By Adam B Sullivan, Iowa City Press-Citizen
European policy leaders have been wrestling for months with how to handle Greece’s unwieldy debt. But that problem isn’t just a problem for those on the other side of the Atlantic to solve.
“That’s not a Greek problem. It’s everybody’s problem. It affects our economy as well,” said Greg Hamot, a professor in the University of Iowa College of Education on Tuesday.
That’s just one example of why Hamot is urging Iowa educators to broaden their curricula to include more content from around the world.
To do that, Hamot is leading the Global Education Summer Institute for Teachers on the UI campus this week. More than 30 teachers from across Iowa are in Iowa City for the three-day series of classes and lectures.
The program is meant to fit in with the Iowa Core Curriculum — a state-mandated set of skills and topics that students at accredited schools are expected to learn before high school graduation. An emphasis on global education is more important today than it has been in decades past, Hamot said, and the Iowa Core Curriculum reflects that.
“Students need to understand serious world problems that are not local to any one nation, but they cross borders — the environment, energy, violence. They’re not isolated. We didn’t have that world 50 years ago,” he said.
The need for a worldwide tone in the classroom stems from improvements in travel and technology, educators said. And although those innovations offer many tools, there might be some drawbacks as well.
“Even though (students’) knowledge expands due to what they have in their hands and pockets — their phones and their computers — they’re becoming more isolated. It’s not necessary to go out and experience things because you just go online,” said Amber Austin, who is leaving a position in the West High language arts department to become a media specialist at Grant Wood Elementary School next year. “I think we need to revisit how we teach kids to communicate in person and how to problem solve.”
And for teachers from the less-populated corners of the state, encouraging global exposure can be even more important.
Tish Germer teaches in Ogden, a town of about 2,000 residents in central Iowa. She said that because the population there is largely homogeneous, diversity education is crucial.
“We do our students a disservice by not teaching the differences and similarities we have with others around the world,” Germer said.
Hamot — who taught social studies for 15 years before entering higher education — said one of the best parts to this week’s sessions is the crowd they draw. Organizers were careful to make sure each of Iowa’s four congressional districts were represented.
“The benefit is bringing people from all over the state together. When would a teacher from Red Oak meet a teacher from Iowa City? The ideas from the Red Oak teacher might not be thought of by the teacher from Iowa City,” Hamot said, adding that the teachers go to class together, eat meals together and are housed near each other in Mayflower Residence Hall.