I write this at the official start of Brexit, as Theresa May sent the letter officially invoking Article 50 today, the start of a long and torturous process that will result in the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. Brexit, no doubt, feels far away for the average FYC student; I imagine most have never even heard of it and fewer still would consider the relevance of this historic moment to their lives. Yet, one of the enduring themes of Emerging is the deep interconnectedness of the world. So, in that vein, I am thinking about how to teach some of the issues around Brexit in the FYC classroom.
Kwame Anthony Appiah is the obvious starting point. In “Making Conversation” and “The Primacy of Practice” Appiah proposes that isolationism is no longer an option. The world is too big, too crowded, and too connected. His vision of cosmopolitanism isn’t a utopian one, but it does emphasize the fact that we need to find a way to get along. The entire notion of Brexit is an interesting challenge to Appiah’s ideas, one students can work through in their thinking and writing: what does it mean for cosmopolitanism when a major world power moves away from connection and towards isolation? More hopefully, how might Appiah’s concepts of cosmopolitanism and the ways in which practices can change without shared values offer guiding principles to path ahead when it comes to Article 50?
Brexit is going to be happening for a couple of years. We really don’t know how it will impact the world, the United States, or our lives. But it’s worth talking about, thinking about, and writing about.