Three Perspectives (and an editorial) on This Year’s Culture Shock by Patrick McVee

Nate Faust, an ISA leader, has an upbeat view of the 2014 edition of Culture Shock. “I thought it was really good. And the keynote speech- Aisha Fukushima- that was amazing. It was so much better than last year.”

He acknowledged that there were some initial technical difficulties, but expressed pride in how ISA handled them. Whole-school participation created some problems, he said, but “it was really great to have everybody participate. There were some minor issues, but I think we can get them fixed by next year”.

Another student I interviewed, however, was less happy with this year’s Culture Shock. She took particular exception to the “Talking Back” workshop.  “I understood the general idea.” The student said. “[The discussion leader] was trying to tell us how you can use media to change the world. She gave examples of successful [ways] like from her own magazine. Another one she used, though, was from hackers who took control of the Victoria’s Secret website… and it was like: wait- isn’t this kind of illegal?”

She did like the keynote: it “was really good.” In general, however, she thought “It’s better to have the people who want to do [Culture Shock]” instead of forcing the entire Student Body to participate.”

 ***

Katrina Perry, a teacher who led a home groups and participated in both the “Allies 101” workshop and another related to perceptions based on skin color, expressed enthusiasm over ISA’s job and Culture Shock in general. “I’m so happy that we’ve decided that we all do [Culture Shock]. It was a great idea.”

“The atmosphere was good!” She continued. “We just need more kids- from Jesuit, Catlin, or even… a huge step would be to invite people from a big public school.”

She added that she “would like [OES] to acknowledge language study. Because isn’t that what Language study is about? Cultural differences.”

 ***

I didn’t participate in Culture Shock last year, so I entered the Explore track, and watched the movie Dead Man Walking. The movie showed a nun trying to s

save a murderer condemned to death by the government. It was certainly moving; I had trouble holding back tears.

The real problem when the group was prompted to relate our personal experiences with the content of the movie. It was surprisingly hard to do. I can’t exactly profess to have that much in common with most of the characters in the movie. After watching a character die by lethal injection, my own experiences with cultural differences seemed very trivial.  That was probably not what was intended.

I can see why the administration chose to make culture shock mandatory. With such a large proportion of students having chosen to do it last year, it makes much more sense to have everyone participate than to waste a day of classes. I’m not sure I emerged from Culture Shock much more culturally… shocked… than before, but that could easily be because of my choice of track.

ISA and the adults who supported Culture Shock did put an amazing effort into organizing an all-school Culture Shock. It will be interesting, no matter what, to see Culture Shock improve next year.

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