Welcome to Intermediate English Communication. The purpose of this course is for students to improve their English skills while discussing topics from contemporary Japan and abroad. Students should expect to participate throughout the course, both orally and in written form. More specifically, students will (a) think creatively and analytically about cultural issues, (b) deepen their knowledge and understanding of other cultures (primarily the potpourri of American culture), and (c) promote communication fluency by interacting with classmates in group discussions.
Beyond the general aegis of oral communication, this class has over the years grown into an exploration of various elements of time. We move from the very contemporary topic of our modern digital world back to, for example, a look at time capsules.
Note that I've included several major news websites in the reference sidebar to the left. You are highly encouraged to browse and enjoy reading the news!
Our Various Units in Class
the Technology Unit: To tweet or not to tweet ...
Let's begin with a worksheet on digital devices, a mainstay of our modern world.
(April 22) As you'll recall from class, your homework over Golden Week is to choose one of the three options below (Shirky, Clay, or Riley) and write a short essay about it. In the essay I expect three parts: your reason for choosing that option, the author's main points, and your opinion or thoughts about the author's work. Of course, your essay needs to follow my computer paper guidelines. Please make sure your essay includes a title page as shown in this example about gas streetlights.
Option #1: Many people sing the praises of the Internet, claiming it makes us smarter, faster, more efficient, and so forth. Here is an article by Clay Shirky titled " Does the Internet make you smarter?"
Option #2: On the other side of the issue are those that maintain that the Internet is making us dumber. One prominent representative is Nicholas Carr, who asked, " Does the Internet make you dumber?"
Option #3: A small challenge for you, good people: how about giving up your cell phone and all of your other electronic devices for 90 days? One young man that did is Jake Reilly, featured in this interview and in the video below.
A recent article that expands on thie "dumber" angle is titled Are e-books making us stupid? (McCormack, 2010), which looks closely at what might become of libraries as we move increasingly toward reading e-books instead of paper books.
A somewhat longer and very thoughtful look at a man, Paul Miller, that removed himself from the Internet for an entire year. This page includes an interesting video documentary of his year - recommended.
One of the issues of late that has drawn considerable attention (Snowdon and the NSA, anyone?) is privacy on the Internet. It seems that in the current digitial world, one's cyber-self is difficult to erase.
the Saving Energy Unit: Daylight Saving Time
Today let's devote some time and thought to daylight saving time, which is known as 'summer time' in Japan. First, here is the worksheet for the following videos.
In this clip to the right you'll find an interview with an unwavering proponent of Daylight Saving Time, Dr. David Prerau. The debate on this has gone on for quite some time, and you'll note that it hits some major points in US history.
Brought to you by New Jersey News, this clip to the right looks at very local perceptions of Daylight Saving Time. The long-haired gentleman in the painting, you ask? Why, that would be one Benjamin Franklin, an early proponent of DST and also of flying kites in bad weather. Go ahead, check on that.
In addition, here is an interesting paper by an opponent of Daylight Saving Time. If you have time, feel free to read it.
Note, good people, that this issue has resulted in some serious academic research. One
such article is by
Calandriollo and Buehler
Several nations implemented daylight saving time legislation in the last century, including the United States. The United States briefly experimented with year-round daylight saving time twice—during World War II and the energy crises in the 1970s. Agency studies and congressional hearings from the 1970s show several benefits of year-round daylight saving time, along with potential disadvantages. These studies are dated, and much has changed in the last thirty years. While congressional efforts to extend daylight saving time in 2007 have again focused on the energy savings this legislation would produce, far more meaningful benefits have been largely ignored. This Article collects and analyzes modern research on daylight saving time, concluding that year-round daylight saving time would save hundreds of lives annually by decreasing motor vehicle and pedestrian fatalities. Furthermore, extra light in the evening hours reduces criminal activity and results in energy savings from decreased peak electricity demand. Finally, year-round daylight saving time would eliminate the negative effects caused by the current spring and fall time changes. These advantages significantly outweigh the potential costs of daylight saving during winter months. The time has come for Congress to enact year-round daylight saving time legislation—each year we wait costs hundreds of American lives and millions of dollars.
(mouseover to read the abstract) and provides an economic analysis of Daylight Saving Time legislation; contact me if you're interested in readng the entire article.
the Down the Road A Bit Unit: Looking back (from some future vantage point ...)
Imagine, good people, that you could bequeath some things to your descendants for them to rediscover in 100 years. What momentos would you leave for them?
As you'll read and see here, the First Lutheran Church in Oklahoma City recently unearthed a time capsule from 1913. The contents were, as you might expect, quite interesting.
As I look back (just a bit since I'm not old yet) I marvel at how much life has changed over the course of my life. If we consider my father (1923-1995), the change in the world is even more dramatic: try to imagine, if you can, what the world was like in 1923. Perhaps a list of the top 10 inventions of the 20th century might be helpful, or we might just check what actually happened in 1923.
One of my 'must-include' items would be audio files of the world of 2016. By this I mean not just my own voice or voices of those near me, but recordings of the sounds of 2016. For example, from my house I can hear an old railroad (95 years young), and that sound might have disappeared in 2116.
A handful of links for you to explore, speaking of old recordings:
Your homework this week, should you choose to accept the assignment (ever watch 'Mission Impossible'?), is to begin a list of things that you would put into a time capsule that will be opened in 2116.
Allow me to add another (perhaps) similar time capsule for you to consider. The Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 spacecrafts both carried metal plaques that were essentially ID cards in case they happened to encounter extraterrestrial life. The Voyager spacecraft included a more ambitious message on a golden record that carried a variety of information about Earth and its inhabitants.
the Volunteer Unit
OK, Good People, to continue our time motif we'll be dropping back a bit in time today. Specifically, I'd like to turn our attention to the advent of the notion of working for social justice, which occurred in urban centers and especially in New York. The image to the right shows a number of immigrants arriving in New York against the backdrop of a well-known statue. These people and the many more who came to the shores of the United States faced the challenges of adapting to a new country.
Just kidding, folks: New York has a much longer history of activism with the first episode way back in the 1600s when it was known as New Netherland (and thereafter as New Amsterdam). On this webpage you'll find a brief summary of the various movements that have taken place there — quite a history!
Courtesy of the University of Georgia, you can access digital archives about activism in several different areas.
the Build-a-Country Unit
As you'll know from class, in this unit you will be constructing a country (actually, a 'state' in technical terms) from scratch. You must, of course, consider the various things that comprise a modern state.
Territory is one of the essential elements that a modern state must possess. As we mentioned in class, some 190 states have fulfilled this particular criterion for statehood, but a couple more have somewhat tenuous cases. The first is located just off the coast of England on a manmade defense platform from WW2 - details in the clip below.
Meta-state organizations ... here is the United Nations website.
Service to one's country: Is required service necessary? Good?
Class #11 - July 1, 2015
Today, good people, we'll be talking some about something near and dear to your hearts: education systems. This first clip offers some food for thought about a very successful system, the one in Finland.
Our third and final stop is in an area in which some spirited debate continues. We're all veterans of compulsory education, which in Japan means through junior high schoo. However, some argue that compulsory education is a nefarious scheme used to indoctrinate young people into a particular belief system or prepare them to serve the state. uscompulsoryeducation.png