Curiosity Campaigns are Good for Education and the World
By Kevin Stoda, international educator on TEACHERS DAY in Taiwan
NOTE: Taiwan and China celebrate a day for teachers in September each year. In Taiwan it always falls on the 28th of September. In the USA, it is in May. World Teachers Day is on October 5 each year. In our elementary school here on Beigan Island, Taiwan, students celebrated TEACHERS DAY by first playing (recorders)and singing a song for the teachers. they pounded and massaged teachers shoulders, backs, and necks as part of a thank-you ceremony. They also gave teachers thank-you cards before going outside and playing a school-wide dodge ball match at the end of the school day.
Recently, the Union for Concerned Scientists (UCS) has begun running an educational campaign on the theme of “Curiosity”. (See the NOTES section below for an example of their most recent letters.) This particular UCS educational campaign is focused on changing the Worst-Congress-in-the-World’s (especially referring to the USA Senate’s) head-in-the-sand attitude towards the global disasters we are facing due to man-made related climate change. Curiosity (and encouraging students’ and teachers’ curiosity) should be a primary goal of education anywhere in the world.
As a lifelong teacher, I have always tried to encourage curiosity in-the-name-of teaching the world’s youth to experience the joy of a positive attitude towards life-long learning . This insatiable curiosity, which I have had for over 4 decades, has led to my having already worked in ten different countries and with students from well over a hundred different lands during the past 25 years. Moreover, I have personally been empowered by the driving-forces-of-curiosity to travel in and journal (write) in over a hundred different lands.
Two teachers and my own father originally propelled me on this journey of life-long learning driven-by-daily-doses of curiosity.
INSPIRED BY FATHER AND TWO ELEMENTARY TEACHERS
When I was about nine years-old, my father, Ronald John Stoda, first showed us children his slides from his round-the-world-trip. (Those slides had been taken circa 1957.) My father’s slides from Egypt, France, Iran, India, and other surfaces of the globe had first made me fascinated with all the corners of the globe.
I should add that my dad was also a voracious reader. He read over 7000 books in his life-time on a wide variety of topics–and was reading up till the very month he passed away. He encouraged me early on to read adventure stories and later to read the classics of literature, like Les Miserables. In short, Dad set good examples for us through his curiosity for travel and his drive for reading & acquiring information.
NOTE: My father had barely survived a 4-weeks of college back in the mid-1950s, but he was always curious. Mom explained once that dad was practically starving at the time he had dropped out of college in late-September way-back-when. [He had attended on a whim, receiving at the last minute a ten dollar scholarship from someone in his home town to attend college. Alas, ten dollars a month was not enough to live on at the time. Dad was ineligible for military service, so he didn’t ever have GI Bill money to go to college.] Due to the lack of money he had had set aside for education–and after starving a few weeks–, Dad had simply quietly returned home after 4 weeks of college.
Soon, Dad found employment in a local lawnmower factory. Dad, then, simply saved his money from his job for the next three years and then bought his round-the-world plane ticket (back in 1957, i.e. in an era when the U.S. dollar-was-like-gold when spent outside of North America.)
Next, my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Duvall, was particularly influential in continuing to grow my curiosity for the world of travel and for learning. Mrs. Duvall encouraged us (students) to rake through the school libraries on a vast variety of social studies and do reports. Aside from American history, she taught us English language &literature related topics. Most importantly, she also taught us African studies. Mrs. Duvall and her husband had both traveled together three times to Africa (north, south, and central).
Therefore, Mrs. Duvall was not only teaching us—she was living out a lifelong curiosity for learning and travel–Right before my eyes! Moreover, although Mrs. D. and Mr. D. had graying hair, they were very young at heart. I recall Mr. D picking up Mrs. D. on his Harley one day after school. Cool!!!! I’m sure that having Mrs. D. as a teacher enabled me to envision a future that was not U.S.-centric at a relatively impressionable time in my life. At the same time, she had taught us American and African history at the same time, enabling us to contrast different worlds and experience for ourselves. In short, at a very early age we students were being invited to compare history and culture—raising our sense of curiosity and leading us to ask “Why do we do it this way?” or “Why do they do it that way?” or “Why not do it some other way?”
Finally, my 6th-grade Social Studies teacher was Mrs. G.ilani. It should be noted that Mrs. G. was born in Brazil but was of German parentage. Therefore, she was the first multi-racial person I got to know intimately as a student. Mrs. G. taught us Latin American studies and since she had grown up in South America, the experience and research were very authentic.
Mrs. Gilani encouraged me as a presenter and appropriately criticized my writing. Moreover, she taught us to do research on longer projects. For example, Mrs. G. had us right and present reports on various countries in Latin America. She had us write several embassies, the United Nations, and tourist organizations while we were collecting information on our research projects. This enabled me at a relatively early age to begin feeling comfortable writing American government authorities and American congressmen (and even presidents) over the next decade, i.e. before email made such hand written letters passé. By the time I would attend university, I was already traveling from Kansas to Washington, D.C. to lobby congress on education and on American’s ill-devised policies in Latin America (i.e. in the early 1980s).
In fact, I should note here that my first educational research experience abroad was undertaken in Honduras and Nicaragua in the summer of 1983—at a time when I first considered making international development a life long career of mine.
So, in conclusion, on this National Teachers Day (here in Taiwan), I want to thank my father and these 2 special teachers of mine for making me CURIOUS about our world.
Climatologist Cameron Wake knows it. So does ecologist David Inouye. In fact, 98 percent of all scientists agree that global warming is a human-caused problem with potentially devastating consequences.