Young and wise

  • Article by: JOHN RASH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 31, 2011 - 9:38 PM

Wayzata students think globally

There was a lot of collective wisdom at the Oct. 29 Minnesota International Center “Great Decisions” conference on foreign policy and the media. The more than 130 participants included former foreign service officers, globetrotting businesspeople, educators ands other world-wise Minnesotans.

But the international insights didn’t only come from those with frequently stamped passports. Students — including some from the 18-member Wayzata High School “Great Decisions” group — had plenty to say as well.

“Globalization affects students more personally because of their potential careers — everywhere they go they see it,” said Alexander Aronovich, who started the group after contacting the Foreign Policy Association and getting encouragement.

The economic rise of China was also a motivating factor, said Kevin Hansen. Some students are “kind of nervous” about China, he said, but “it’s led to more understanding and critical thinking.”

The arresting images from the youth-led Arab Spring, which was one of the subjects of the conference, especially spurred student interest.

“It was a big turning point in such a stagnant region,” Aronovich said. “It must have felt like 1989 and what my parents [Soviet émigrés] went through.”

Filip Kostanecki’s parents are also immigrants (from Poland). But he took an all-American pop culture perspective in analyzing student reaction to the visceral visuals coming from Cairo, Tunis, Tripoli and elsewhere.

“Compared to entertainment-based youth filtering like Hollywood and violent video games, it helps people realize the reality of situations,” he said.

Samantha Schmidt, who was covering and photographing the event in her role as editor-in-chief of her school newspaper, gave a journalistic context to the conference, as well as the conversations among her Great Decisions group.

“Great Decisions has helped us realize the events that are occurring, and how relative and exciting they are,” she said.

The Wayzata students are coming of age in an era of increased immigration and rising cultural and demographic diversity. And, at least in their cases, more interest in internationalism, which should result in these students going places academically, professionally, and, yes, where a passport comes in handy, too.

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