Getting Ready (8)

Went to the Berkeley city library. All the contemporary books on Vietnam trade unions are “unavailable,” even using Link+. However, I was able to order three books by Le Duan (1907-1986) written in 1960s-1970s.  My access to the U of Illinois library is all set up, thanks to a lot of help from people there, but I won’t be able to actually get hard copy books from them, just what is available on line. I intend to re-up my full access to the UC Berkeley library system. I’ll do that after June 4, when we get back from Iowa.

I’ve started writing my class. The syllabus I was sent had 9 units, or chapters, so I’m laying out a 9 unit set. For each set, I begin with a story. The story reveals something about the problems or demands of leadership. These are not necessarily stories about unions or even about work. One, for example, tells how King Lear threw away all the tools of leadership, one after the other — his crown, his lands, his role as father, and finally his sanity. Another tells the story of a leader of a team of firefighters trapped in a forest fire and asks why none of the team members followed the leader’s example, which saved his life. Another one is from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, which is apparently for sale in airports in Asia. In this story, John D. Rockefeller “makes friends out of enemies” by talking in a friendly way to representatives (it doesn’t say exactly who) of miners, after the Ludlow Massacre.  Actually, I’m not sure if I can use that one. Teaching “against the text” in a cross-cultural situation may not work. Another is from Machiavelli’s The Prince. The stories are short, one or two pages, and should be translatable. They are followed by discussion questions. I intend to wrap this up as soon as I can and send it to our contacts at Ton Duc Thong to see if this is anything like what they have in mind.

Joe thinks that stories are not necessarily the most accessible rhetorical form for teaching cross-culturally. He has been reading a book about Buddhism and says that he thinks that a rhetorical form that would carry across cultures is a list. As in, “The Five Points of XXX, ” or “The Ten Steps of XXX”. I think he may be right.

I am going on the assumption that our students will be undergraduates.

I have now read two of the books that have been suggested for use by Ton Duc Thong in their curriculum. They are the sort of book that might be used in a business school, in a marketing class.

Published by helenaworthen

Labor educator, retired from University of Illinois, taught at TDT University in Ho Chi Minh City in the Faculty of Trade Unions and Labor Relations. Co-author with Joe Berry of Power Despite Precarity: Strategies for the contingent faculty movement in higher education, forthcoming (August 2021) from Pluto Press.

5 thoughts on “Getting Ready (8)

  1. I am currently preparing to do a road trip across Canada and gather information about minority groups: their languages and cultural aspects… So, I find it interesting to see how you are preparing your courses. I like your idea of starting with a story!
    Dr. Gabrielle SY
    Québec, Canada

    1. Hello, Gabrielle!

      When you say “minorities” do you mean the First Nations of Canada, or the many groups who have emigrated to Canada? In the US, these are all bundled together, which is not good. Is this research? Are you preparing a course yourself? For whom (and, while we’re at it, by whom and for what purpose?)


  2. We’ll see. One of the things about a story is that there is an action in it, and therefore consequences, and you can judge the action by the consequences. The combination has a moral dimension, too, and a lot of the issues around leadership in a union are moral issues. Such as, what are the reasons for your action? Who benefits from your action? Are you the right person to be doing it? What is your purpose? The famous “For whom, by whom, and for what purpose?” questions. The problem with a lot of the leadership material I’m reading is that it’s directed at employers; it’s not about leading, it’s about managing.

  3. I concur with Marcia (Sorry Joe). A story, especially a riveting one, right out of the box will set the tone for the explanation that follows. People just found out what happened and now they will listen intently as to why and how. I have far less teaching experience than you guys but this is how I approach my classes. Granted that my students are adults and in organized labor but making them salivate for more information/knowledge makes for material retention if not entertaining in general. That was one of the critique’s of my classes by my staff. My classes were too entertaining and that’s why they don’t want me to teach anymore. So I hold classes after the general meeting and see if they try to throw me out. My students still remember what I taught though and that was my point.

  4. i am for stories, but i think both modes could be used successfully–they each appeal to a portion of the brain and to various learning styles.

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