by Guest Blogger Sophia Bae, Syosset High School
One of the main topics I address in my Modern Asian Experience class is globalization and the interconnectedness of the world. It is a topic of relevance that has many manifestations – whether we are discussing the explosive popularity of Psy’s Gangnam Style, comparing the benefits and drawbacks of our education systems in relation to China and Japan, or exploring the disappearance of a manufacturing base in America, in order to reflect on our societal and economic interdependence.
The Choices Unit, International Trade: Competition and Cooperation in a Globalized World, provides substance and enrichment to our class discussions. The student readings provide a valuable background in setting up the historical context of trade and globalization as well as introduce key definitions of important economic terms such as comparative advantage, protectionism, and World Trade Organization (WTO), etc.
For this unit, I use Mardi Gras, Made in China, a 2006 documentary by David Redmon that follows the life-cycle of Mardi-Gras beads from a small factory in Fuzhou, China to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
I also utilize Thomas Friedman’s 2004 documentary, The Other Side of Outsourcing, which explores the impact of globalization in India. In addition, the class examines numerous current events articles that address issues of labor in the United States and China, as well as controversies involving working conditions at Foxconn, which manufacture many familiar products such as iphones and ipads. The activities and role-playing options from the Choices Unit is an excellent way to engage in an in-depth discussion of the role of values in creating economic policies, whether from a U.S. perspective or the perspective of other countries.
While I used the presentation of options suggested by the Choices unit, I created my own approach to option 5. For the concluding activity, the students work in small groups with the goal of producing an agreed upon option 5. This exercise requires them to actively articulate their key values and use their negotiation skills while encouraging students to reflect on labor laws and policies regarding corporate and individual responsibilities. It also allows the groups to recognize the limitations of what America as a single nation can do for other countries. Inevitably, the recognition of these limitations promotes discussions about national sovereignty and the need for workers in other countries to resolve their own problems. What I find particularly valuable about these discussions is that they become a concrete way for a student to argue his/her stance on economic and philosophical perspective of positive sum vs. zero sum game.
While this unit was used in my senior elective in regards to contemporary issues in Asia, I was also able to apply the assignment as part of an election project in my 9th grade AP World class that investigated the presidential candidates’ positions on economic and political issues. Furthermore, my colleagues plan to incorporate the materials in their senior economics classes, Economics of Inequality and AP Microeconomics
International Trade: Competition and Cooperation in a Globalized World is available from The Choices Program website. It is also available as an iBooks Textbook from the iBookstore.