Tonight, I was driving and listening to a segment of The World (the PRI show, The World) where they were discussing the progress President Obama is making (very slow, indeed) at getting the Senate to advise and consent on treaties. Apparently the U.S. has a habit of having diplomats agree to a treaty, and then the U.S. essentially lives by the terms of the treaty, but we don't actually ratify it.
Case in point? The Law of the Sea.
Wait a second...THAT hasn't been ratified?
In eleventh grade I had a social studies teacher who taught an elective class on The United Nations and International Diplomacy: The Law of the Sea. (That was not its exact name--but it was something close.) Mr. Sax deeply believed in democratic values and thought that the Law of the Sea was extremely important both for the environment and the world. Although I think he might be right about that, at the time it seemed somewhat esoteric to me, and certainly not worth getting as excited about it as he clearly was. [He was an idealist. I believe he was disappointed that Esperanto had not succeeded.]
The Law of the Sea treaty was written in the 1970s and early 1980s, and revised again in the 1990s. This is, in fact, one of those treaties that we have not ratified, but have been abiding...but if the U.S. doesn't ratify the treaty, then we are not officially a party to the treaty.
In any case, that story on The World transported me back to a subject that I hadn't thought about since eleventh grade. Was it worth learning about? I don't know. It was fun to recognize it today.
The other item Mr. Sax insisted that we learn has been more useful to me. He insisted that we learn to fold the newspaper so that it could be read while riding on the train or subway without getting it in your neighbor's face. (And of course, he meant The New York Times, because what other newspaper would be worth doing this for?) Now that I found useful--at least when I lived in the New York area.