Captivated by Cultures
Written by Idea File Staff
Deb Buttleman Malcolm expects her students to be able to do more than reading, writing and editing when they graduate from her program — she expects them to be culturally literate.
Since 1997, Malcolm, who was recently named a 2002 Distinguished Adviser in the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund’s High School Journalism Teacher of the Year competition, has been pioneering a multilingual publishing program in which her students travel to other countries to produce their publication and learn about others’ cultures.
“We are global, and not enough globalization is being taught,” Malcolm said. “Journalism is a way to do it very, very well.”
Malcolm, newspaper and yearbook adviser at Davenport Central High School, Davenport, Iowa, has been advising the Blackhawk newspaper since 1995 and advising the Blackhawk yearbook since the ’96-’97 school year.
Earlier in her career, Malcolm stopped teaching in schools and operated a performing arts studio, but the desire to reach academically challenged students lured her back.
“I would see many kids who were creative and talented but not doing well in school because they didn’t see the relevancy of other subjects,” Malcolm said of her work at the performing arts studio. She went back to teaching in school with the specific goal of using journalism to teach students who hated English to enjoy it.
She still uses journalism to turn students on to English, but she also uses it to teach them other subjects and cultural literacy. She said students might not see the relevancy of math, but to crop pictures or lay out a page, they have to learn ratio and proportion.
“So many things are involved in journalism,” Malcolm said. “It is a way to be a jack-of-all-trades and find that spark in one area that turns a kid around in all areas.”
This year Malcolm will take 20 students to Brazil for an exchange, something she does every three years. Her students will put together one issue of their newspaper while in Brazil. She said the exchange is a great way to get her kids to learn about other cultures from their own perspective, which she thinks is of utmost importance.
“If they don’t understand other cultures, they’re not going to make critical decisions as far as their lives.”