Archive for February, 2005


Posted by Robin Sparks on February 17th, 2005 | Email this to friend

Let’s make it a requirement for North American highschool students to study abroad for one year. Education is more than the acquisition of skills – it is exposure to different ways of being and the development of a worldview – a type of learning not possible through reading alone.

The world is moving away from being a disparate collection of border-entrenched tribes. (Granted we seem to have regressed temporarily). We are a fascinatingly diverse people, branches on the same tree.

Business know-how in a global environment is only a minor benefit of required learning abroad. Imagine how fear would dissipate, cross-cultural understanding expand. How could we go to war against a people with whom we have lived? Where we have friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues?

We can’t. And that is the biggest benefit of all. No More War.

Iraq, the eccentric uncle in the family, gets on everyone’s nerves, but he is tolerated because he is family. And because he is family, he tolerates us back. And we all just get along.

I’m not the first to suggest shipping education offshore. Senator Fulbright after witnessing the devastation of World War II, introduced legislation to create Fulbright Scholarships. He believed if large numbers of people lived and studied in other countries,


Posted by Robin Sparks on February 17th, 2005 | Email this to friend

Five years ago I ended up in San Francisco just 40 miles from where I’d been born. The City By the Bay was to be the nest from which I would take exploratory flights in search of a nifty nest abroad. Oh, but how I dug my talons in, trying with all my might to put off that final flight.

But the doors shut anyway. And excuses fell flat, like shuffled cards.

Not that I wanted to cancel or anything. In another year I’d be wondering why I hesitated. I knew the routine by now. Still…

It is almost time to go.

In a successful attempt at idomatic expression in her second language, my French housemate said, “Robin, time to sheet o get awf d’ poht.”

Meanwhile, I started reading a new book today…

In the story, “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn, a guru gorilla says to his student hu-man,
“‘According to your maps, the world of thought…ends at the border of your culture and if you venture beyond that border, you simply fall off the edge of the world.” And then he promises, ‘Tomorrow, we’ll screw up our courage and cross that border. And as you’ll see, we will not fall off the edge of the world. We’ll just find ourselves in new territory.”

The media guru Marshall McLuhan said the same thing more tersely: Once you can see the boundaries of your environment, they are no longer the boundaries of your environment.’”

More tomorrow…