “Forum on Democracy” hosted by the College of International Studies. The event aimed to open up a dialogue on the present state of our democracy and possible threats to it– namely, our current President Donald Trump and his administration. While the planned panelists and their topics (titled “Checks and Balances: Robust or Fragile?”, “The Trump Presidency in Perspective: Autocrats and Populists in Latin America,” and “Corruption and Kleptocracy”) proved fascinating and worthwhile, it was the ten minutes of open-mike time before that shocked audience and panelists alike and ultimately painted a picture of true democracy in action.

Every University faculty member that I’ve experienced has taught or led free from bias. As proponents for free, independent thought, their political leanings must not play a part in educating students; however, their profession does not ban them from speaking out in other platforms, especially on issues as potent as those at the time of the panel (less than a month had passed since Trump’s controversial executive order and reactions to “fake news” flooded the media). It was clear by the very nature of the panel and its topics that those gathered to speak were concerned by, if not critical of, Trump’s actions. Throughout the opening remarks, though, they remained polite, restrained, and anything but accusatory– they even omitted the names of the leader(s) in question.

So it was a great shock when a graduate student from the audience took to the mic with a pre-written denunciation of the panel’s tone and intention. Professors scribbling down notes stilled their frantic movements and slouched undergrads titled their heads as the man in front labeled the event as “reactionary and leftist.” Rigid bias, and not a true concern for our democracy, fueled the CIS event, he claimed. He elaborated– “Why is this panel choosing to focus solely on the actions of our newly elected president without giving mention to candidate Hillary Clinton’s abuses of power?” “Trump’s recent actions remained within the legal framework and painting them as some threat to our constitutional democracy is reactionary and excessive.” He spoke for at least five minutes but his message was simple: what the College was doing here was neither open-minded nor out of any real urgency and he did not agree with its stance.

Here is my mental play-by-play from the sidelines: WOW this guy is bold. And NO I do not agree that Trump’s blatant disregard for facts shows no cause for concern. Neither do I see his travel ban, reeking of Islamophobia and big business, as “no big deal.” And I truly think that any gathering praising education, vigilance, and the sharing of ideas holds value for those willing to listen, regardless of its place on the political spectrum. Basically I did not share the same thoughts as our bold volunteer. Nevertheless, I was not angry at him for bringing up these points. His opposing opinions galvanized my own and made me grateful for the beautiful thing that is dissent. For dissent, although uncomfortable, lies at the foundation of the sacred concept that CIS sought to preserve through this event: democracy. The fact that this man could stand up in a room full of people that probably did not take his side and speak his mind just proves how special our nation is and how fiercely we should defend its principles. On a smaller scale, the confrontation filled me with pride at the openness and diversity of thought allowed at our school. And according to Provost Kyle Harper, democracy thrives on places of education such as the University of Oklahoma.