Thoughts on culture, education, and having been a Canadian in the US
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“Internationalizing” UVM

I just came back from an excellent workshop where many of us at UVM working in the areas of International Studies and other fields discussed the internationalization of UVM. Our focus was on how we could make UVM more connected to the rest of the world and the world more connected to UVM. What we envision must go much beyond simply sending students out on study abroad trips and should focus more on having students graduate with more of a global consciousness. Of course, one of the ways we can do this is by making more concerted efforts to have them study other cultures and languages (a certain country to the North of us immediately springs to mind).

Most of us were caught a bit off guard by this week’s move from the White House to promote the study of foreign languages in schools and universities. It seems on the surface to align itself perfectly with what were talking about this afternoon. Then, I caught this posting on Laila Lalami’s fabulous Moorish Girl blog. She sums it up far better than I can.

Wow–we’re actually going to teach kids here about other languages?!! What a great way to tell them about the rest of the world. But I should have known better. Because the goal isn’t to teach kids another language, but rather:

Bush portrayed the enhancement of foreign-language skills as a way of enlarging U.S. capacity to spread democracy. “You can’t convince people unless you can talk to them,” he said. (…) “When Americans learn to speak a language, learn to speak Arabic, those in the Arabic region will say, ‘Gosh, America’s interested in us. They care enough to learn how we speak,’ ” Bush said.

So the goal of learning the language isn’t to learn something about a different culture, but merely to communicate well enough with the rest of the world to convince them to get on with the program already.

Sigh. Just when you think that guy might finally have a bright idea….