Education Opinion


By Katie Hanifin — August 24, 2009 1 min read
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I’m going to spend a month on this project in Spain, so I have an apartment in Oviedo rather than staying at a hotel. There is no front desk to phone every time I need something, and because I’m in the ‘real’ Spain, there’s not a whole lot of English being spoken. Actually I’m lucky everything is in Spanish, because like so many other regions of this country, Asturias has its own language.

So before I begin my work here I have an entire weekend stretched out in front of me that becomes a one-woman episode of Survivor. During this first weekend, I inadvertently broke into a building and locked myself in a stairwell. I had no toilet paper and no idea how to use the shower. Happily though, I did discover that my shower has nipples, as these strange buttons pelted me with ice-cold water.

I tell you this not to impress you with my obvious travel savvy, but again to question where we teach students of the modern world how to survive. Realistically, if a small town classroom teacher can be offered an international job opportunity, then this is the new marketplace. Clearly, there is a huge argument here for the continued instruction of foreign language. But beyond that, where do we place a curriculum that is the modern world?

Here’s another argument for Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat. (Have you read it yet? I’m just going to keep mentioning it.) There is a school about an hour from where I teach that is using this text with seniors – and they are loving it. By learning how the REAL world works, they are becoming informed and invested citizens of it. Also, I would argue that they graduate a little more proactive than their counterparts because they have been introduced to international competition. Most high school students don’t even know there’s a race.

I didn’t realistically expect there to be a class that shows me how to flush my European toilet, or cook [GASP!] without a microwave. Being in a foreign country is about so much more than that. Maybe there’s no way to teach it without putting your entire class on a plane.

Or maybe they could learn through a 3D simulation…

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