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Bringing Globalization Home

By Jody Sokolower

Asking students to share the complexity and pain of their families' migrations was a risk, but it did push class discussions to a deeper level as students shared their feelings and the feelings of their families. This deeper level of connection with the material built class community. As one student said in her end-of-year evaluation, "When I am sharing my ideas with the group, I feel very friendly because people are talking very nicely to each other — with respect, no racism." It also enabled the students to engage with academic material that was very difficult for their level of English language development. The most marked result from my perspective was their willingness, spring of senior year, to think critically about the world economy.

One of the many strengths of Rethinking Globalization is the emphasis on rooting globalization in the history of colonialism. During our very first discussions of globalization, Jose asked, "Why are some countries so much richer than others?" Astri asked, "Why do some countries have so many resources and others so few?" I wanted to make sure that every student understood that power and wealth in the current situation is based on what happened during centuries of colonialism and imperialism.

The center of our study of colonialism was the "Six Building Blocks of Colonialism": stealing resources, cash crops, factories instead of crafts, drawing borders, holding up the hierarchy and west is best (adapted from Rethinking Globalization, page 35). After we discussed the building blocks, students created booklets with drawings that illustrated each building block. From looking at the drawings, I could tell at a glance whether they understood the concepts.

Then we headed for the library. The assignment was to pick a country that was colonized and create a poster explaining how each of the six building blocks applied to that country's history. The students worked in teams of two or three. Many of them chose their own countries and they brought their prior knowledge of colonialism to the patterns we discussed in class. The class discussion was broadened by history learned in schools in Pakistan, Mexico, Indonesia, Taiwan, China, Brazil, Yemen, and Japan. Faryal wrote the following:

It connects with my life because Pakistan and India were one country when the British came to take over. The British people made it very hard for my people and made conflict between them. Pakistan and India got separated. Some Indian people stayed in Pakistan with the Muslim people, and most of the Pakistani people are in India and can't come to live with their own people. I learned a lot from this topic because now I actually know how and why everything happened.

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