Today I answered a question in a class I am not in, at a school I do not go to. I’m down in Santa Barbara, visiting my sister for a couple of days before I head back up to Walla Walla. Since Joni has already started school, I decided it would be fun to go to a few of her classes at UCSB, a university approximately 30 times the size of Whitman. The last class we went to was Global Studies, a class that I immediately loved.
The teacher began the class by playing a clip from the Daily Show of John Stuart joking about America’s incredible support for Israel. He then walked around the two-hundred person class, randomly asking students to tell him about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza. The responses he received were shocking.
A guy told him that
I don’t know what’s going on…lots of bombing…I think Israel is trying to kill them all
One girl said
I don’t know anything about it, but I have a question, is Hamas an Israeli political group?
When the teacher told one of the students that perhaps he should think about setting his homepage to a news site the student replied
I don’t really have time to read the news, when I go on the internet it’s to get stuff done
I bit my lip and then asked Joni if she’d kill me if I raised my hand in her class. The teacher ended up calling on me and I told him what I had learned about Gaza from merely spending a few minutes every day on BBC and the New York Times, that Israel had invaded Gaza alleging that Hamas, the democratically-elected extremist government of Gaza, had broken the truce and launched missiles into Israel. I told him that I thought Israel didn’t really have a plan for the invasion but needed to look strong what with their upcoming elections.
I hoped that someone would correct me or argue with me or top me with some fact. I really hoped that out of the two-hundred students in that room, all evidently interested in global studies, someone would be better informed and have the guts to stand up for their beliefs. I was disappointed.
I called one of my friends later that night and he told that I really shouldn’t have been so surprised, that he doubted that many people our age would have been to answer that question. While I understand that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a complicated issue and that college kids have a lot of demands on our time, it really bothers me that none of the students that the professor called on had taken the time (however little) to read up on the biggest news story of the past 17 days.
But then again, why should they care? How does a small war in a small country affect the life of a college student thousands of miles away in sunny southern California? Essentially, it doesn’t.
That started me thinking on why I care. I’ve become so heavily involved in issues that really don’t affect my daily life from problems in developing countries and, although I would argue that climate change/oil dependence will affect my daily life, so far it really hasn’t. This week I’ve been up to my ears in phone calls and emails for things that are entirely unrelated to school and are purely for “fun.”
I’m not sure if I know the answer of why some people care and some people don’t but I know that it’d be really great if a lot more people did.