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Dr. Michael Woolf

Michael's unique role at CAPA takes him around the world to conferences as a frequent presenter and attendee. He serves on a number of boards and committees, including the Curriculum Committee of the Forum on Education Abroad, the Editorial Boards of Frontiers and the Journal of Studies in International Education, EAIE’s Knowledge Development Task Force, and Braun Stiftung für Internationalen Austausch. He has written widely and has published extensively on international education and cultural studies. Most recently, he published work aimed at critically reviewing the core assumptions of study abroad. 'Thoughts on Education Abroad' is a monthly column of short essays sharing his thoughts and expertise on the subject.

Recent Posts

"I'll Kill You": Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism, and Memory

Nov 29, 2018 4:03:39 PM / by Dr. Michael Woolf

Blue-Remembered Hills

The playwright Dennis Potter (1935 – 1994) associated the idea of nostalgia for childhood with “blue-remembered hills”: a metaphor for locations distant in time that are formed and reformed in our memories. The notion of “blue-remembered hills” precisely captures the process of reconstruction through which we selectively revisit days long ago and the people who populated that dreamed space. We invest the past with colors that are emotionally, if not literally, true.

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Posted in: International Education, Study Abroad, History Abroad

Wearing the Poppy: Poetry and the First World War

Nov 9, 2018 2:36:00 PM / by Dr. Michael Woolf

What we remember

The ending of the First World War (1914- 1918) will be widely commemorated on November 11th  2018. It was a global conflict that began and ended in Africa; thirty per cent of the British troops served on the Eastern Front. The conflict reshaped the international environment.  Old monarchies failed. The Austro-Hungarian and the Ottoman Empires collapsed. New countries in Europe and the Middle East emerged from the ruins including Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia, the Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Trans-Jordan. The consequences of that war are still part of our global political landscape.

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Posted in: International Education, History Abroad, Cultural Insights

Talking About My Generation

Oct 30, 2018 2:30:00 PM / by Dr. Michael Woolf

Well, people try to put us down.
Talkin' bout my generation.
Just because we get around.
I'm not trying to cause a big sensation.
I'm just talkin' bout my generation.

—The Who (written by Marley, Carter, Jones etc.)

The idea that being born at a particular point in time creates some kind of collective identity is a relatively recent invention. The idea of a “generation” only came to be used to distinguish the younger from the older in the early 20th century. As an arbitrary means of interpreting historical change, it implies that those born within a given period are invested with distinctive behavioral traits. Sarah Laskow argued that “Societal generations are a relatively modern idea, hit upon by 19th century European intellectuals and refined in the beginning of the 20th century.” The idea of the generation offers a mechanism by which we impose some kind of pattern upon history: a model defined by age conflict.

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Posted in: International Education, Study Abroad, Cultural Insights

All That Jazz

Oct 11, 2018 4:30:00 PM / by Dr. Michael Woolf

The Attraction of the Jazz Joints

By and large, jazz has always been like the kind of a man you wouldn't want your daughter to associate with.
—Duke Ellington

Jazz is the language of the emotions.
—Charles Mingus

I spent a good deal of my mildly reprehensible youth listening to jazz in places where I was not supposed to be—predominantly in Soho in Central London. From about the age of 14, in the early 1960s, I began a lifelong love affair with jazz—not just the sounds but with the places in which it was played and the people who played it.

Soho has become gentrified in these days and few of the old, smoky subterranean jazz joints remain; none of them are smoky now of course and most have become boutiques or perfume shops—ironically sweet fragrances have replaced the heady mixture of sweat and tobacco. The most famous is Ronnie Scott’s jazz club but it has been deformed into a corporate “venue” for tourists and visiting business types (but at least it’s there, even if hideously expensively and much altered in ethos). These were refuges from respectability.

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Posted in: International Education, Study Abroad, History Abroad

Conversations in Brave Spaces: Jews and Black Americans

Sep 20, 2018 4:30:00 PM / by Dr. Michael Woolf

Dr Michael Woolf CAPA International Education

"Thoughts on Education Abroad" is a monthly column written by CAPA The Global Education Network's Deputy President and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Michael Woolf.

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Introduction: Safe and Brave Spaces

You might be forgiven for thinking that the history of black–Jewish relations in the United State was one of tension, suspicion, and hostility. For years, the only headlines to include blacks and Jews in the same sentence were ones that screamed mutual mistrust, such as the Crown Heights riot of 1991 and the inflammatory rhetoric of the Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan. And yet the truth of that history is more complicated than those examples might suggest…Coalitions of black and Jewish leaders founded the NAACP and the National Urban League; Jewish civil rights protesters and attorneys flooded the South for freedom marches in the '50s and '60s, while prominent rabbis marched arm in arm with Martin Luther King Jr.

"Black Sabbath: The Secret Musical History of Black-Jewish Relations" From the catalogue for 2011 exhibition at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco

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From every human being there rises a light.

Baal Shem Tov (c.1700 – 1760).

One of the important conversations at the Diversity Abroad conference in Miami (March 2018) focused around a transition in thought from “safe space” to “brave space” in higher education. The idea of “safe space” is protectionist, intended to offer environments in which students who feel marginalized (by race, origin, sexual identity and so on) can feel unthreatened.

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Posted in: Study Abroad, History Abroad

Borders, Mobility and Migration: Privilege and Pain

Apr 27, 2018 10:30:00 AM / by Dr. Michael Woolf

Dr Michael Woolf CAPA International Education

"Thoughts on Education Abroad" is a monthly column written by CAPA The Global Education Network's Deputy President and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Michael Woolf.

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At the annual CAPA symposium in March we discussed these inter-connected themes because they are crucial to the theory and practice of education abroad. They will also be explored in greater depth in our next Occasional Publication (May 2018). The notions are problematic, made complex by history and contemporary dynamics. A myriad of factors including technological change, political will, prejudice, aspiration, ethical practice, competing ideologies shape the ways in which we perceive borders, and understand mobility and migration. In addition, the question of mobility signifies a distinction between privilege and dispossession on a global scale; critically, do you have a choice, and can you go home again?

CAPA_Borders, Mobility and Migration_Forum-1_GeneralSymposium

Borders

Crossing borders is at the heart of our endeavours in education abroad. These borders may be geographically defined or, like nations, be political inventions. They may also be metaphorically constructed, as the perceived barriers between ourselves and the unfamiliar. They are also not static: political borders and nations come and go. Where is Yugoslavia? In An Atlas of Countries that Don’t Exist (London: 2015), Nick Middleton supplies examples of 50 countries whose borders are now matters of aspiration or imagination. In our living memories, the map of Europe has been redefined.

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Posted in: Study Abroad

The Dean and Mr Schneider: No Laughing Matter

Mar 30, 2018 10:30:00 AM / by Dr. Michael Woolf

Dr Michael Woolf CAPA International Education

"Thoughts on Education Abroad" is a monthly column written by CAPA The Global Education Network's Deputy President and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Michael Woolf.

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Laughter is a serious business, and comedy a weapon more dangerous than tragedy which is why tyrants treat it with caution. 
—Joe Orton

The world is sick, and I'm the doctor. I'm a surgeon with a scalpel for false values.
—Lenny Bruce

All humor is rooted in pain.
—Richard Pryor

pexels-photo-417270-architectural-design-architecture-art-balconyPhoto: public domain

In America, anyone can become president. That’s the problem.
—George Carlin

Washington couldn’t tell a lie, Nixon couldn’t tell the truth, and Reagan couldn’t tell the difference.
—Mort Sahl

In these troubled times when bigotry is political orthodoxy and, paradoxically, political correctness is used as a weapon to constrain freedom of speech, it seems to me that we are in urgent need of the power of comedy. Throughout our history, comedians, satirists and humorists have pricked the balloons of prejudice and self-righteous pomposity, exposed idiocy and cruelty to ridicule. Offending orthodoxy is a moral obligation in outrageous times. Two figures, the Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin and Mr. Schneider of New York, separated by almost 250 years and 6,000 miles, demonstrate the power of humor and ridicule; our openness to these voices is some measure of moral health. Comedy is, as these two figures demonstrate, a political scalpel cutting through the flesh of corruption, cruelty, idiocy and indifference.

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Posted in: Study Abroad, History Abroad

Imagined Space Revisited: Europe and the Obscene Whisper

Feb 23, 2018 10:30:00 AM / by Dr. Michael Woolf

Dr Michael Woolf CAPA International Education

"Thoughts on Education Abroad" is a monthly column written by CAPA The Global Education Network's Deputy President and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Michael Woolf.

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I have written and spoken recently about Europe in the light of the Brexit referendum. Whatever your view of the outcome, history has been curiously absent from the debate. We have tended to demonstrate collective amnesia in that there has been little consideration of the role of the European Union in leading, whether by accident or design, to over 50 years of relative peace within the region. The traditional and bloody animosities between the major nations of Europe, France and England on one side and Germany on the other, have given way to a sense of common interest, if not quite common identity.

Euro Currency Portrait.jpg

The question of collective memory was alternatively illustrated by the extended period of World War I commemoration that culminated in the ceremonies of remembrance in London, throughout the UK, and in many other parts of the world on November 12th, 2017. Remembrance Sunday takes place every year on the nearest Sunday to Armistice Day when the hostilities of World War I ended at the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918. This event was rendered even more potent in contrast to the amnesia demonstrated by Brexit. Two versions of Europe paradoxically coincided. One is marked by what is for some political expediency of the moment. The other is the product of historical continuity.

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Posted in: Study Abroad, History Abroad

Imagined Space: Inventing the East and Creating the West

Jan 26, 2018 9:30:00 AM / by Dr. Michael Woolf

Dr Michael Woolf CAPA International Education

"Thoughts on Education Abroad" is a monthly column written by CAPA The Global Education Network's Deputy President and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Michael Woolf.

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Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet
—Rudyard Kipling The Ballad of East and West (1889)

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Making Space

The idea of space is critical in education abroad. We believe that exploration of unfamiliar space is of educational value and, consequently, we have developed a wide range of teaching strategies that take students beyond the formal classroom. A primary distinction between domestic study and education abroad is precisely the exploration and analysis of space through some combination of what we call situational learning and/or experiential education.

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Posted in: Study Abroad, History Abroad

Does God Like Christmas?

Dec 22, 2017 10:30:00 AM / by Dr. Michael Woolf

Dr Michael Woolf CAPA International Education

"Thoughts on Education Abroad" is a monthly column written by CAPA The Global Education Network's Deputy President and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Michael Woolf.

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Christmas can be celebrated in the school room with pine trees, tinsel and reindeers, but there must be no mention of the man whose birthday is being celebrated. One wonders how a teacher would answer if a student asked why it was called Christmas.
– Ronald Reagan

pexels-photo-santa-claus-ornament.jpegPhoto: public domain

Introducing Winterval

Things about which I am sceptical are unavoidable in these cold dreary days of December. If you live in London (or in most of the cities in which we operate) Christmas is omnipresent in our media, streets and shops. It begins, in fact, in early October and drags on for close to three monotonous months. It is in our eyes—tinsel town and twinkling lights —urging us to commemorate the conjunction of holiness and poverty by buying more and more things. It is also in our ears. Many of the Christmas Carols with which we are familiar were written in Victorian times. They are now heard, more often than not, as a kind of seasonal muzak in department stores: droning reiterations of sound devoid of meaning.

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Posted in: Study Abroad, Holidays Abroad