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What does global mean?

Posted by lpearle on 15 April 2008

Last night I attended a “conversation” between the Head of Emma Willard and several alumnae about what it means to be global today: is it enough to admit students from foreign countries? what about multi-cultural literature? what should be taught in the history classes?

We were asked to think about what global meant to us and how the school could change/adapt/implement these ideas. One book that occurred to me was Robin Morgan’s Sisterhood is Global, first published in 1985. One of the things that struck me then, and stays with me now, is how very different the global perspective on feminism and women’s rights are than they are here. For example, in many countries health care and education is their primary concern; here (in 1985) we were worrying about equal pay and the ERA. Quite a division!

So, what’s the recommendation? What about having students learn about issues from a global view. We talk about health care, but what about the need to cure/eradicate malaria? How does our fight against AIDS compare to the concerns and fight in Africa or China? What do microloans do to help women achieve equality? And so on.

I also suggested getting rid of the tyranny of the Advanced Placement courses. We had none when I was in school, but you could take the exams should you desire. If you didn’t have to “teach to the test” you could radically change the curriculum. It might also be a great idea to create a ‘junior-year-abroad’ (or semester abroad) program that took students to less expected places. One current sister-school is in an inner-city, again a new twist on the definition of global.

One idea, that of eliminating the need for loans and financial aid, is impractical unless the endowment is Harvard-sized. That’s not the case here, an unfortunate stumbling block to their ability to blindly accept anyone from anywhere (from a financial point of view, that is). How cool would it be if they could accept someone, pay for travel, books, clothes (if needed) and any tutoring without the student having to worry about it?

When I was there, we were a pretty diverse community, with students from Iran, Saudi, Venezuela and other countries. I took courses in Asian history (modern, medieval and classical), and read the literature of “others”. This tradition has continued, to the school’s credit. It’s also to their credit that they’re thinking seriously about how they can expand on this.

My brain was whirling with ideas, not just for the school but for the implications for my practice and how I could bring this to MPOW. They’re starting to think global, just not as radically. What about you – what do you think?


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