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Pushing the Walls of the Classroom Aside

Pushing the Walls of the Classroom Aside

We talk about being a part of the “global community” and how our country is “so diverse” so much that I wonder if we truly comprehend indeed how much our world is changing and what it all portends. The increasing diversity on our college campuses really hit me when I traveled back to my alma mater Wellesley College last month for an alumni function. The last night on campus we were serenaded by an a cappella group, which 10 years ago when I was a student, was predominately White. Fast forward to 2004 and the group’s demographics had significantly changed — Asian, Indian, you name it. While at the conference, an alum who is a middle school math teacher in Northern California told me that out of the several “Black” students in her class, only one had two Black parents. Could that be, I wondered. But then I thought about my own circle of friends, who I must say, are quite a “diverse” bunch. Out of the half dozen girlfriends I have that are married, I counted two that married someone of the same ethnic group. Take yours truly, for example. I grew up assuming I’d marry an African American Baptist like myself, and I married a Nigerian Catholic.
It is children from such unions that are sitting in America’s classrooms today and will increasingly dominate this country’s classrooms in a few years. They likely will have at least one parent that was either born in another country and or speak another language besides English. As a result, there’s a fairly good chance that the child will, if not be entirely fluent in another language, be able to understand and speak a few words of a foreign language. So although the percentage of American students that study abroad or are able to speak another language (fluently) has historically been abysmally low, I think we’ll see a change over time. If one has parents that speak another language or if one travels internationally to visit relatives, such experiences can only result in future students seeking a more international approach to their education. 
We reported a few years ago that the events of Sept. 11, 2001, actually sparked an interest among more American students to travel abroad, as opposed to staying closer to home. However, heightened security measures have made it more difficult for some foreign students to enter this country to pursue an education.
In “Reversing the Tide,” Dahna Chandler documents the frustrations foreign students are experiencing as they attempt to secure the visas that will allow them to study in the United States. A stringent student visa process instituted in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy has apparently discouraged thousands of foreign students from seeking admission into American institutions, according to Chandler. Her report tells us that American colleges and universities are experiencing declines in foreign student enrollment, a trend some educators and officials believe will prove costly for American schools deprived of intellectual talent and foreign student dollars.
Former associate editor Robin V. Smiles shares with us a diary of her recent visit to Madrid, Spain, where she investigated the legacy of the late African American novelist Frank Yerby. Smiles is writing a chapter on Yerby, who wrote 33 novels, in her English literature dissertation at the University of Maryland. He died in Madrid in 1991. Her account of her stay in Madrid and her search for people who knew the mysterious and elusive writer provides us a bit of intrigue and sharp storytelling.
Black Issues staffers Ronald Roach and Crystal L. Keels weigh in with stories that highlight scholarly work and teaching in the area of the African Diaspora.
Roach profiles husband-wife historians Drs. John Thornton and Linda Heywood, whose African Diaspora research has illuminated the influence and position of central Africa in the trans Atlantic slave trade. Having joined the African American studies program and history department at Boston University, the couple seem poised to help raise the profile of diaspora studies.  
Lastly, Keels interviews the highly acclaimed British writer Caryl Phillips and showcases the course he teaches at Barnard College that will take 16 seniors to Ghana’s slave castles later this month. “This is a rare, rare opportunity,” Phillips says.  

Hilary Hurd Anyaso

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