Why I Use Travel as a Political Act in my Classroom
A Teacher's Perspective from Al Forsyth
- Read a chapter-by-chapter chronicle of Al's experience teaching with Travel as a Political Act
My students don't travel much. I know because I asked them. It's also obvious from their comments, or lack of comments, about current events cartoons I show them that have to do with other parts of the world. When asked if they would like to travel more, they all say yes. But when asked where and how they would like to travel, theme parks and cruises top the list — safe, entertaining, comfortable. They aspire to be tourists, not travelers.
Mine is a teacher education class. The students are preparing to be elementary school teachers. They are full of energy and generally overflow with compassion for the young people who will be their students one day. Wonderful! But their world experience is narrow and limited. They lack awareness of a larger world (and their place in it), and so have little curiosity about it. And awareness and curiosity are so important for a teacher.
Travel as a Political Act is perfect for my students. It opens for them a window on the world, takes them to new places, introduces them to new people. It leads them to reflect upon themselves, on our country, on how both fit in the global family. It increases awareness and sparks curiosity. It answers questions and generates more questions. It promotes a questioning attitude, the kind of attitude that kindles learning — an attitude that's vital for these students to impart to their students when they become teachers.
Your students are already curious about the larger world out there. Wonderful! But they have incomplete knowledge and understanding of where they are about to travel. And they probably lack the attitude and skills of a traveler who can get the most out of encountering new cultures. They could be far better prepared to enjoy the best possible study abroad experience.
TAPA is perfect for your students. It will increase their knowledge about specific countries and regions where they may be traveling for study abroad. More broadly, it will increase their awareness of issues — religion, morality and culture, dynamics of wealth and poverty, America's place in the world, how Americans are viewed by others, etc. — that are universal, no matter where your students will be traveling. It will also promote tolerance, an inquiring yet non-judgmental attitude toward other peoples and cultures. Finally, your students will be traveling for nine chapters alongside a master traveler.
TAPA works because Rick Steves is a teacher — and a lifelong student — who knows how to get the most out of navigating through other societies and cultures. He has learned that travel is powerful and deep education.
If you want to learn more about my experience teaching with Travel as a Political Act, please read my chapter-by-chapter journal complete with excerpts from my students' writing assignments.