SPICE and The Stanford Challenge: 30 Years of Educating New Generations of Leaders

“Preparing the next generation of leaders and creating more informed elementary and secondary students means changing and improving curricula, setting higher standards, and ensuring that content is based on current research relevant to the world’s critical problems and urgent issues.” Coit “Chip” Blacker, FSI Director and Co-Chair, International Initiative

SPICE was established more than 30 years ago and serves as a bridge between FSI and elementary and secondary schools in the United States and independent schools abroad. SPICE’s original mission in 1976 was to help students understand that we live in an increasingly interdependent world that faces problems on a global scale. For 30 years, SPICE has continued to address this original mission and currently focuses its efforts primarily in three areas:

  1. curriculum development for elementary and secondary schools;
  2. teacher professional development; and
  3. distance-learning education.

SPICE hopes to continue to educate new generations of leaders by addressing five key initiatives of The Stanford Challenge, announced by President Hennessy last fall.

Initiative on Human Health / 1

SPICE is working with the School of Medicine and the Center for Health Policy on a high school curriculum unit that focuses on HIV/AIDS. SPICE is collaborating with Drs. Seble Kassaye, David Katzenstein, and Lucy Thairu of the School of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases & Geographic Medicine. Using an epidemiological framework, students will be encouraged to consider the many issues involved in the pandemic, including but not limited to poverty, gender inequality, and biomedical research and development. Two Stanford undergraduates, Jessica Zhang and Chenxing Han, are working with the physicians on this unit.

Initiative on the Environment and Sustainability / 2

SPICE recently completed a curriculum unit called 10,000 Shovels: China's Urbanization and Economic Development. 10,000 Shovels examines China’s breakneck growth through a short documentary that integrates statistics, video footage, and satellite images. The documentary, developed by Professor Karen Seto of the Center for Environmental Science and Policy, focuses on China’s Pearl River Delta region while the accompanying teacher’s guide takes a broader perspective, exploring many current environmental issues facing China. Stanford’s School of Earth Sciences is helping to promote this unit and documentary.

The International Initiative / 3

All of SPICE’s curriculum units focus on international topics. Two of SPICE’s most popular units are Inside the Kremlin: Soviet and Russian Leaders from Lenin to Putin and Democracy-Building in Afghanistan. Inside the Kremlin introduces students to key elements of Soviet and Russian history through the philosophies and legacies of six of its leaders—Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and Putin. The unit includes (on DVD) six lectures by six FSI faculty members, including FSI director Coit D. Blacker; professors David Holloway and Gail W. Lapidus, CISAC; professor and deputy FSI director Michael A. McFaul; history professor Norman M. Naimark; and history professor Amir Eshel, Forum on Contemporary Europe.

Democracy-Building in Afghanistan is a teacher’s guide for a film called Hell of a Nation. The film’s lead advisor and SPICE’s key advisor was former CDDRL fellow J. Alexander Thier. Hell of a Nation documents the lives of two Afghans participating in the political process to develop a new constitution for Afghanistan—illustrating the “human face” of democracy-building and elucidating the complexities and difficulties of democratic construction in a divided and historically conflict-ridden nation.

Arts and Creativity Initiative / 4

Following 9/11, SPICE decided to develop a unit called Islamic Civilization and the Arts, which introduces students to various elements of Islamic civilization through a humanities approach. Lessons on art, the mosque, Arabic language and calligraphy, poetry, and music provide students with experience analyzing myriad primary source materials, such as images, audio clips, sayings of Muhammad, and excerpts from the Quran. In each lesson, students learn about the history, principles, and culture of Islam as they pertain to particular forms of art.

SPICE recently completed a new unit called Along the Silk Road, which explores the vast ancient network of cultural, economic, and technological exchange that connected East Asia to the Mediterranean. Students learn how goods, belief systems, art, music, and people traveled across such vast distances to create interdependence among disparate cultures. This was a collaboration with the Silk Road Project, the Art Institute of Chicago, Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center and Center for East Asian Studies, and the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center.

The K-12 Initiative / 5

SPICE develops curriculum based on FSI scholarship, conducts teacher professional development seminars locally, nationally, and internationally, and also offers a distance-learning course called the Reischauer Scholars Program to U.S. high school students. At seminars at Stanford, FSI faculty members offer lectures to the teachers and SPICE curriculum writers give curriculum demonstrations that draw upon the content presented in the lectures. Last summer, Stanford professor Al Dien (Asian Languages) and the SPICE staff gave a workshop for 80 teachers in the Chicago Public Schools. World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed at the workshop.

The Reischauer Scholars Program is a distance-learning course sponsored by SPICE. Named in honor of former ambassador to Japan Edwin O. Reischauer, a leading educator and noted scholar on Japanese history and culture, the RSP annually selects 25 exceptional high school juniors and seniors from throughout the United States to engage in an intensive study of Japan. This course provides students with a broad overview of Japanese history, literature, religion, art, politics, and economics, with a special focus on the U.S.-Japan relationship. Top scholars affiliated with the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (including Ambassador Michael H. Armacost, Professor Daniel I. Okimoto, and Professor Gi-Wook Shin), leading diplomats, and young professionals provide web-based lectures as well as engage students in online dialogue. These lectures and discussions are woven into an overall curriculum that provides students with reading materials and assignments.

SPICE has for many years focused on the initiatives that have been identified by President Hennessy to be at the core of The Stanford Challenge. By continuing to focus on these initiatives, the SPICE staff hopes to continue to make FSI scholarship accessible to a national and international audience of educators and students, with the ultimate goal of empowering a new generation of leaders with the tools needed to deal with complex problems on a global scale.