As Apollo 8 reached the moon, the crew found something they never expected: mental clarity. The “overview effect” experienced by the crew means that as one looks down on earth from space, they are overcome by a sense of unity and awareness of our planet’s big picture.
We must understand issues across the globe, but we don’t always achieve that fundamental understanding. To satisfy the Global Cultures flag, UT-Austin only requires students to complete one course. The eligible courses often do not explore global issues. Obviously, everyone at UT cannot be launched into space to experience the “overview effect.” However, it is imperative that the University pushes its students towards this same cognitive awareness by amending the global culture flag requirement. Students should have to complete a course on global issues to satisfy their global culture flag requirement.
Associate professor Iris Chyi teaches a course called Domestic Issues and Global Perspectives, which she designed to allow students to discuss and explore current global and domestic issues. Although it is a journalism course, Chyi stresses the importance of all students, regardless of major, taking a class like hers. It is not a skills class and the topics covered are relevant to everyone, according to Chyi.
“This course was never designed for journalism majors only,” Chyi said. “We are not teaching you how to report on global issues, but through the issues we have selected, we try to show how diverse this universe actually is.”
Eventually, everything that happens around the world will have a direct impact on everyone’s lives. However, students should not expect that by taking a class they can make a direct change on these issues. According to Chyi, simply understanding what lies beyond student comfort zones and becoming aware represents the first necessary step — something that every student has the power to do.
Kori Wooten, a recent graduate who took Chyi’s class last Spring, urges all students to consider taking Chyi’s course or at least a similar course.
“I think it is really easy to get stuck inside of ourselves and our everyday lives,” Wooten said. “The class really brings in awareness to what’s going on around you and to issues that maybe you can impact somehow — whether it is recycling or saving water or not buying really cheap clothes because that promotes cheap labor.”
The University took a great step in making a Global Cultures flag a graduation requirement, but it can go a step further. If UT required students to complete a course on global issues, the University would not only be preparing students to face real world problems, but it would also be opening students’ minds to what it means to be an American.
McWhorter is a journalism junior. She is an associate editor.