Tuesday, November 17, 2009

President Obama in China

The Washington Post is running an article entitled, "Obama Pushes China on Currency, Human Rights." The article begins, "Describing ties with China as 'never more important to our collective future,' President Obama on Tuesday mixed praise for Chinese economic triumphs with gentle prodding on its currency, human rights and Tibet."

Consider the number of ways in which the President's foreign trip can be tied into teaching and learning within the classroom.

Challenge students to consider what it means to gently prod. Too often students, like adults, believe that it's important to emphatically support their opinions and discount the importance of listening to the opinions of others. What do students think is more important to high quality diplomacy, talking or listening? Why?

The article explains that Presidents Obama and Hu agreed on the establishment of a Clean Energy Research Center. What is the difference between clean energy and dirty energy? In comparison to China it's probably safe to say that the United States had had a thriving economy for decades. China's economy, on the other hand, is developing, albeit quickly. Does either nation have a greater responsibility towards protecting the environment? Why/why not? What's more important, the development of the largest possible economy at the present time or the safe-guarding of the environment? What are the complexities, if any, of building the strongest economy while protecting the environment to the maximum extent? (Consider the integration that could occur within this conversation between science, social studies, and perhaps other subject areas.)

Consider: The United States of America espouses the greatest commitment to human rights. We also support open communication. President Obama expressed commitment to these ideals while in China. The Chinese also have important values. Do students think that the Chinese would agree that their values demand hurting other people and neglecting the rights of individuals? (I hope not.) What meaningful value system would allow the violation of human rights? Challenge students to compare the values of the Chinese to the values of the West. Is it fair to state that while the Chinese support the peace and security of an entire people over that of single individuals the West possesses the opposite perspective?

This article contains a link to an "interactive" timeline describing pivotal moments in the recent relationship between the United States and China.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Physics and the Space Shuttle in a Day

What an amazing picture that was found on the front page of today's New York Times!! Today I happened to be substitute teaching in a physics class and I told the students that I had not studied physics since I was in high school. One of the students exclaimed, "That proves my point. You don't use physics as an adult!" I wish that I had thought of this comment then, but while one individual may not use physics very much as an adult, it's a very good thing that humankind has developed the scientific discipline of physics. Consider the many different benefits that have accrued to humankind because of space exploration. Consider the many different ways in which products once developed for the use of astronauts are now in use by common people. (If you doubt this, just do a bit of research!!)

By the way, if I was going to use this picture in a classroom, I might simply ask students to describe what they see. Challenge them to develop their descriptions as deeply as possible. In a physics class, such a discussion could prompt a consideration of the ways in which an understanding of physics has made this situation possible. In an English/language arts class, students could be asked to write their descriptions in essay format.

Rather than pointing students to this blog post, you could point them to the New York Times page, here.