Teaching with Travel as a Political Act
Professor Al Forsyth is a professor of teacher education at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. For each chapter of Travel as a Political Act (TAPA) he held a classroom discussion and asked students to email written reflections. Here is his experience.
I wanted the students to approach the Introduction openly, without too much guidance. I figured that "political act" in the title might turn them off, anything political implying boring , subversive, difficult, etc. So I wanted to save any discussion of that for later. Because TAPA involves meeting a lot of people from around the world, I thought the reflection for the Introduction should be meeting Rick. It's an introduction to him as well as to the book.
Students were confronted immediately with an "Arab" (in their misconception) and a statue of a frolicking naked woman. Then, next page, young Rick the hippie. My students are very conservative, so those pictures probably jolted them a little.
The very mention of "America-bashing"and Rick might prove himself to be an America basher despite the denial. I thought his response to this was perfect: in fact, only a handful of emails even mentioned this topic.
The in-class discussion was brief, but went very well. All who expressed an opinion (about a third of the class) said they enjoyed "meeting" Rick and looked forward eagerly to the rest of the book.
Some student comments:
When I first heard the title of this book it brought to mind the politics you think of when you look on CNN. Politicians, candidates, votes, blah blah, so when I read the introduction I was pleasantly surprised.
I admit that at first I was skeptical about reading a travel book that incorporated political ideas into the topics. I have never traveled outside of the United States and have many unfounded fears about overseas travel. After reading the introduction and getting a feel for the author's laid back and open-minded approach to traveling, I suddenly have an urge to pack my bags. It is obvious that he loves the experience of immersing himself in unknown cultures and learning all of the things that make life worth while around the globe. My curiosity has been peaked and I look forward to reading about his many adventures and how his experiences can expand my own personal views of the world.
Chapter 1 — How to travel as a political act
My goal for this chapter was for the students to have to choose the reason for travel that is "most important" for them personally, as a way of involving them in the journey through the book, and subtly convincing them that all the reasons explained by Rick are important.
I was worried that students would perceive "overcoming fear" or terrorism and travel as a belittling of the threat of terrorists that was unpatriotic. However, Rick's presentation of statistics and the argument that fear is what the terrorists want to promote were very persuasive. And the argument for travel as a force vs. terrorism made sense.
Any discussion of guns in Utah is dangerous, statistics notwithstanding. I think the students may have concluded that Rick isn't "one of them" (pro gun control), but is at least a compassionate person who is not "in your face" with his views.
Arguing for not dumbing down history was great, but my students have been dumbed down (in previous classes — not mine, I hope), so they didn't understand the historical references to the German Reichstag, World War II, etc. I worried that being confronted with their dumbness would turn them off, that they would feel subtly insulted. Fortunately, not the case: to the contrary, they viewed Rick as a good teacher, devoted to their welfare (and the welfare of their future students).
Many students commented in their emails and in class discussion about the way Rick "personalizes the world" through interviews with real people. "Connecting with People" was probably the most popular reason for traveling. If students had any doubts about Rick, meeting Beatriz won them over.
The students also found the concept of "the Bulgarian dream, the Sri Lankan dream," etc. very powerful. It was a nice, gentle introduction to the idea that the Americans are not the only people on earth who matter, or that we are in some way superior. A nice foot in the door for later.
I don't think students at this point totally bought the idea of intentionally traveling to learn how the world works and bring home lessons that will improve society, of the responsibility of travel as a political act. I don't think they really understood the "political act" part: to them, political = politics. But I think they did start seeing that travel can be more than hedonism, and that educational travel can be as enjoyable as a cruise.
Some student comments include:
Travel as a political act means to not only travel for fun, but to travel to learn and come home with a better understanding of the world and the people who live on it. It also means sharing what you learn in your travels with the people around you and together working to make the world better.
The reason for traveling that is most important to me is fun, relaxation, learning, and broadening my perspective. This is a combination of the reasons why people travel. As Steves writes in the book, it is best to do them at once. I feel that the combination is most important is because I think you learn the most when you have fun, and you can have fun while you learn. The best traveling experiences come when both happen.
Chapter 2 — Lessons from the former Yugoslavia: After the war
This is definitely an area of the world the students know next-to-nothing about. And that would be the case even if Yugoslavia had remained united! For that reason, the first question I asked is an easy one, requiring little thought, only searching through the factual material in the chapter.
The major concern was that the students be so unfamiliar with the geographical and historical focuses of this chapter that they would write the whole thing off as unimportant, not worth learning about. Emails and discussion proved they were ignorant of the geography and history, but they were surprisingly fascinated by parallels between this little-known area and the world they are familiar with. I attribute this to Rick's encounters with real people, his comparisons to life in the US, and his emphasis on universal themes such as human resilience ("life goes on"), overcoming fear of differences. There is great humanity in this chapter. From their remarks, students showed that their "global family" has been extended, that new members have been welcomed in this chapter.
During the in-class discussion, I began by asking many low-level factual questions — e.g., Why are the rooftops of Dubrovnik two different colors of red tile? What is meant by "the Balkans"? What are the differences among the major "ethnicities" of Yugoslavia? Why is Bosnia-Herzegovina's currency called "the convertible mark"? What are "Sarajevo roses"?
I also focused the discussion on the people we meet through Rick — Pero, Alen, the woman in the grocery store, teenagers, etc. People are people: easy to introduce unfamiliar places through the familiarity of people.
The pluralism question was intended to relate this unfamiliar part of the world and its conflicts to an issue that every country and community faces. It was easy to guide a discussion of the Balkans back to the familiar ground of the US, the state of Utah, our community, even our university.
It is important to "take pluralism seriously" because with our diverse world and society, there are several values which may be equally correct and fundamental, and yet in conflict with each other. If we do not take action and actively look for ways to compromise, or live peacefully together — NO ONE will be able to live successfully or happily, as Rick puts it "everybody loses". The diversity found in the world can help enrich and sustain culture and help one another learn and grow. If we do not work together to live together — our value and importance diminishes and the door to tragedy begins to open.
Chapter 3 — Europe unites: success and struggles
I had a wonderful, spirited discussion with my students about TAPA ch. 3 this week, plus many passionate emails over the week prior. Chapter 1 had put the students in a positive frame of mind about travel, with several remarking that they had never thought of travel as educational. Chapter 2 exposed them to a part of the world (the Balkans) they knew nothing about. And chapter 3 opened their eyes to a part of the world (Europe) they thought they knew everything about. I think the stage is set for them to get the maximum from the rest of the book.
First, in their emails, virtually all students started by saying that they "learned a ton" (the actual words for a lot of them) about Europe from ch. 3.
I started the class discussion by asking how many had been to Europe (8 out of 60), then asking how many would like to visit Europe after reading the chapter (about two-thirds).
Then we discussed Rick's characterization of Europe as "the wading pool for world exploration," what that means.
I had asked them to focus specifically in their emails on differences, on different ways Europeans do things, so the class discussion next shifted to this. It was interesting which differences were mentioned first:
- Europeans work less and enjoy family more ("work to live" rather than "live to work").
- The students were very enthusiastic about this and felt very positive toward Europe after reading this. "Family values" might as well be the state motto in Utah, so the students were struck by this new slant on Europeans' family values.
Next in the class discussion and in their emails, students mentioned the "big, good government" idea. They were about equally divided between understanding the rationale of higher taxes resulting in a broad range of services and focusing only on increased taxes always being a bad thing.
In the emails, I heard from a small number (maybe 10 out of 60) who saw Rick as an "America basher." They offered no rational evidence for this view, merely stating that Rick seemed to like Europe better than the US. A couple even suggested he move there if he loves Europe so much, clearly ignoring the powerful last paragraph of the chapter.
Several attacked Europe for failing to solve their immigration problem and having an aging population that will doom the good times there — missing the point that these are problems that Europe and the US both face.
I can't end without mentioning the reaction to the "Tolerance and the Futility of Legislating Morality" and "European Flesh and the American Prude" sections of the chapter. Nearly ALL students mentioned these in their emails! And nearly all had to make sure I knew how "shocked" they were at European attitudes, more so about sex and nudity than about legislating morality generally. One student even said she was "disgusted" in her email. This initial shock seemed to block them from seeing the deeper points Rick was making. Although the discussion was more muted than the emails, one student who had been to Europe stated that she was confronted with nudity "everywhere," and that it was "unavoidable." I sensed that this just reinforced their worst fears. That one comment alone probably negated all of Rick's well-reasoned points. A few students did counter that incidence of sex crimes is lower in Europe, and that maybe their views are healthy. I decided to wait until ch. 7 on drug attitudes and policies to revisit this, to investigate the rationale behind policies.
We finished the class discussion by thinking of the different historical experiences of Europeans and how they might influence current attitudes and ways of doing things. Rick's earlier emphasis on the importance of understanding history and not accepting "dumbed-down" history (ch. 1, ch. 2), plus his excellent, specific references in this chapter were invaluable. The students made very good comments about how intolerance in the past may lead to tolerant attitudes in the present, how the horrors of war may lead to such an emphasis on peace today.
Overall, a very encouraging week. The students are seeing the differences, are opening their eyes, and are looking for rationale behind the differences which should lead to acceptance of difference (opening their minds and hearts).
TAPA appears to be a hit, helping students learn and grow.
Chapter 4 — Resurrection in El Salvador
This chapter was a powerful jolt for most of my students, judging from their emailed reflections. Whereas ch. 3 had a lot of great comparisons of how other countries do things vs. how the U.S. does things, ch. 4 had a lot of what the U.S. does in (and to) other countries, to developing countries. It was a rude awakening for many students. They (again) said they learned a lot: I'm amazed constantly by how little they know of what's happening in the world, of how the world really works. Many apparently had reached college age, and a decision to become teachers, not knowing that there are people in this hemisphere living on $1 or $2 dollars a day, and thinking that America is infallible, or refusing to believe we do anything wrong or objectionable. Most seemed truly affected by their new knowledge, feeling uneasy, embarrassed or ashamed at our part in the dark side of globalization. Only one student this time took Rick to task for America bashing, so maybe they are starting to understand that true patriotism requires full knowledge and an attitude of helping to make changes for the better in how we do things.
The other common strands in the emails were sorrow at how many people in El Salvador live (several reporting being brought to tears) and then gratitude for the fact that they, the students, live here, not there. I sensed that they are feeling some guilt as well, and want to know what they can do. In my comments, I reminded them about the incredible luck of where one is born, and previewed the final chapter of the book as the one that principally deals with what one can do as a citizen of this country and the world. Again, it was the most powerful, affecting chapter so far. Our discussion next week will be a good one, I predict.
One email really hit home:
The more I read in this book, the more I learn about everything in life. Not only do I learn about the lives of others, but I also learn a lot about my own life. I got married about a week and a half ago. With both of us attending school and working typical part-time jobs, I've been wondering exactly how we are going to provide for all of our usual wants and needs. After reading just a little bit about the life of the majority of Salvadoran's, it has made me appreciate what I have. The minimum wage in that country is approximately $1. I don't even know what the minimum wage is in Utah anymore, and thankfully I am making more than that. I often have the tendency, like many other people, to look at what I don't have, or what I can't do, or simply to worry about myself. When I learn about people like these Salvadoran's, I realize that I have been blessed and that no matter what your circumstances are in life, whether you are rich or poor or comfortably in-between, you can make your life as happy as you want. You may not be able to control everything that happens to you, but you can control your own happiness, I am a firm believer in this. It seemed that one bad thing after another happened to this people, the crash of their economy and having to send family abroad then huge earthquakes that killed thousands, yet they are able to create their own happiness, and so should we in our lives.
Chapter 5 — Denmark: Highly taxed and highly content
I am truly enjoying teaching with TAPA. So much eager devouring of new information about the world by my students, so much thinking and processing. I can hear the students growing. As their eyes are opened, so are their minds. They are turning into questioners — excellent models for their future students. It is a very provocative book!
A short chapter this week — Denmark — but the discussion was still animated. Whereas last week (El Salvador), many students emails ended with some version of "I'm so glad in America," this time many concluded "I want to move to Denmark"! I told them to make up their minds!
Students expressed much admiration for Denmark and the Danes' emphasis on community vs. the individual. We had a good, meaty discussion of social contract, the "free-rider" problem, and toleration of those who choose to "live differently." Students seemed conflicted between horror at high taxes and appreciation of the benefits Danes get for those taxes. They seemed to conclude that that's wonderful for the Danes, but would never work here. Several students saw Denmark as reminiscent of some sort of "good old days" in this country. (I jokingly asked what they could possibly know, at age 20, about these supposed "good old days.")
Reactions to Christiania were all over the board, from disapproval of any lifestyle involving drugs (I told them to hold their thoughts until ch. 7) to wanting to visit because it sounded really interesting and different. One student confessed to being a "secret hippie" who thought Christiania sounded great. Another student was shocked at accepting attitudes toward "hard drugs like marijuana". Hmm. I told the students that my own visit to Christiania several years ago was very interesting, enjoyable, non-threatening, memorable.
So, another good week. I'll end with some excerpts from student emails about Denmark:
I greatly admire their collective ideas and practice of their social contract. They have an understanding of the "free rider problem" and know that it could lead to disaster. Call me un-American but I like the idea of making choices that will better society as a whole as opposed to looking to benefit one's own self. I also liked the strictness they have when following laws about jaywalking. They seem to appreciate order and harmony more than Americans.
Awh, this chapter was so happy! Denmark sounds like an absolutely fantastic place to live, and Mr. Steves has pretty much sold me on moving there. Everything about it, from the socialistic government to the hippie central Christiania, speaks to my soul in a way I never thought possible. It's about as close to Utopia as can be, and I want to live there and experience it for myself. I consider myself a hippie-in-training, so at least traveling to Denmark would enrich my understanding of hippie...ness. No but for real, the Danes' whole concept of working to better their society, not just themselves is a very admirable quality that I wish America could embrace. Maybe it just starts with one or two people taking the lead; maybe I'll be that person.
Chapter 6 — Turkey and Morocco: Sampling secular Islam
Another chapter very well received by my students. The timing was excellent, as we had just talked about Islam two weeks before, including the Five Principles and a children's video I had created after 9/11 with some Muslim students and families. In addition, my most vocal (and well-liked) student in one section is Muslim, a Lebanese-American from Michigan. So, the students were primed and greatly enjoyed learning more about two Islamic countries they knew little about.
After the students' comments about El Salvador (so glad to live here not there; would not want to visit there) and Denmark (would live to visit there, and might want to move there!), I decided to probe a bit about attitudes toward travel. I asked them if they would want to visit Turkey and/or Morocco: answer, "Maybe." OK, why? What would make you want to, or not want to, visit a place? We had a good discussion of reasons for travel: fun, adventure, education, learning more history/culture. What other things would you hope to find in places you visit? Good food, friendly people, no hassles, safety. Then I asked them if they would like to live in Turkey or Morocco. Answer (virtually unanimous), "No." Why? Attitudes toward women. Visiting would be an adventure; living there would be too stressful.
We had a good discussion about fear of "differentness." The students had much to say about media mis-portrayal of places to generate fear (and how fear and bad news sell advertising). We also talked about how it is perhaps human nature to generalize from one piece of data. If we hear of a suicide bombing in Spain, we are reluctant to visit Spain because we feel it is certain to happen to us, even though statistically the odds are miniscule. An ounce of fear generates a ton of paranoia.
Here are some selected, anonymous comments:
I love the quote he puts in by Muhammad "Don't tell me how educated you are; tell me how much you've traveled." Our biggest problem in this country is our ignorance. Ignorance only breeds fear and contempt. I think that's what Muhammad is trying to say, if you are taught wrong, taught with that contempt then you not going to be better than that. If you experience things then you know what is true. As the chapter is about Islamic countries, I think of all the ideas that are wrong in our society about Muslims. It is interesting to see how fast we look at others and their problems, and not remember our own faults. Radical Christians have for a long time persucuted, oppressed and killed others who don't believe the same. There are extremists in all groups, there are people that I wouldn't want to be judged so why would I judge others by their's. We are all more a like than not.
In the beginning of the chapter Rick Steves talk about his father and how he thought that all Islams were terrorists, or as he put it "part of Osama's gang." When come to find out that the violent Islamic fundamentalists represent only a tiny fraction of all muslims. I too have found myself making assumptions based on my encounters or what the media covers. I work for a company that handles a lot of business with Canada. Because of some of my encounters with Canadians I have assumed that they all hate "The States," and the people who live there. I am a member of the LDS church and I hear many misconceptions about mormons and our religion. I have learned that people fear what they do not know; I too am guilty of this.
Chapter 7 — Europe: Not "hard on drugs" or "soft on drugs" but smart on drugs
We had a brief but animated discussion (15 minutes or so) this week on TAPA, ch. 7 (drugs). Although the students' comments were more muted in person than in their emails, they did present some strong views. Here's an outline of the discussion:
- What are "soft" drugs and what are "hard" drugs?
- What is the soft drug situation in the Netherlands? What is the hard drug situation in Switzerland?
- What is the situation regarding soft and hard drugs in the US? What are the differences between there and here? (after citing the statistics on drug use and abuse there and here) Do you see advantages to the drug policy in the Netherlands? Does it seem to be working, at least in comparison to the US?
- Should the US consider trying the Dutch approach? (general agreement that trying something new would be good)
- Do you think the Dutch approach would work in the US? (general response "No")
- Why not? ("Things are different here.")
- Are we that different from the Dutch people? They are our ancestors. It's not like we're comparing with Australian aborigines. The Dutch are like us, only a little taller. So, why do they approach drugs differently? Why would their approach not work here? Where are the differences between the Netherlands and the US, between the Dutch and Americans?
Some possible answers:
- Country size (Netherlands small)
- Population density (Netherlands crowded)
- History (Netherlands history of wars; acts of intolerance in the past leading to tolerant attitude today)
- Make-up of population (Netherlands relatively homogeneous)
- Cultural differences (We discussed again the social contract differences from the Denmark chapter: community-oriented in Europe, individual-oriented in the US.)
- One student said that the US could never adopt the Dutch approach because we have publicly declared a "war" on drugs, and we could never change without it appearing that we had "lost the war." Once we have chosen a path, we Americans can never change course without appearing "weak." Interesting.
I also asked the students if they felt that both the Dutch and Americans wish drugs would just "go away," that the ideal would be no drugs at all. Generally, they thought so.
I think the students are better attuned now to appreciating differences and seeking explanations at a deeper level than just "us" vs."them." They seem to be appreciating that there are very rational reasons for differences and that different ways of doing things may be equally valid to the people doing them. Also, cultures and people may change, and that adoption of a better idea is itself a good idea. Of course, change may be difficult because people may be unaware of different ways of doing things or deterred from changing by systematic inertia or cultural prejudices.
Here are some excerpts from the students' emails:
This chapter was informative and definitely makes you think. I never really thought about drugs in other countries as being any better than in ours. This chapter makes me realize that I guess to some extent it is alright to legalize drugs in other countries. I just don't think that it would work in the US. I believe that yes to some extent the US has given up and putting drug users and sellers in jail is easier than actually thinking about a way to reduce drug use. I believe that since US citizens usually over indulge no matter what the substance is, this is what would happen if pot were made legal. I do think that the drug dispensers are a great idea but I just don't see coffee shops here in the US. As usual the typical US drug user would over use than realize that pot is readily available and there would be no use over using. Alcohol is legal in the US and people still overindulge and die. It is refreshing however to see that other countries are trying to come up with ways to safely provide pot.
I have thought on occasion about what it would be like to remove the laws against marijuana in the United States. I was so surprised to learn how well marijuana sales are monitored by the government in the Netherlands. I'm not sure if making marijuana legal will help reduce the rising drug abuse problem, but i don't think trying something new will hurt either. I love America, don't get me wrong, but for a country that is apparently so diverse, why can't we adopt policies that are working in countries abroad. Are we prideful? I found this chapter to be very enlightening and served as a great example as to what our society might be like with the legalization of marijuana.
Chapter 8 — Mission: understand Iran
This chapter (Iran), provided meat for another animated discussion. Most students were grateful to learn about a country they knew nothing about (except a vague sense that it is a very bad place) and most were glad to hear from someone who is countering media stereotypes/misinformation. Two detail elicited more comments than any others: the driver who passed a bouquet of flowers to Rick in the midst of a typical Tehran gridlock — something they felt would never happen in the US; and the "Death to America" signs. Although many were relieved to know that "Death to America" is a catchphrase for modest dissatisfaction, not an actual wish to death to Americans, many also stated that we would never see "Death to Iran" signs in the US, and that somehow made us superior to Iranians. I asked if they thought that Iran and the US could be compared as equals generally, or if any country could be compared as an equal with the US. I tried to show that the US is the lone superpower, the big guy on the block who is often viewed as the bully on the block (to paraphrase Kermit the Frog, "It's not easy being big.") I reminded the students that the US (with Britain) had engineered the overthrow of a popular leader (Mossadegh) in 1953 and that President Bush had included Iran as one of the three "Axis of Evil" countries. No, the US government doesn't sanction "Death to Iran" signs, but it encourages a national antipathy toward Iran. We also talked about possible motivation of the Iranian government in putting up such signs and encouraging chants at anti-US rallies: governments solidify their power by identifying an external enemy, and foster fear among the citizens toward that bogeyman. Strong words give the impression of strong government.
Anyway, another good chapter. Here are some excerpts from their emails:
This section of the book was great to show just how little people know about one another. Americans are bombarded by the media about, among other things, current events and politics. Unfortunately, we citizens only get to hear as much as will make money — bombs, death, threats, and scandal. To hear a more complete truth, one has to go searching. I enjoy this book because Rick Steves has been to places like Iran and so can bring other perspectives to challenge the reader's mind.
This chapter about Iran was probably the longest, yet I feel it summed up the general feel of Rick Steves book. If any place talked about in this book took a person out of their comfort zone, Iran takes the cake. He had to have really trusted in his general belief in people and the indelible human spirit to step out of the Airport in Tehran. However like most nations and cultures a lot of the fear, hate and misunderstanding come not from the people themselves but from the governments that represent them. Even if that government is a religious institution, when that body takes over the day-to-day control of a society they become a government unto themselves. I fear this level of control in our modern world and I said the word "represent" tongue in cheek because truly they do not represent the "people" when the people smile and invite you down to enjoy a meal over the grave of a loved one. Yet on the flipside I can't help but be a little envious over a culture that does have "some" level of shelter and protection. I have to admit that I don't want my daughters to grow up like Brittney spears, and there are many influences of sex, drugs, and consumerism that I wouldn't mind doing without in my life. Where is the balance? Where do people and cultures and humans come to and connect. I do not know but I hope we find that some day.
"Politicians come and go, people are here to stay"-Rick Steves.... I don't think I have ever read something written so eloquently. When reading this in the chapter called "Mission: Understand Iran", it nearly brought tears to my eyes. We are manipulated by our media to have a very narrow and preconceived opinion on a nation we know very little about. Our attitudes towards foreign countries shift as the desires and goals of our government shift....When I read the quote above, I felt an underlying opinion piercing between the words of this sentence. We should know our "enemy", we should befriend our "enemy", and most of all we should let our hearts love our "enemy", because sometimes in the end, they are not the enemy....Phewwww...hopefully I got the message across.
Chapter 9 — Homecoming
The last chapter — and zero students (zero!) said they were glad. That's remarkable!
I began the class discussion with the following quotations from the chapter:
...home is the best destination of all.
Having traveled makes being home feel homier than ever. [All students were able to relate to that, even if they haven't traveled beyond the state's borders.]
On returning from a major trip, you sense that your friends and co-workers have stayed the same, but you're...different. It's enlightening and unsettling at the same time.
A wonderful by-product of leaving America is gaining a renewed appreciation for our country.
In addition to gaining a keen appreciation of how blessed we are, travelers also understand that with these blessings come responsibilities.
Mark Twain wrote , "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."
I want to celebrate the diversity in American life by making room for different lifestyles. And I want to help shape an America that employs that viewpoint on a global scale as it works to be a constructive member of the family of nations.
Travel becomes a political act only if you actually do something with your broadened perspective once you return home.
We travelers are both America's ambassadors to the world...and the world's ambassadors to America. [Initially, they found this difficult to understand.]
Then I moved the discussion to the relationship between teachers and change. What do teachers do? Help students learn and grow, yes, but are they fundamentally about preserving a status quo or working to improve the community (local, national, global)? I showed a couple of pictures I took at a museum in Latvia last summer, of a plaque lauding primary teachers as the leaders in that country's democratic revolution against the Russians in 1905-07. I suggested that that question of a teacher's role is something each teacher must wrestle with, from the moment one contemplates becoming a teacher to the end of one's career.
I finished with a discussion of what "travel" is, what it means to be a "traveler," the differences between a "tourist" and a Rick Steves-type traveler. Many students had bemoaned the fact that they have no money to travel, so we talked about a broader concept of travel, as involving any encounters with the new and different. Can you bring the attitude of a traveler — open-minded, curious, accepting — to these travel encounters? There was a consensus that you can.
So, here is a (rather lengthy) selection of the students' emailed comments on the last chapter — some quite poignant, eloquent and powerful, I thought. I am quite certain that the students' responses are genuine. The credit for this assignment was purely for submitting reflections, not for pleasing the teacher with the nature of the reflections. So, clearly, this book has had an impact, has changed a group of future teachers for the better. Wonderful! I can't wait to use it next semester and watch the next group of future teachers open their eyes, minds and hearts.
This chapter was Rick Steves summing up his views on travel. He was preaching to the choir in my case because I believe he is absolutely right. There are so many little things that we can do in our daily lives to help make the world a better place, including supporting local businesses rather than corporations with poor practices. I know that I am very guilty of falling into the consumer trap and buying what's cheapest even though I know they aren't the best choices. I also justify my choices by saying I'm a poor starving college student, even though I know absolutely nothing about being poor. I've never been poor in my life. I have never gone without. When I compare my situation to that of, say, a teenager in El Salvador, there is no comparison. I live a very privileged life and I should do my part in helping others live better lives as well. This book opened my eyes to all the joy and suffering that goes on in the rest of the world, and it has inspired me to start doing my part a little bit more. Because a little from everyone goes a long way.
I enjoyed TAPA from cover to cover, the last chapter did a good job summarizing Rick Steves feelings and ideas concerning travel and in travel as a political act in particular. The part of the chapter I liked the best is when he talked about his church. Instead of moving to a church that better represents his political views, he took it upon himself to educate the church he was already a part of. I think this single act mirrors everything he talked about in the book. Its not about staying in our own comfortable niche, or even going and finding a niche where we are more comfortable. To be truly involved in our community we need to go out of our way to involve ourselves in the community and emulating those values that we believe in and hold true.
Completing this chapter was like ending a vacation. Some of the chapters were very interesting and some were hard to even imagine that things like that really happen. Each chapter was a great learning experience. Now that the book is complete or possibly the vacation is complete I have to stop and think what's next.
The semester is a wrap. Here are a few choice student emails that I thought were very interesting. The book was as a great success. Makes teaching fun — and makes learning fun, judging from students' comments.
Overall, I found this book to be pretty interesting. Rick Steves had some great insight to the way other countries think and work. I think if everyone were to travel this way, this world would be a much better place. Sometimes while reading, I couldn't wait for the chapter to end because I didn't agree with his perspective. But, now that I am finished, I am glad I read it because he is a wise man with many experiences with different cultures far beyond any I will probably ever get the chance to experience. I thought it was a great book to read for this class. As teachers, we will never know what cultural background we may get students from. This book gave me perspective that I would not otherwise have, and could possibly come in handy when I am a teacher. I think it fit with Social Studies concepts because part of social studies is culture.
I thought the book was very interesting and I learned a lot from it. So as I continued reading and we discussed the book in class, I gained more insights about it. As I reflected on what I had read in the book before writing my write ups I realized how much I actually did learn. It was interesting to learn about different countries and the people and their views on things. After reading and reflecting on this book weekly and then discussing it in class it broadened my views on a lot of things and allowed me to gain deeper insights and knowledge about different countries and cultures. I think that the knowledge I learned has helped me as a person have a broader perspective and hopefully I can use the things I have learned from this book in my teaching to help the students I teach have a broader perspective and a greater respect for different countries and their cultures.
Overall, I found this book to be pretty interesting. Rick Steves had some great insight to the way other countries think and work. I think if everyone were to travel this way, this world would be a much better place. Sometimes while reading, I couldn't wait for the chapter to end because I didn't agree with his perspective. But, now that I am finished, I am glad I read it because he is a wise man with many experiences with different cultures far beyond any I will probably ever get the chance to experience. I thought it was a great book to read for this class. As teachers, we will never know what cultural background we may get students from. This book gave me perspective that I would not otherwise have, and could possibly come in handy when I am a teacher. I think it fit with Social Studies concepts because part of social studies is culture. Great choice, Dr. Forsyth.
Order Travel as a Political Act for your classroom.