Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Eleven days in Mongolia

The Mongolia trip is beginning to solidify and that, after all, was the whole point of beginning this blogging thing.

Tracey and I leave the states on the 8th of April and, after a short change in Chicago, begin the thirteen hour flight to Beijing and arrive in the afternoon of the following day. We managed to get a full day for sightseeing or causing international incidents, whichever comes first.
Then, it's off to Ulan Bator for eleven days of visiting schools, teaching lessons and meeting everyone from politicians to the odd movie star if we are lucky.

For the benefit of my Aunt, Schwesti, who worries that her nephew has become a CIA spook, we, Tracey and I, are Civics Mosaic Fellows. Yes, we travel on taxpayer dollars but it's through a grant from the Department of Education. We represent and carry our the mission of Civics Mosaic, a program that seeks to teach civics through cross-cultural comparison. I try and fail routinely to describe it in any coherent way.

Tracey, to keep her privacy, teaches 8th grade at another Suburban Council school. She, like me, is new to Civics Mosaic but, unlike me, is phenomenally prepared and, also unlike me, has had her Mongolia lessons set for a month, now.

But at this point I can say that my lesson is coming together and is more or less ready to be sent to Mongolia for translation. Tracey will be teaching about the role of national symbols in forming political identity and...

You need an explanation?

Well, the idea is that the politics of a nation or people are driven by cultural norms or priorities. Is it, for instance, more important to a person from the United States to have freedom of expression and individuality or protection? Well, from where does that set of priorities originate? Tracey is asking her Mongolian students to ask themselves this question in the hopes that they and, for that matter, we will have a better understanding of how this new democracy can serve its people and vice versa.

For my part, I will be asking my students to complete a brief survey that probes the relative importance of various aspects of citizenship. The survey, as with Tracey's lesson, will allow students to focus on what their concept of a good citizen is. Is a citizen autonomous or a rule follower? Can a citizen still be 'good' if he or she does not vote in elections?

There is also a professional development aspect to our trip and we will be expected to demonstrate some of the methods and tactics used in American classrooms to introduce and teach concepts like civics as well as more specific skills like going beyond the textbook and allowing students to analyze primary source documents themselves.

We will have translators. I am learning Mongolian but, unless I want to cause an international incident, I should probably avoid saying anything to anyone who can actually speak Mongolian.

The Bayangol Hotel will be our home for all but one night in Mongolia. I really wanted to stay in a Ger and, judging from the hotel website, the Ger is not 'in' in Ulan Bator.

1 comment:

  1. A quick hello from Mrs. Slug to wish you well on your trip, I will be following with great interest! Have a smooth slide, Love, Mrs. Slug