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Rethinking Globalization

Rethinking Globalization

Click here to see the student art mentioned in this column.

"Mark" was a student in my Global Studies class several years ago. I would often see him carting his oversized skateboard through the halls, his longish black hair falling in his eyes. His writing could be hard to decipher. In parent conferences, his mother warned me that Mark didn't much care for academic classes and confided that Mark had a head injury when he was a child, and perhaps because of this, was slower than other students - which is a reason I treasure a copy of the metaphorical drawing that Mark completed at the end of our unit on development vs. indigenous cultures.

In the unit, we study the arrival of "progress" in the Buddhist enclave of Ladakh high in the Himalayas, watching the video Ancient Futures, and reading excerpts from Helena Norberg- Hodge's book of the same title. We examine the impact of TV on the Inuit and Dene people in northern Canada. And we conclude the unit with an examination of the ravages of oil drilling on indigenous groups like the Cofan and Huaorani in Ecuador's Oriente rainforests. The unit is a hard-hitting portrayal of some of the devastating consequences of "development" around the world.*

Near the end of the unit I ask students to create a metaphorical drawing illustrating any aspect of the collision between development and indigenous cultures that made an impression on them. In their drawings, students might choose one narrow aspect, like the effect of oil in Ecuador, or try to depict the entire "development" process. I ask them to explain their illustration on the back. I also emphasize that I'm not looking for a great work of art, rather it's the imagination and ideas I'm interested in.

 
 "In this picture the guillotine represents development as well as technology. Its mighty force rips the world apart. It has no morals, only does what it is designed to do. The masked man represents the people who support money at any cost, however they have morals unlike the guillotine, therefore they mask themselves for they know they are doing wrong and are ashamed of it. The split-open world shows the effects of industry and technology. It is cracked open and tossed aside to reach its resources." - Nick Cook, 11th grade, Franklin H.S., Portland, Ore.

At first, I couldn't figure out what Mark had drawn. There were wild hunks of black and red and yellow thrown helter skelter about the page, with a box in the center enclosing more blacks, reds, and yellows. But then I realized that the lines protruding from the top of the box were the rabbit ears of an antenna. The box was a television. On the back of the drawing, Mark had written: "The bottom is the oil. The image on tv is the world, and the world and oil/tv is on fire. The oil and tv are destroying the earth and the only thing we will have left are images of the earth on tv."

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