Monday, June 28, 2010

The Law of the Sea

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.


  1. School is so much more than just the content that we learn. My class slogan is "Biology is life." We discuss and learning about life in class. I'll follow up by telling my students that most of them won't become biologist therefore a lot of the academic content that I teach will not be useful to them. That's why I try to focus on skills and abilities which cross curricular bounds such as data analysis, critical thinking, and interpersonal skills. These can be taught through the academic content that I teach and, like folding a newspaper, are much more valuable to my students in the future!

  2. I absolutely agree with you. As I was writing this, I was thinking that this was an attempt to focus on a cross-curricular topic in an in-depth way. The fact that it wasn't 100% successful is not, in my opinion, a terrible thing. If teachers don't try new things, they stagnate--and I did learn about international governance structures, which wasn't part of the mainstream curriculum.
    Regarding biology for life: at the college I went to, the Biology and Chemistry departments each had a wing in the science building, divided by a hall. Over the Chemistry wing, some students had written, "Better living through chemistry." On the Biology side, the students had written, "Better loving through biology." And of course, asking who wrote which one first is like asking who came first, the chicken or the egg?