Discussing topics like globalization can be risky, especially if you are from the US. My main concern is not that students will say something that could be construed as criticism of the US, but that they won’t feel free to state their real opinions because I’m from the US.
I usually give students time to discuss in pairs or small groups before we speak as a group. Often they come up with topics of their own related to lots of issues like the environment or advertising — not all connected to the spread of American culture.
I’m not hesitant to share my views that a large part of what I enjoy most about traveling and living abroad is the variety and that I don’t want every city or town to look the same. I often share my dismay that something like 27% of Americans have passports and even fewer use them, along with my own view on the reasons for and result of this (the cost, the lack of vacation time and yes, the lack of interest sometimes) (many Americans never see that things can be done quite successfully in a variety of ways or that people can be quite happy with a totally different lifestyle).
This often helps the discussion along. Sometimes students are surprised that I hold these views, so at the very least they come away from it realizing that Americans do not necessarily all think the same thing, and it may not have occurred to some that there are reasons beyond or in addition to those most commonly given for many “typical American views.”
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The last discussion on globalization took place with a class of Korean students as well as one Japanese and one Brazilian. I felt glad that they didn’t seem to feel restrained from saying what they thought, and what they thought was not always that America was the villain. Someone pointed out that while he disagreed with some given US policy, he thought the government of his own country would make a similar decision if the tables were turned.
And at the end of the discussion, they felt compelled to tell me that they liked America…and they also loved me. It’s hard to go wrong with that…they all got A’s.