CAPA RGB Logo

Dr. Michael Woolf

Michael Woolf is the Deputy President Strategic Development at CAPA and serves on the Curriculum Committee of the Forum on Education Abroad. 'Thoughts on Education Abroad' is a monthly column of short essays sharing his thoughts and expertise on the subject.

Recent Posts

On the Attractions of Studying Abroad in Europe

Jan 15, 2019 2:41:00 PM / by Dr. Michael Woolf

What is Europe?

Europe is not just geographical space. Defining Europe by geography is complex, contested, and controversial. Russia and Turkey are within and without. The British use the term the “Continent” to mean everywhere in Europe except Britain. We should also recall the headline that may or may not have appeared in The Times when Britain was enjoying Imperial pomp (and when “Great Britain” was not irony): “Fog over the Channel. Europe cut off.”

Continue Reading

Posted in: London, England, International Education

Making Time

Dec 18, 2018 2:30:00 PM / by Dr. Michael Woolf

By the early 14th century…in textile manufacturing towns like Ypres… workers found themselves regulated not by the flow of activity or the seasons but by a new kind of time – abstract, linear, repetitive… work time was measured by the town’s bells, which rang at the beginning and end of each shift.
—Ray Patel, Jason Moore, “The True Cost of Cheap Food,” The Guardian, 8 May 2018.

Continue Reading

Posted in: International Education, Study Abroad, History Abroad

Colonialism, Post-Colonialism and Postcolonialism: What It Means for Education Abroad

Dec 4, 2018 8:35:09 AM / by Dr. Michael Woolf

History and Metaphor

Discussions of colonialism and its legacies are rarely conducted in an ethos of reasoned neutrality. In the midst of the passion and turmoil that marks the discourse, it is possible to discern two distinctive narratives.

The first is historical. In that context, the focus is on the imposition of European control over “less developed” regions and nations for approximately 80 years, broadly from the 1880s to the 1960s. The primary colonial powers were European. Geographically, while there were many colonized regions, much of the debate centers around Africa. The primary example of a colonial power is Great Britain, probably because it was the most dominant and long-lived. Post-colonialism refers to the subsequent emergence of independent nations, often following prolonged liberation struggles, in the 1950s and 60s.

Continue Reading

Posted in: International Education, Study Abroad, History Abroad, Politics, thoughts on education abroad

"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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

---

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

abstract-pexels

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.

Continue Reading

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.

---

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.

Continue Reading

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.

---

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.

Continue Reading

Posted in: Study Abroad, History Abroad