Nicole Panaggio: Introduction

My name is Nicole Panaggio and I will be a junior next year. I am a sociology and biology double major and I hope to attend medical school after Elon. I am not sure that any of my extracurricular activities relate directly to this class. However, I do volunteer at both Elon Elementary and the Open Door Clinic of Burlington and I believe these activities have helped be become a more engaged member of Elon’s local community. I signed up for this course because I am very interested in traveling with my future career in medicine and providing care to areas of the world that need it most. I believe this class will help me better understand how international aid works and how I can be most effective in providing medical care in the future.

During my GST 110 class, we covered topics related to Western ethnocentrism, cultural tolerance, international aid, and extreme poverty. To truly learn cultural tolerance, my professor had us discover our own biases. This part of the class was very important to me because I learned how unaware American citizens are of their own prejudices. We discussed that although many mission trips are lead with good intentions, Westerners often pressure members of other cultures to adopt western practices. This can ultimately result in the loss of an entire culture. To examine this idea in a more extreme way, my class read and discussed the novel Ishmael.  In this novel, a caged gorilla named Ishmael reveals what he believes is the secret to saving the world. The gorilla explains that most of the world’s problems are a result of how humans view their own species as biologically superior. He goes on to explain that humans are “captives of a civilizational system that more or less compels you to go on destroying the world in order to live” (Quinn 25). In this way, Ishmael exposes that biased and ethnocentric ways of thinking can have traumatic consequences.

Below is a link to a short clip of part of an interview with the author of Ishmael, Daniel Quinn, as he explains what he believes is the root cause of problems throughout the world today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhUz9guvrno

The Education and Development course I took during winter term in India is very relevant to this class. In this course, our class traveled to the state of Kerala with traveling science exhibits that we took to many schools. The state of Kerala has one of the most progressive education systems in all of India. Therefore, we were able to travel to many private schools that reminded me of education in the United States. However, I thought our visit to the rural school was most interesting. Many of these students had different needs and goals than those in the expensive private schools. Many students in the high school were already married and hoped for a future continuing work on their family farm. I wondered if a “westernized” education model was right for them. This made me further wonder if there is ever a one-size-fits-all model for international programs, including international aid.

These are some pictures of students at the rural school my class visited.

HPIM3447

HPIM3466

 

References:

Quinn, Daniel. Ishmael: An Adventure of Mind and Spirit. Bantam/Turner Books, 1992. Print.

 

 

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4 Comments

  1. Posted June 5, 2013 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Your GST 110 class sounded like it was a great class. Your winter term in India must have been a great experience. I always wanted to study abroad but didn’t have the opportunity because of baseball.

  2. Posted June 4, 2013 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    That trip to India sounds like it was an amazing opportunity. I think you’re right in your questioning regarding whether or not there ever can really be a “one-size-fits all” approach to international aid. Just because Western schools and other programs operate a certain way does not necessarily mean that it can or should be implemented somewhere else. I also agree with your point that it is very important to understand one’s own biases, or else we might fail to see things from a new perspective.

  3. Posted June 3, 2013 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    You mentioned that you want to travel in the future with your career and how you hope this class will teach you more about this. I really think it will, because the books we were assigned to read deal a lot with humanitarian aid work in other countries. I started reading “In the Eyes of Others” before I realized we were reading “War Games” first, but in that book it talks all about humanitarian aid work in other countries and how people living in those countries perceive the humanitarian aid given to them. I think you will find it very interesting and it will probably answer a lot of questions you have about traveling to other countries and offering medical services to people living there. I also found it intriguing to read about your experience in India and the differences/similarities between schools there and in the United States.

  4. Posted June 3, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Your GST 110 class sounds very interesting in terms of discovering your own biases. That can really help when conducting future research or even just traveling and experiencing different cultures. I also find your analysis of India’s educational system very interesting, and would be very helpful for those setting up these schools to hear your voice. The same thing that works in the United States (or is said to work) by no means may work in a different country, and by realizing this we may able to help their educational system even more.

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