Thursday, March 11, 2010

Public Diplomacy: The World Should Be Teaching Us, Mr. Kristof

Op-Ed Columnist: Teach for the World - Nicholas Kristof, New York Times: "Peace Corps and Teach for America represent the best ethic of public service. But at a time when those programs can’t meet the demand from young people seeking to give back, we need a new initiative: Teach for the World.

In my mind, Teach for the World would be a one-year program placing young Americans in schools in developing countries. The Americans might teach English or computer skills, or coach basketball or debate teams. ... This would be a government-financed effort to supplement an American public diplomacy outreach that has been eviscerated over the last few decades."

COMMENT: Mr. Kristof seems unaware that all too many of us Americans are incapable of writing a coherent English sentence free of grammatical and spelling errors; and as for us of the USA supposedly coaching "debate teams," how many of us can actually craft a logical argument, in our land of instant "intellectual" gratification a la Tee-Vee & Twitter and uptalk?: "I mean, like you know, whatever" -- such is, increasingly, our contribution to serious discourse.

In my Foreign Service career, I found many distinguished foreigners who spoke English better than I did (and pray tell, Mr. Kristof, what is a "developing country"? Detroit, Michigan?). These distinguished foreigners had actually read English-language classics and knew the fundamentals of classical rhetoric, hence their ability to engage in serious debate. I thought they should be teaching me.

As for the Peace Corps, its main drawbacks are (a) giving jobs to all too many desperately-seeking-to-be-employed, résumé-driven, under-educated, provincial USA BA's with no knowledge of foreign languages or substantial skills, personal or intellectual, even in teaching (or even speaking) their own native language (there are, of course, notable exceptions, including among "seniors" in the program; but much of the Peace Corps is an updated, "democratic" version of "a vast system of outdoor relief for the upper classes") (b) more important, it is not a bilateral program. We "altruistic" Americans could -- to cite one of many examples -- certainly use highly trained math teachers from "developing countries" for our poorly performing public secondary schools. In this way we would be selfishly serving our own interests -- in the service of the world.

The world should teaching us, Mr. Kristof, in more ways than one.


Cullywood said...
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Cullywood said...

I was just in New Orleans and was so shocked by just how bad things still are five years after Katrina. It would be great to have Peace Corps-type people from overseas help fix it up. Plainly too few Americans give a damn about the place.

Nick Cull