With the beginning of the semester coming up quickly (classes begin the last week of August), I've finally begun working on my syllabus. I'm teaching three sections of the same class (English 1010 - Introduction to Writing); two sections meet twice a week and one section meets three times a week, so I'm in the process of creating two schedules. I've already filled in when the papers are due (including first and second drafts). At this point I'm just filling in the holes and researching possible readings.
I've developed an interest in cultural perceptions as they pertain to education, gender, disability, and family, so I've been looking for and finding readings that examine how those in different parts of the world and those with different religious traditions respond to disability, etc. So far I've found essays on disability and Islam and disability and Christianity, and brochures that explore culture and disabililty in Korea, India, Japan, the Phillipines, Vietnam, and China. The New York Times and the Salt Lake Tribune are available on campus as well, and I plan in integrating those newspapers into our class time as well.
From a thematic standpoint there's a lot of overlap, since culture and cultural perceptions embody so many of these topics simultaneously (a child's gender can affect her culturally permitted level of education, which affects the family and community both socially and economically). As such, while specific class periods may require a focus on disability, education or religion or any one of a number of other culturally-relevant topics come into play as well at some point. I can focus more on a specific topic in any given class, but eventually we get into how education or gender or disability influences culture on multiple levels.
A lot of students in Utah are culturally insulated; they don't travel as much as the students I've taught in New York or Pennsylvania, and there aren't as many immigrants who settle here (aside from those coming from Mexico), and I'm relishing having some uncomfortable conversations, as odd as that may sound. I want to get my students thinking about how we define our own culture and how we decide what's culturally relevant.