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,
Proprietor, Essaying Differences