Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning
The posting below describes a new multi-disciplinary curriculum using Wal-Mart as a case study. It is by Elizabeth Cohn, Ph.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org). Copies of "Wal-Mart: A College Curriculum" are available at www.walmartwatch.com/curriculum. Faculty members are encouraged to send comments on the curriculum, as well as additional readings or assignments they use to teach about the issues raised in the curriculum, to . The full curriculum is available at: [www.walmartwatch.com/curriculum].
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Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning
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NEW MULTI-DISCIPLINARY COLLEGE CURRICULUM ABOUT WAL-MART
Written for college professors. Wal-Mart's multi-faceted impact on society means that this curriculum reaches across academic disciplines, including Political Science, Sociology, Economics, Business, Management, Urban Planning, Geography, English, Labor Studies, American Studies, International Relations, Global Studies, Environmental Studies, and Women's Studies. This curriculum uses Wal-Mart as a case study to examine: Business and management decisions, Labor and the American economy, Global supply chains and market forces, Democracy and capitalism.
Wal-Mart, the largest company in the world, is praised and vilified with equal passion. Fortune magazine named it the most admired company in 2003 and 2004, while newspaper editorials lament "Wal-Martization." Consumers praise its low prices while unions challenge the fairness of its business model. Communities across America are debating the pros and cons of welcoming new Wal-Mart stores. And Wal-Mart itself, from its outpost in Bentonville, Arkansas, has entered the debate full-force, pouring millions of dollars into public relations and image advertising.
What both admirers and critics of Wal-Mart agree on is that Wal-Mart - by virtue of its size, scale, and talent for innovation - is changing the world, or at least accelerating changes underway as a result of globalization. As the largest private employer in the United States, Wal-Mart sets the standard for wages and working conditions in retail, with ripple effects in other sectors. As the nation's largest grocery store, toy store, jewelry store, and third largest pharmacy, it affects rival businesses, large and small. And in its quest for "Always Low Prices," Wal-Mart has helped push manufacturing overseas and revolutionized the global supply chain in the process.
The public debate over Wal-Mart is just beginning. New books and academic studies on the subject, or related subjects, continue to be published. And a growing number of college professors are incorporating this subject matter into their courses.
To contribute to a better understanding of these profound changes in the world economy, Wal-Mart Watch, a campaign of the Center for Community & Corporate Ethics, has published Wal-Mart: A College Curriculum, written by Elizabeth Cohn. The Center was established in January 2005 to study the impact of large corporations on society and develop a set of standards for responsible corporate behavior. Elizabeth Cohn has a Ph.D. in International Relations from American University. She has published on U.S. foreign policy and Latin America and taught for the last ten years at Goucher College and the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
"Wal-Mart: A College Curriculum" is a 37-page, multi-disciplinary curriculum designed for college and university professors to incorporate into their undergraduate courses. The material is structured not as an integrated course curriculum, but rather as a series of five modules that allow faculty to select the parts that pertain to their own areas of teaching. More than 70 carefully selected readings offer a variety of perspectives - some supportive of Wal-Mart and others critical. The curriculum also includes introductions to each module, discussion questions based on the readings and suggested assignments.
The first module provides a brief overview of all of the issues that can be addressed by studying Wal-Mart, and then narrows the focus to the students' personal experiences with Wal-Mart. It can be used as a general introduction for those who have several weeks to devote to a Wal-Mart case study or as a cursory exploration for those who wish to devote only one class session.
The following four modules use Wal-Mart as a case study to examine:
* Business and management decisions: How Wal-Mart has shifted power from producers to retailers, through technological innovation and market dominance;
* Labor and the American economy: How Wal-Mart's labor practices affect wages and benefits within the retail sector and beyond, and raise important questions about the division of responsibility between corporations and government;
* Global supply chains and market forces: How Wal-Mart reflects and drives changes in the global economy, with emphasis on China's new role as the manufacturing center of the world;
* Democracy and capitalism: How local governments, small business, community groups, and citizens respond when Wal-Mart enters their community.
This curriculum examines the above trends and the problems they create, as well as different responses and solutions - such as citizen campaigns to make Wal-Mart more accountable to community stakeholders; labor protections, whether enacted through legislation or union representation; and social auditing of overseas factories and sourcing practices.
At the heart of this curriculum are fundamental questions about the political, economic and social direction of America and the world. Wal-Mart's size and impact worldwide make it the ideal vehicle for a serious discussion of urgent questions of public policy and corporate responsibility. The guiding question, as Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott, Jr. posed it at a town hall meeting in Los Angeles, concerns "the proper role of business and government in assuring that capitalism creates a decent society."
Wal-Mart's multi-faceted impact on society means that the curriculum reaches across academic disciplines, including Political Science, Sociology, Economics, Business, Management, Urban Planning, Geography, English, Labor Studies, American Studies, International Relations, Global Studies, Environmental Studies, and Women's Studies. Although interdisciplinary in nature, each module is generally geared toward certain disciplines as follows:
Part I: Interdisciplinary overview
Part II: Business, Management, Sociology
Part III: Sociology, English, American Studies, Women's Studies, Labor Studies
Part IV: Economics, International Relations, Global Studies, Sociology
Part V: Political Science, Urban Planning, Geography, Environmental Studies
Elizabeth Cohn has a Ph.D. in International Relations from American University. She has published on U.S. foreign policy and Latin America and taught for the last ten years at Goucher College and the Monterey Institute of International Studies. She teaches in International Relations, international political economy, Latin American politics, U.S. foreign policy, American politics, and the media and politics.