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Letter to the New Secretary of State


Proprietor's note:


Since the election of November 2, many have been querying the culture wars supposedly in the two Americas, red states and blue.  The best book on this: Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas?  The best article:  Tom Junod's "52 True Things about the Future of American Culture," in the February, 2005 Esquire.


Junod sees liberals, who occupy most of our universities, in command of our culture – though they ignore its moral content.


So perhaps it make sense to have sent the following letter to the new Secretary of State – as if the conservatives in political power, unlike liberals, may well embrace the cultural values we inhabit.

Letter to the New Secretary of State


January 19, 2005 

Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State
Department of State
Washington D. C.  20520

Dear Dr. Rice: 

Cheered by your comments during your confirmation hearings – that you seek more ways for Americans to increase understanding among peoples – I hope you'll consider some changes in our Fulbright exchange program – or additions to it.

I'd like to train a number of Fulbrighters in something very new for assignments abroad.  I'd like to train them to have students in their host institutions begin discussions of themselves based on their cultural "stuff":  their clothing, music, food styles, styles of travel, landscape, architecture, film, and literature – all the "stuff" which expresses them, regardless whether it expresses them truly or falsely or both.

Each  Fulbrighter hosts this discussion orally, then students write narrative CVs (stories each writes of oneself), with copies for all the others in class.  After everyone has read all one's peers, everyone re-writes to expand, by references to in-class peers – linking to the similar themes and cultural "stuff" that expresses (or hinders) these in the same culture.

These go in a batch to another country.  A participating Fulbrighter there in turn sends his or her class's writings in exchange.  The students in each country read all the "others," with Fulbrighters leading discussion on how the foreign examples connect to themes and cultural "stuff" in one's own students.  Then the students start essays:  celebrating connections to the "other" culture, referencing one's peers at home and "others" abroad.  Corrected, revised, and rewritten, each group swaps its essays with the "other."

As a former Fulbrighter, I know nothing like this happens anywhere in the world – students referencing each other for the cultures they inhabit.  You may go to www.EssayingDifferences.com for more on this, and on me.  Hoping you will,


Philip Balla
Proprietor, Essaying Differences

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