By: Mr. Andrew Jones, English Department
Recently I had the pleasure of working with a class of ninth graders in the context of a World Perspectives Program seminar on water management issues. Before we met, the students read an article from The Economist to build their background knowledge about water problems in general; in the class meeting, they worked in groups to learn about a specific water problem, and then to brainstorm potential solutions.
My students tackled the problems with typical vigor and enthusiasm, but quickly realized that simple solutions would not win the day. The problems the students were investigating are some of the most intractable international disputes on earth: dividing up the flow of the Jordan River; managing agricultural runoff in the Mississippi basin; finding sustainable ways to use groundwater in the American high plains. As I helped the students see that their first ideas (“Let’s just divide up the water and share it equally!” “Why don’t we just take turns?”, etc.) often posed problems of their own, a pallor momentarily settled over the groups, and the ideas became more strained (“Don’t we have bigger guns than they do?” “Well, too bad for them, somebody has to take the fall”) That sort of defeatist atmosphere could not last long, however, and the students quickly became more creative: “How about an impartial body of decision-makers?” “Can we start using water more efficiently?” “Retro-fit oil tankers!”
In the end, the students didn’t develop any ideas that will change the face of worldwide water management next month. But their work opened a window on a way of approaching complex issues that is collaborative, synthetic, and global. What a fitting result for a program focused on building a “world perspective.”