Welcome to the most advanced level of English 2A (hence the clever name). The aims of this course include providing students with opportunities to (a) use oral English skills obtained prior to entering the university, (b) extend that knowledge through a variety of speaking and listening activities, and (c) gain confidence in their ability to function in English both inside and outside the academic community of the university.
The Basics ...
As you'll soon understand, I insist on polite email when you contact me. For those of you that are new to my classes, note that you must write to me in appropriately formal language. Lest you not know exactly what I mean by a polite email in English, please take a close look at how to write a polite e-mail.
- ✔ Reaction reports (a total of 8)
- ✔ In-class presentations
- ✔ Additional reading from The New York Times
- ✔ Active participation in class
Another facet of our class is perhaps less exciting yet nonetheless important. If you've spoken to students from last year's class, you'll know that I require so-called reaction reports about some of our classes. I see that we have 10 classes plus the documentary, so there are 11 possible topics, of which you are required to respond to eight. (Thus, you do not need to respond to three.) Here you'll find two examples, one of which was done as a Word document, and the second of which was done as a blog entry. In the latter case, the student simply sent me the blog URL.
In-class presentations: I would like you to help present the material in our textbook, so you will be working in pairs and presenting short presentations about our respective topics. For each topic, I would like two presentations, one about the background of the issue and a second with an 'extension' of the topic.
Reading The New York Times
This section includes random — yet somehow related — links from the units in our textbook, Reading The New York Times, by Hideki Watanabe and Yoshitaka Kozuka. Enjoy!
First, as you'll know from class, you are required to do some
extra reading from the
Chapter 1 — Security Council Reform
Week 1 — Security Council Reform (April 14, 2017)
Let's begin with a worksheet on the United Nations.
The video to the left is from the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent think tank and publisher. CFR is perhaps best known for its journal, Foreign Affairs, which is "widely considered to be the most influential magazine for the analysis and debate of foreign policy and economics."
A logical question to begin with would be about the stance of Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).
Another interested party in this debate is the Global Policy Forum (GPF), a private "global policy watchdog" devoted to monitoring the UN and scrutinizing global policymaking. On the GPF webpage you'll find quite an archive of material dealing with this issue.
Week 2 — UN Peacekeeping (April 21, 2017)
Today we will—time permitting—glance at a series of videos on UN peacekeeping operations. The first looks at this question: What is peacekeeping? The second examines the current, very complex nature of modern peacekeeping operations. Finally, we have a clip on the 60-plus years of UN peacekeeping.
Here you'll find an article from Thomas Weiss that appeared in the
Washington Quarterly in 2003; the article was titled
The Illusion of UN Security Council Reform
Can changing the membership or procedures of the United Nations Security Council improve its credibility? In the controversy surrounding a possible UN imprimatur for the use of force against Iraq, the debate over the council?s credibility shifted from the question of adequate representation to whether the group can constrain U.S. power. Now, the obstacles to Security Council credibility go beyond issues of process - exclusive permanent membership and the right to veto - to include unparalleled U.S. military might. With the exception of the 1965 expansion from 11 to 15 members, efforts at Security Council reform since the organization?s inception in 1945 have repeatedly proved implausible; today, uncontested U.S. power makes such efforts largely irrelevant. At the same time, in choosing among available tactics and strategies, Washington should think twice about acting alone. Making better use of the Security Council in its current form?indeed, of the UN system more broadly? is usually in U.S. interests and should remain the preferred policy option. (mouseover to read the abstract). As you'll know from class, one part of your homework is to contact me and request that I send you the entire article.
- ✔ Request the Weiss (2003) article from me (by polite email).
- ✔ Prepare your group's statement for next week.
- ✔ Note that May 5 is a national holiday, so we will have NO class on that day.
Week 3 — Discussion (April 28, 2017)
As you likely have guessed, today we (note the plural form) will engage in a discussion of this UN conundrum. Be prepared to make a group presentation of your group's position. You may, of course, augment your presentation with PowerPoint.
On page 150 of the Weiss (2003) article we find a comment about "the downfall of the League of Nations," with which we should be familiar. In this handy clip is an introduction to the League, which unfortunately met its demise only a couple short decades after its inception. It did, however, lay the groundwork for the UN, which has endured and been much more successful.
Unit 4 — Rare Earth Metals
Week 4 — Mining Rare Earth Metals (May 12, 2017)
Although not particularly rare, so-called rare earth metals have nonetheless become extremely important and quite valuable in today's world. In case you're wondering, the "rare" is an archaic usage that means difficult and refers to the difficulty in separating the various rare earth metals, which occur together.
Here we have an excellent article on rare earth metals from Scientific American.
Week 5 — China, the US, and Rare Earths (May 19, 2017)
As you'll recall, last week we watched a news report about the Baodai rare earth mining and its various environmental problems. A rather different facility is the Mountain Pass Mine in California.
Of course, the mine itself isn't the entire story. Mountain Pass is a tiny, unincorporated town which depends on the mine for much of its livelihood.
A recent development was China's loss in a WTO-mediated trade dispute over rare earth exports.
- ✔ Hop on the Internet and find out who Al Gore is.
- ✔ Read this primer on rare earth metals, courtesy of BBC
Week 6 — An Inconvenient Truth (May 26, 2017)
Today we will devote our class to watching "An Inconvenient Truth," a 2006 documentary featuring Al Gore, a former vice president of the United States. Mr. Gore has been a long-time advocate of taking steps to address climate change.
- ✔ Watch Mr. Gore's recent TED Talk on the progress of our ongoing efforts to deal with climate change.
Unit 7 —Top-Rated Schools in Shanghai
Week 7 — Shanghai Schools (June 2, 2017)
According to results from PISA, schools in Shanghai perform exceedingly well in comparison with nearly
all schools worldwide. In this unit, we'll explore some about schools in China and why they do so well.
In addition, we'll also look at the other end of the spectrum and specifically examine Montsorri schooling
as well as a phenomenon that has gained some popularity in the US: home schooling.
Let's begin with this clip to the right about how Shanghai schools outperform all other schools — quite an accomplishment.
Some additional links:
- ✔ OECD Education Report: Shanghai's formula is world beating
- ✔ Thomas Friedman: The Shanghai Secret
- ✔ Friedman's op-ed piece as a Word document.
Week 8 — Extracurricular Schools Elsewhere (June 9, 2017)
While cram schools have a firm foothold in some Asian countries, they have been gaining in popularity in the US, too.
Something that has been noted often is that Asian immigrants and their children tend to do very well academically. Of course, that begs the question of why they do well. Here you'll find some thoughts about why they excel as well as a cautionary note about stereotypes.
You might not be familiar with the 'tiger mom' reference in the previous article. If so, here is the original article that claims that Chinese mothers are superior. I'll allow you to draw your own conclusions after reading the article.
One alternative method of education is the Montessori system. In this system, children enjoy a great deal of freedom to explore and learn as they want and at their own pace.
A second method worthy of consideration is called home schooling, which means, of course, that children are schooled at home by their parents. In the clip to the right, you'll learn about one such family in the United States. As noted in the video, some two million children receive education in this way, which is not a trivial number. In Japan, good people, can students be homeschooled? If so, how many are educated in that way?
Some additional links:
Week 9 — Preparation for Debate (June 16, 2017)
Week 10 — Debate on Extracurricular Education (June 23, 2017)
As you likely have guessed, we (note the plural form) will engage in a discussion of education styles today. Be prepared to make a group presentation of your group's position. You may, of course, augment your presentation with PowerPoint.
More debate material:
- ✔Some debate cross-examination questions from the International Debate Education Association
- ✔More cross-examination questions from Seth Brake
- ✔A lengthy but informative blog post on the cross-examination element of debate
Unit 10 — Fukushima Nuclear Disaster
Week 11 — Fukushima Nuclear Disaster (June 30, 2017)
In the article in your textbook, in line 24 we find mention of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAIA). Notice that on the righthand side of this webpage you'll find 'Fukushima Status Reports'.
Week 12 — The Future of Nuclear Power (July 7, 2017)
In line 28 we read about the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979.
Here we have an interesting attempt to mitigate the problem of groundwater flow in the area of the Fukushima reactors: a very long (1km) wall of ice.
However, that plan has, as of June, 2014, hit a snag: the temperature of the pipes is not low enough to freeze the giant wall.
As you'll recall from class, we encountered the acronym NIMBY, which means, of course, Not in my backyard. This is often used in relation to environmental issues in which a potential solution to a problem is sidetracked by the issue of where to locate that solution. Nuclear power is fine in a theoretical sense, but would you want a nuclear power plant beside (or in) your backyard? I didn't think so. At any rate, in the clip to the right you'll see a person expressing concern about proximity to a nuclear power plant.
Whereas Japan is now mostly free of nuclear power and thus (overly) dependent on oil, gas, and renewable sources of electricity, France gets some 80% of its electricity from nuclear power. The French have an excellent safety record, have pioneered nuclear reprocessing technology, and also have the cleanest air of any industrialized country. Might we emulate the French?
Our upcoming town meeting: As you likely have guessed (having cleverly glanced at the schedule for our final weeks) in our final class this term on July 22 we will engage in a town meeting, which is a form of democracy widely practiced in New England in the US. Sure, go ahead and tell me about the image to the right!
What exactly does a town meeting entail? Well, Good People, it is a modified form of parlimentary procedure for conducting meetings. In this style, various types of motions comprise the workings of the meeting, which are overseen by the meeting's moderator. (The complete town meeting handbook from Brookline, MA, includes further information if you have lots of free time to read it!)
More town meeting material:
The obvious issue at this point is what particular role(s) you all will play in thie town meeting. Those, Good People, you will select from a list that I will provide.
Week 13 — Alternate Sources of Energy (July 14, 2017)
Ogunquit, Maine: This, Folks, is the quaint little town where you all live, work, and spend your days (well, for the purposes of our town meeting). Lovely place, isn't it? That charm is, of course, a very important asset of Ogunquit and its economy. However, other people have ideas for your fine town ...
To the right you'll find a debate-style TED talk by Stewart Brand and Mark Z. Jacobson on the necessity of using nuclear energy rather than using renewable sources such as hydropower or wind power. Should you want to, feel free to follow along with the transcript of the Brand-Jacobson debate.
Solar Energy: Material on solar encoming here on alternate sources of energy.
Hydropower: Additional material coming here on alternate sources of energy.
Wind power: Even more material coming here on alternate sources of energy.
Week 14 — Preparation for Town Meeting (July 21, 2017)
Indeed, folks, we will have our town meeting today, and we will decide on the future of energy source(s) in our fine community.
Remember that we will have no final exam (yes, I know you're very disappointed).
As you know from class, I require polite email. Recall, too, that if you send me a file, the filename has a certain form.
Here's an example of the report style that you should use.
As you know from class, we will spend our time on the nuclear energy unit and the related issue of sustainable energy.