Sunday, September 26, 2010

What to write about? How about Peace and Global Citizenship?

So much in education this past week! Sorry I missed posting all last week, I've been running myself ragged--last Sunday I was at an event with some big Democratic party power players (I won't name names, but I will mention that I rubbed shoulders with a man that with a pretty important job in the White House), on Tuesday I attended an event hosted by the Open Center where the illustrious Deepak Chopra spoke on his new book Muhammad, and then on Thursday I met with representatives from my alma mater Haverford College, who came to NYC to speak about the incredible center there called the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship or "CPGC". All this, plus I came down with a nasty cold, and well, blogging had to take a backseat.

While I'm inclined to jump into the fray of the vociferous debates about charter schools or Waiting for Superman, two topics heavily covered in the media, these are debates that will still require discussion when the news networks have turned their short attention spans to other topics. Therefore, I will visit those topics another day, and let me take a moment to instead shine the spotlight on a truly incredible program at Haverford that I was lucky enough to benefit from when I was a student there in 2005-2006.

Haverford College has long distinguished itself as a school with a social conscience. We have the oldest and most robust honor code that exists at any college or university, extending from the academic realm into the social, such that the student body is largely self-governed. We also have fostered a serious concern for social justice, both as a function of our Quaker traditions and of the way we conceive of a rich, rigorous, and worldly education. However, about eight years ago, Haverford College established a new center that would be called the CPGC that would enhance and amplify these core values.

I won't list all the rhetoric and data about the CPGC that you can easily find on the website. Instead, let me quickly tell you about how the CPGC affected me so that you might have a picture of how powerful this program is and its transformative potential if brought to other educational institutions.

In the fall of 2005 I was in my senior year of college and, having studied abroad and backpacked around Europe the previous spring I still had a serious itch to travel. On top of that, being immersed in the study of politics I had a come to feel that I needed to be learning and leading not in the classroom or the library, but out in the world. These feelings had grown so intense that I seriously considered leaving Haverford before graduating to engage the world, to graduate at some undetermined point in the future.

Luckily, I did not have to make such a difficult decision. As my studies of international law and economic development pushed me towards the study of Hugo Chavez's policies in Venezuela, the CPGC presented itself as a resource for designing and funding a trip to Venezuela so that I could conduct my own research in a field typically elusive for undergraduates. Thus, after interviews, several drafts of proposals, and an intense week of final exams, right before Christmas of 2005 I took off for six weeks in Venezuela that would forever clarify my self-perception as a global citizen.

My stories from Venezuela could fill a chapter in a book, and the travels and experiences I have had since would fill many more pages to form a very large volume. From NGO corruption, environmental destruction, South American populism and mass democratic activism, I witnessed and studied up close, at the age of 21, issues that shape and define our age. These lessons have been infused in my teaching practice and have continually motivated my hard work and engagement and analysis of relevant contemporary issues. This is my testimony.

While I can testify to the value of the CPGC for my own education and maturation process, I can write with confidence that hundreds of other students and alumni from Haverford would speak with a similar level of passion about the CPGC. If this is then all true, then why aren't there other CPGCs popping up all over the map? In all the public debate about education in the United States--test scores, drop-out rates, etc--do we have the awareness of the programs that will truly serve the students and at the same time move us towards a more connected and just world? Perhaps this post can help advance another possibility.

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