Tag: August 2016

Welcome Back!

Welcome to the 2016-17 school year, Pinnacle Prep School!

Hopefully, your summer has left you rejuvenated and energized for what promises to be an exciting school year.

When you return and once again walk through these familiar halls, you may now notice flags from a variety of nations, pictures of sights from all across the world, and road signs directing you to various historical locales. Don’t be alarmed! You are right where you belong. This year, Pinnacle Prep will be themed around our interconnected world. All students, in addition to honing their fundamentals in English, math, social studies, and science, will work through diverse and globally-oriented curriculums.
Every year, advances in technology and shifts in cultural and social landscapes shrink our world, so to speak, bringing disparate parts of the world closer than ever thought possible, and while that frightens some, the flag-icon-set_1063-23prospect excites us here at Pinnacle Prep. We have always sought to provide our students with a culturally rich and diverse education, one that’ll prepare our students to be active participants in our big small world. As such, we will spend this year developing global-minded students, comfortable in our ever-changing world. We’ll explore a variety of cultures, learn about an abounding and dense world history, and think about the role we’ll play in shaping this massive green and blue ball of clay.
As a culturally diverse school, we believe it is our responsibility to better understand the world around us. We know that it isn’t static and unchanging, and we know that what happens elsewhere can have a profound effect on the home front. To this end, we have planned exciting lessons, projects, and trips that will help our students grapple with world issues, and our teachers are looking forward to bringing this globalized education to life.
Of course, the world stage is particularly relevant as we begin our 2016-17 school year given that August 21st, the day before school starts, marks the final day of the Rio Olympics. This year’s Olympics, as always, boasts a great deal of interesting storylines—from an inspiring team of refugees that haabstract-shapes-rio-2016-background_23-2147559708s even caught the eye of Pope Francis, to the many questions surrounding Brazil’s capability of (and responsibilities in) hosting the games. Not to mention, the many captivating, multifaceted, and often heart-warming stories that accompany just about every athlete who has made it to this stage in their career.
The Olympics have a way of calling attention to not just the current relationships between nations but the history of those dynamics as well. As NPR recently pointed out (http://www.npr.org/sections/thetorch/2016/08/05/488507996/how-the-olympic-medal-tables-explains-the-world), the Olympics tell a fascinating and insightful story about world history, to the point that you can even locate the two world wars, which saw the cancellation of the games during the years they were waged, that so dominated global politics.
Furthermore, the 1936 summer Olympics in Berlin famously became a signifier for the rise of fascism in Germany and the global conflict soon to ensue.  The Germans, newly revived after World War I (after which they didn’t participate in the next 3 Olympic games), sought to use the games as an exhibit of Nazi propaganda, showcasing what their leadership suggested was a “superior race of men.” Germany even went so far as to try and prohibit Jewish and black people from participating in the games, but when the other nations threatened to boycott, Germany relented. Medal wise, the host country performed very well. The Germans took home more than 30 more total medals than the US, which finished in second, in addition to taking home the most gold medals as well, suggesting that this was a German nation on the rise. However, the 1936 games also gave us Jesse Owens, a black American, who won 4 gold medals and outperformed all individual athletes at that year’s games. As that year’s Olympics demonstrated, the world was already drifting into the conflict that would eventually explode into one of its most disastrous wars.
Likewise, the Olympics became a stage for the US and the Soviet Union to exercise their conflict with one another during the heights of the Cold War. The US boycotted the 1980 games hosted in Moscow because the USSR refused to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Then President Jimmy Carter called the Soviets’ invasion of Afghanistan an attempt to subjugate and steal from an independent Islamic state and also placed a trade embargo on the nation. The Soviet Union returned the favor by boycotting the Los Angeles Olympic Games held in 1984, claiming that they did not want to participate in the games because they viewed the games as a political ploy by their western rivals.  During both Olympics, with their primary rivals absent, the two host nations dominated the medal counts once they were tallied at the respective closing ceremonies.
Once again, this year’s Olympics has become its own microcosm of global politics, reenacted with all the drama of sport. Amid renewed tensions between Russia and the United Nations, due to the former’s military involvement in the Crimea region of Ukraine, more than 100 Russian athletes have been barred from this year’s games for violating the substance abuse policy. On top of that, this year’s host nation, Brazil, is mired in its own controversy. With a recently ousted president and the arrival of the Zika virus, many questions arose in regards to the nation’s capability to host these games; furthermore, these games have continued to call into question the Olympic committee’s responsibility when choosing a host nation.
With the Olympics drawing so many nations, both large and small, to one stadium, it becomes easy to see the good and bad in our world dynamics. Globalization brings with it all the burdens of how to best manage our world’s resources and its people, whatever their class distinction may be. The last few summer and winter Olympics have seen the host nations destroy land and dislocate impoverished populations in order to build the facilities required to host an event of this magnitude. Images of young, poor Brazilian children watching the torch lighting in tattered clothes from vacant buildings have proliferated as the games began. Similar images arose when China decimated whole villages for the Beijing Olympics and likewise in Sochi, Russia. These images call to mind all the burdens of global poverty, not just the ones highlighted by the Olympics. As our world expands and grows closer together, it becomes easy to justify the poor management and utilization of its resources and the displacement of its less politically and economically viable populations, and preparation for the Olympic Games has become its own metaphor for global commerce by way of mass corruption and exploitation.
mardiniBut a globalized world doesn’t have to be an exploitative one! The Olympics also have a way of putting humanity on display. Athletes like Yusra Mardini are indicative of the kind of human narratives that make the games compelling when they come around. Mardini competes on the newly created refugee team, and while she once used her swimming abilities to help pull a boat of Syrian refugees to safety, she is now chasing medals while the whole world watches. These are the kinds of stories that remind us of human tenacity and capability. Mardini, and the other members of her refugee team, are not considered serious medal contenders in this year’s games, but their presence and their drive inspires all those able to watch and even their fellow competitors.
They also drawing attention to a plight that might otherwise go ignored. After being announced as a member of the first-ever Olympic refugee team, Mardini told the press, “I want everyone to think refugees are normal people who had their homelands and lost them not because they wanted to run away and be refugees, but because they have dreams in their lives and they had to go.” Throughout the games, she has talked of one day bringing her story home, back to Syria, when it is safe to do so. She dreams that her experience will provide hope for her fellow Syrians who might now feel hopeless. “Everything is about trying to get a new and better life,” she says, “and by entering the stadium we are encouraging everyone to pursue their dreams.”
Of course, the global community has to first take notice. While it is fun to get excited about our nation’s competitors and the medals they earn, the Olympics are best watched as a display of global humanity, full of diverse stories and people. It is under this light that Pinnacle Prep School wants to pursue this year’s theme. We want to look around the world and see opportunities for learning, enrichment, and betterment. There’s no better way to broaden your knowledge than to step outside of your borders and start taking notes.
We hope you are ready to embark on this global trek with us, students. Grab your maps, open your minds, and get ready to see what’s happening all around you!