The World Citizen Challenge
Edited to add: the challenge blog is up! Go on over to it for the latest info/reading lists/sign-up stuff/etc.!
Whew, here goes. I’m a little nervous, sending my baby challenge toddling out into the blogosphere. What if no one signs up because there are so many other challenges out there? What if it’s just me? Well, then it’ll just be me. So, here’s the first reason why you should pay attention to this challenge: it’s non-fiction. There are a ton of challenges focused on almost every aspect of fiction imaginable, but not very many on non-fiction. So, hopefully all of those with ‘inner bookworms’ (as Bybee calls it) guilt-tripping you for not reading enough non-fiction will be interested. And, of course, all of you who love non-fiction should be perking up too! :)
I struggled with what to call this challenge, but I finally decided on World Citizen. That’s because, in this day and age, it’s important for all of us to know something about the world around us. Yeah-Americans tend to get the worst rep in this category (although my sister once had a British teacher who told the class that the US has 53 states, so we’re not the only ones), but I think even those of us who already know a substantial amount about the world could always stand to learn a bit more. And summer is the perfect time to take on a self-learning task! For those of you who have no interest in current international politics, are sick to death of hearing all the world’s problems, that’s ok: you can read history books or culture books or biographies and memoirs. And I promise not all of the books I’m going to recommend are negative. And of course, those of you who do have an interest in international stuff are going to be very excited!
There are a bunch of ways to participate in this challenge, because I want as many people as possible so that we can have an intelligent discussion about the world around us and learn from each other. Of course, if you don’t want to discuss the stuff, that’s fine too. But after I’ve read a great non-fiction book, I’m always itching to talk about it! Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ve arranged the participation levels as if ‘world citizenship’ is a college major.
The Prospie Level So, you’re a prospective high school student trying to decide if this is the right college for you, and you happen to sit in on a world citizenship class. This is for those of you with no time to read another book, but who still want to do something. I’ll be running a different mini-challenge each month of the challenge, and all you have to do to be a prospie is say you want to participate in at least one of them. I promise they’ll be fun, and there will be prizes involved!
The Auditor Level You thought the class sounded interesting, but you didn’t really want to have to worry about attendence or grades or stuff like that. Good thing you can audit. For this level, you just need to declare your interest in the challenge. Anything else you might want to do: the mini-challenges, making a list of potential books, participating in the discussions, etc. is completely up to you. Maybe you want to commit to reading a newspaper or magazine instead of a book-go for it. Also, if you want to choose a different number of books than what I’ve offered in the other levels, come here!
The World Citizenship 101 Level Maybe you’re a freshman trying to decide what to major in, maybe you’re an upperclassman in need of a distribution credit. Either way, you end up in the intro class. For this level, you need to commit to one book.
The Minor Level You’ve taken a couple classes in World Citizenship and decide to go ahead and get the minor. After all, you’ll learn more stuff and you can still have a practical major! For this level, you need to commit to three books, from at least two different categories (those are all listed below).
The Major Level Despite the occasional, impertinent “And what are you going to do with a degree in that?!” question, you’ve realised that World Citizenship is where your passion really lies, so you declare your major. For this level, you need to commit to five books, from at least three different categories.
The Postgraduate Level Four years just wasn’t enough for you! You’ve decided to continue your education in World Citizenship, since you’re a bit obsessive about the whole thing. For this level, you need to commit to seven books, including one book from each category.
Of course, now the big question is: what exactly are these categories? Well, as I see it, there are so many different aspects to the world that you can approach world citizenship from a variety of angles.
Politics: I bet you knew this one was coming. :) There are two kinds of politics: international, which deals with diplomacy and international institutions like the United Nations, and national, which deals with domestic issues like taxes and education and the economy. As long as the national politics you’re reading about isn’t your native country, it counts for this challenge. After all, it’s a national government that decides its country’s diplomacy! Speaking of which, foreign policy really combines international and domestic politics. All books about foreign policy also fall under this category, and feel free to read books about your native country’s foreign policy as well as any other. So, since I’m an American, I could read a book about US foreign policy but not a book about the US supreme court. I could read all about South Africa’s apartheid system.
Economics: the logical next step. Sometimes it’s difficult to seperate economics from politics, but in this case the category is focusing on international economics. So books about international economic organisations like the World Bank or International Monetary Fund would go here, as well as books addressing global poverty, the rise of multi-national corporations, etc. The same rules for politics apply here: you can read stuff about international economics or about domestic economies of countries that aren’t your native one. As an American, I could read a whole book about the Argentinan currency collapse, but I couldn’t read anything about the US dot com burst.
History: because obviously international stuff doesn’t happen in a vacuum-leaders are influenced by what’s gone on before. In this case, I’m going to pretty arbitrarily say that history is anything that happened before World War II; later than that, and it belongs in one of the other categories. Why? Well, it seems like most of us have a general idea of international relations from then on: the Cold War, the end of the Cold War, etc. but judging from some of the classmates I had in college, general knowledge of international stuff before WWII breaks down pretty fast. You can pick history books about any country you want (other than your native one), or about the world as a whole, or about a religion.
Culture or Anthropology/Sociology: because even if you aren’t interested in politics or economics or even history, I bet you’re curious about other societies. :) Part of being a world citizen is recognising that other places have different value systems and approaches to life. Books about religion, day-to-day life, and other aspects of culture/society fall in here.
Worldwide Issues: I know that sounds vague, but it’s basically an acknowledgement that there are lots of global things going on that don’t fit neatly into any of the categories above. Here’s where you’d put things like the environment, human trafficking, whether democracy should be spread worldwide, natural disasters, peace movements, weapons of mass destruction, etc.
Memoirs/Autobiographies: so, for any of the categories above, feel free to read biographies. But memoirs and autobiographies are inherently less trustworthy, so I feel that they need to be pulled out into their own category. I certainly think that they’ll spark some great discussions, and are very valuable, but they’re not the same as ‘third person’ non-fiction.
Now that I’ve gotten all of that out there, it’s about time I tell you the dates, isn’t it? The challenge will run throughout 2009. Originally, I was just going to make it four months, but with all that’s happening in the world, I think it’d be fun to do the whole year!
I hope after reading all of this that some of you are still interested. I know it’s complicated, but I was trying to make it as broad as possible.:) If you want to join in, but have no idea what books to pick, I’m planning a challenge blog and have recommendations for each category over there (I also go into more detail about the different categories). It’ll be up before Christmas. And of course, I expect all of you might have some suggestions too! I’d like the blog to become a discussion hub, with any luck. The world is such a fascinating place, and I love to talk about it. :D