The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: Madeline Polkinghorn

Debating 4 Democracy

Bates College is a constituent member of Project Pericles, a consortium of 31 institutions that have a commitment to public and community engagement. On February 9, Project Pericles held at Bates its Debating 4 Democracy workshop, which aims to train individuals interested in activism and advocacy work to effectively reach their goals.
Leading the workshop was Beth Huang, a senior trainer at Midwest Academy, an institution founded in 1973 that provides training for successful activism and organizing. Among the participants in the workshop were students from the University of New England, Bates College, Unity College, Lewiston High School, and Central Maine Community College – all who came in with specific social problems about which they felt passionate and needed systemic reform.
At the beginning of the workshop, Huang pointed out an often unrecognized but crucial distinction: the difference between a problem and an issue. “A problem is something that’s wrong, whereas an issue is the solution to the problem… so that’s what the issue is – it’s defining what the demand is.”
A good issue, posited Huang, is one that is worth the time spent fighting for it, capable of actually being won, arouses interest and passions in others, is “widely felt” by others, is comprehensible to others, is not polarizing within one’s own group, possesses a clear figure who can make decisions, and establishes leadership.
Students then split into three groups, where each group tackled either race inequality, environmental injustice, or education inequity. In the race inequality group, participants discussed issues of systemic racism that were especially prevalent in Maine. One student, a senior at Lewiston High School, remarked powerfully on his experience with racial stereotyping after recently moving to Maine from the city of Detroit.
“Since I’ve come here, I’ve been stereotyped so many times. One time I went to the gas station with my friends… It was a white dude who was checking me out, [and he asked me] are you paying with food stamps? And I was like, just because I’m black you’re asking me if I’m paying with food stamps? I just wanted to hear what he was going to say… and he was stuck. So he went back and talked to the manager, and he said yeah, [he asked if I was paying with food stamps] because I’m black.”
The lack of racial diversity in Maine seemed to be a focal point in the conversation. Increased communication, dialogue, and interaction amongst different ethnic and racial groups, specifically within the realm of public education, were common threads among the proposed solution. The group devised three potential solutions, or “issues,” to help tackle racial inequality in the United States: desegregation bussing in schools, changes in school curriculums to provide accurate histories of people color, and equalization of school funding.
Upon hearing these solutions, Huang had two key questions. Firstly, she inquired “do these three [issues] positively impact people’s lives? Do they make real improvements in people’s lives?” Secondly, she asked the group “If you ran a big campaign for any of these three [issues] would people feel like they have more power?” To both questions, the group answered in the affirmative – these solutions would help alter existing structures of power and lift marginalized voices.
Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the entire six hour workshop. However, after meeting in small groups, the workshop’s schedule moved to strategizing tactics for the issue’s success. According to the goals stated by Debating 4 Democracy, groups would design for their issues “appropriate tactics to carry out the strategy, including voter mobilization and holding a meeting with an elected official.” Given the creativity, passion, and expert guidance from the workshop, there is no doubt students at the Debating 4 Democracy workshop will make enormous social progress in their local communities and beyond.

Foreign Language TA Spotlight: Andrea Elisabeth Kreditsch

The Bates Student runs a regular column which hopes to highlight the unique gifts to the Bates community brought forth by foreign language teaching assistants. This week, I spoke to Andrea Elisabeth Kreditsch, the 2018-19 German language teaching assistant, about her native country of Austria, adjusting to American culture, and Austrian food!

Bates Student (BS): Hello, Andrea! Where are you from?
Andrea Elisabeth Kreditsch (AES): I am from Austria, from Graz. Graz is in the southeast of Austria, about a two-hour drive south of Vienna, our capital. It is also the second biggest city of the country and it’s a student city, so it has its very distinct flair.

BS: Where did you attend university and what did you study?
AES: I attended Karl Franzens University (or University of Graz) in Graz, Austria. I studied English language, literature and culture as well as history and graduated with my Mag. phil. (like a MA) earlier this year.

BS: Why did you decide to pursue teaching German as a foreign language? What led you to this field of teaching?
AES: I am a trained foreign language teacher for English, and I knew that at some point in my life, I wanted to work and teach abroad. I decided in late 2017 that I would try and apply for a Fulbright grant in German language teaching, because I thought that this would be a great opportunity to not only experience living in a different country but also to teach my language and introduce students to my culture.

BS: When and how did you learn English?
AES: I learned English first from books and other materials that a family member living in Canada sent over to Austria before I started school. In school, I had 12 years of English, but I think I also learned a lot by reading and watching movies in English outside of class. I then went on to study English in university.

BS: What do you miss the most about your home country?
AES: What I miss most about my home country is the food, probably. Food is such an essential part of every culture, and you don’t realize how used you are to your own food until it becomes unavailable. I miss “real” (meaning dark rye) bread and pumpkin seed oil, and gingerbread and cookies, and Topfenstrudel and Marillenknödel. Thankfully, we have a cultural kitchen in Roger Williams that my fellow TAs and I have been using to make some of our favorite dishes from home for and with students, and I am looking forward to doing this again this semester!
And I miss the mountains. I am not much of a hiker (more of a skier), but I miss just looking out my window and seeing mountains.

BS: What has been your favorite part of living in the States? Least favorite part?
AES: My favorite part of living in the US is probably that I get to live in such a beautiful part of the country—I love the nature here, I love the outdoors, and I love winter, so Maine is the perfect state for me! My least favorite part of living here is that you need a car to get anywhere, at least here in Maine….

BS: How has your experience at Bates been?
AES: My experience has been great so far, I really love working at the German and Russian Department; it’s so much fun! I love teaching my language to students and giving them an insight into my culture. I also really like the tight-knit community at Bates; it is like a big family, and you are never just a number like at big universities (like my university at home—we had 30,000 students and big lectures with 400 students).

BS: Do you have any recommendations for students hoping to learn German?
AES: What I would recommend to students wanting to learn German is to make use of as much authentic material as they can: German movies and TV shows (even if they don’t understand anything yet, just hearing the language helps such a lot!), German books, German news, German websites/YouTube channels/blogs etc. and, of course: try to speak German whenever they can, whether it is with German speakers or with each other! I know it can be very intimidating to speak a new language, but it will all pay off in the end! And of course, if you are not a student of German yet, come and say hi to us at the German department and check out our language courses!

Bates Habla Español:

The Bates Student runs a regular column covering Bates foreign language teaching assistants, highlighting the invaluable work they do and gaining insight into their cultural background.

A few weeks ago, I spoke to Daniel Guarín, the Spanish teaching assistant who hails from Armenia, Colombia. Recently, he reached out to me to cover a new learning initiative he has taken on: Bates Habla Español. The program, which comes in the form of a Facebook group, aims to digitally engage Spanish students at Bates through informal dialogue in Spanish. I spoke with him to learn more about the program and what it hopes to achieve at Bates.

Madeline Polkinghorn (MP): What is Bates Habla Español? What are its objectives?

Daniel Guarín (DG): Bates Habla Español (Bates Speaks Spanish) is a group created thinking about the needs of my Spanish students as a boost for their language acquisition. It is a group in which students can feel free to comment and interact in Spanish, out of the classroom and its formality: no stress, no pressure, just fun…

Bates Habla Español is a public group and it is available for all the Bates students who want to learn, improve or practice Spanish. And of course, learn more about Latin American and Spanish culture, literature, history, etc.

MP: How did you get the idea to start Bates Habla Español?

DG: The idea of creating this group was born during one of my master’s degree courses called ‘The Role of the 21st Century Language Professor’. The Internet is changing the world, it is changing communication, education and languages. We – language teachers – must be ready to face these changes and take advantage of them. We must also know that those formal and archaic language classes belong to the 19th century; now is the time to think about the informal ways of learning and teaching a language outside the walls of a classroom.

MP: How will this project help Bates students learn Spanish?

DG: There are many articles, books, videos, memes, and pictures that I would love to share with my students in class, but time is never enough and it flies when you are having fun, so this group is the opportunity for students to go deeper with Spanish and practice, because the more you practice the more fluent you become.

MP: What kind of content will be shared in the group?

DG: Well, everything has to have an educational purpose, even if I’m sharing memes, they must have an impact and must help students improve or learn or think. So there are many different kinds of content, such as videos about poets, writers, history. There will be pictures with fun facts about Spanish language and Hispanic culture, memes, music, etc. Everything in Spanish.

Interested students can access the group by searching Bates Habla Espanol, or following this link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/BatesHablaEspanol/.

 

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén