Help me find some texts to teach the children!
July 1, 2010 9:51 PM   Subscribe

I'll shortly be teaching a unit of work to senior high school students titled "Navigating the Global". I'm after short stories, preferably available for free online, that deal with the themes of global vs local culture.

I'm finishing my teacher training in September, with 4 weeks teaching English at a boys high school in the Sydney CBD. They'll be doing revision for their final exams, part of which revolves around the topic of "Navigating the Global". The primary texts they are studying are Annie Proulx's The Shipping News, and Paul Theroux's The Mosquito Coast. My supervising teacher has asked me to find some texts that the students can use as secondary texts. They need to revolve around the same sort of themes as The Shipping News, and Mosquito Coast, and Lost in Translation.

I'm after short texts that fit these criteria. They can be poems, children's books, films, tv shows, prose, non-fiction, comics/cartoons, as long as they are not too long, and suitable for senior boys, aged 16-18 years old.

Below is a snippet from the Board of Studies website, outlining the teaching unit:
"In the late 20th century and early 21st century, the development towards a global culture has blurred traditional concepts and boundaries of time and space. Knowledge, values and culture have become at once global and local through the globalisation of communications. Choice and circumstance have created a range of individual and community responses to this changing reality: some have embraced or warily accepted it, while others have challenged or retreated from it. Texts should be drawn from a range of contexts and media and should reflect the relationships between the global and the local and the significance of these relationships to the life of the individual and their community."

I'm at a bit of a loss to come up with relevant texts to give to the students for this unit. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
posted by robotot to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I don't like this idea of a "global culture". Considering the case of Lost in Translation, it isn't immediately clear which culture in the movie is supposed to be the "global" one and which one is more "local", considering that both sides are represented by people from specific localities. Now, looking at the texts you have to use, they all seem to involve the migration of individual people. Would you want to supplement this with additional texts about migration, e.g. Mexican migration in the United States or immigration to Australia, or is there something else you want to focus on?
posted by shii at 10:31 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Can't give you any titles specifically, but you may also want to include stories presenting the experience of the non-Anglo/non-western culture hosting the Anglo/western newcomer, or even better, the converse: the non-Anglo/western immigrant's experience in the US/UK/AUS/NZ, etc.
posted by holterbarbour at 10:33 PM on July 1, 2010

Ooh, I just thought of a good story, although it's a film, not a text: El Norte.
posted by holterbarbour at 10:34 PM on July 1, 2010

I can only give you this: "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell. It's all about the aristocrat underestimating the native skills. It's not a great example, but it's the only thing I can possibly think of that first of all, doesn't suck, and second of all would get the attention (and it will!) of 16-18 year-old boys.

PS - a TV show is not a "text." Nor, unfortunately, is a film. While the Board of Studies snippet certainly sounds lofty, until you really read it, it says nothing about what the SCHOOL should be TEACHING. What do you want your students to learn? How to read effectively? How to think critically? Or how to watch a movie? Or how to "warily accept a changing reality?"
posted by deep thought sunstar at 10:47 PM on July 1, 2010

Best answer: It's neither free nor online, but if you can find a copy, Ray Bradbury's Dark They Were, And Golden Eyed is a deeply unsettling short story about migration, diaspora, foreignness and embracing/rejecting assimilation. I first read it when I was thirteen years old and living with my family in a foreign country, and I recall finishing it and bursting straight into terrified tears.

It's perfect for you.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 11:05 PM on July 1, 2010

Best answer: Netherland by Joseph O'Neill
posted by Some1 at 11:08 PM on July 1, 2010

Best answer: Since you mentioned children's books; how about Sean Tan's The Arrival? Not very many words, though.
posted by metaphorical at 11:54 PM on July 1, 2010

Best answer: I share some of the concerns expressed above about "which is the global culture." I think you could have some interesting discussions interrogating this idea.

Chinua Achebe's "Dead Men's Path" is about an idealistic schoolteacher underestimating the power of local tradition when he moves to a small village.

Many of Jhumpa Lahiri's short stories deal with this theme. Some of her stories may be available online.

Louise Erdrich's "The Red Convertible" can be read to work with this theme, and it is popular with students. There is a link to a word doc if you go to this page, click on multicultural 1, then Native American, then scroll to the bottom.

If non-fiction is OK, you might consider some accounts about the first encounters between European and indigenous cultures. As an American, my thoughts go to texts like letters by Columbus, accounts by de las Casas, and speeches by Native Americans. Australia certainly has its own tradition of these types of texts.
posted by TrarNoir at 5:20 AM on July 2, 2010

Best answer: There's a T.C. Boyle story called "Almost Shooting an Elephant" that I think might be appropriate. (If someone here has read it more recently than I have and remembers it better and thinks it's not, please say so.) Anyway, if I remember correctly it's about a couple Americans laying down lines for [internet? phone?] in some 3rd world area, they interact somewhat with the locals, and then a herd of Elephants smashes through camp. It's good, and I think T.C. Boyle would be right up a teenage boy's alley.
posted by phunniemee at 6:48 AM on July 2, 2010

Best answer: I am going to suggest an unusual and somewhat potentially tasty angle. You live in Sydney which has an amazing immigrant community and if I remember correctly, food. You can find cookbooks that talk about the immigrants and the Australian experience such as, _Secrets of the Red Lantern_ which is, yes, a cookbook but it is also a memoir of assimilation, struggle (personal and social) and love from the Vietnamese prospective.

Your students have an opportunity to reach outside of themselves by talking to those who have come to Australia and kept ties to their original communities. It is also potentially educating to talk about globalism and food combining the history of Australia and the communities that have enriched it. Another potential is guest speakers from the bright culinary community who have exemplified global cuisine using local ingredients. You could have A LOT of fun with this and so could your students.
posted by jadepearl at 6:48 AM on July 2, 2010

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