|When Worldviews Collide
||Day TIRPers -
From left: USC volunteers Leila Valanejad, Ben May and Jacey Roche
Photo by Philip Channing
Issue: Spring 2005
Lessons in Worldliness
nearly 30 years, Steven Lamy has tried to bring foreign relations into
focus for kids whose travels don’t extend much beyond the L.A. County
line. Thanks to a tireless crew of USC student volunteers, thousands of
inner-city youths receive lessons in worldliness.
By Carl Marziali
The world has changed since the Cold War, but high school history classes still languish behind the Iron Curtain.
The problem is, history curricula usually run chronologically. With
centuries if not millennia to cover, world history for 10th graders
often stops at the Korean War or the fall of the Berlin Wall. A few
lucky students get a crash course in current affairs on the last day of
school – hardly the best time for intensive study.
But even those few lucky students do not receive systematic instruction
on the principles of foreign policy, and the use of those principles to
understand current affairs.
While civic and business leaders make speeches about an increasingly
international and interrelated world, International Relations is a
forgotten subject in American high schools.
At Roosevelt High School, in the Boyle Heights district of Los Angeles,
students carry cell phones, browse the Internet and surf their cable
remotes. They have the best tools ever devised for worldwide learning –
and no manual for making sense of the world.
“They don’t understand foreign policy. We don’t teach foreign policy.
And that’s what they need to understand the U.S. and the world,” says
Estela Leon ’95, a history teacher at Roosevelt who had majored in IR
and political science at USC.
The problem is not limited to urban public schools. IR major Erin
McLinn, currently a senior at USC, graduated from an upscale prep
school in Minneapolis with similar limitations.
“I had your basic world-history class when I was a 10th grader, but it
focused more on history, not contemporary relations,” she says. “I
didn’t receive anything like this when I was in high school, and I kind
of wish I had.”
“This” is TIRP, the Teaching Inter-national Relations Program. TIRP is
the outreach centerpiece of USC’s Center for Active Learning in
International Studies (CALIS) – and it may be the only program of its
kind in the country. Every year, more than 200 IR students at USC
volunteer to teach in teams of three at up to 20 high schools around
Los Angeles County. Their mission: in four one-hour sessions, give
young people a basic grounding in some key principles of foreign
For most local high schoolers, TIRP is the only instruction they will
receive in the field of international relations. Last year, the program
reached close to 2,000 of them.
McLinn and two fellow USC IR majors, Joni Lim and Ilka Turcios, brought
TIRP to Leon’s class last fall. Despite the early hour (first period at
Roosevelt starts at 7:30 a.m.), two dozen 10th graders awaited the TIRP
team. Outside, the sounds of band practice – thumping drums and blaring
brass – beat against the classroom walls. Inside, the students
earnestly applied themselves to problems like famine, disease and
As a warm-up, the class was asked to identify pictures from current
events: a presidential debate, a car bombing, refugees fleeing Darfur.
The responses showed many of the students had been watching CNN or
reading the newspaper.
Next they moved on to the main activity, a role-playing game. It was
their third TIRP session, so by now the Roosevelt kids knew what to
expect. In no time they were divided into six groups, each representing
a different Third World nation. Allotted 100 units of international
aid, the students faced a deceptively simple task: Decide how to
distribute the aid. How much should go toward education? How much
toward health care? How much for power generation and for the military?
Handouts from the CIA’s World Factbook helped them set their priorities.
Turcios, a USC sophomore from Passaic, New Jersey, who plans to work in
the foreign service, assisted the groups representing Libya and
“Even some students who do not normally feel comfortable or
enthusiastic enough to participate much during class discussions were
very active in this project,” she wrote in her Web-based journal. “They
linked multiple problems together to come up with a more efficient
solution, such as the need for better agriculture and the lack of fresh
water along with unemployment and low exportation.
“When they discovered that Botswana uses more electricity than it makes
… [they allocated] larger funds for technology in order to develop
alternative sources of energy such as solar or wind power, which they
noted would also lower the high unemployment rate.”
||Out of this World
Steve Lamy is the kind of teacher alumni will talk about at their 50th reunion.
Photo by Michele A. H. Smith
is run by students for students. Student-teachers are volunteers; their
journals are reviewed by CALIS student-staff who are themselves IR
majors and TIRP veterans. Following Lamy’s models, these
student-staffers make sure each team is giving valuable instruction.
They don’t hesitate to point out shortcomings. One reviewer wrote:
“Your lesson plan said that you were going to use levels of analysis…
What happened? It’s really important to include an analytical tool
because then, even after you leave, the kids will ... have some sort of
basis with which to analyze international events.”
This continuous review process sharpens and improves the more than 200
classroom activities in the TIRP database. Spanning topics from China’s
one-child policy to transnational pollution, these case-specific
simulations, exercises, maps and analytical tools are posted online (usc.glo.org/calis/db) and accessible not only to TIRP volunteers but to anyone interested in IR instruction.
Leon has included TIRP in her modern history curriculum at Roosevelt
for two years. The impact on her students is clear, she says.
“They definitely have become more interested in international affairs.
They’re watching the news, and for most of these students, news is not
what they [normally] want to watch. They’ll come back and ask [good]
questions. It’s coming out of TIRP.”
Leon says she makes the most out of TIRP visits: “Every activity that
[the volunteers] bring, I save it and use it for another class.”
There’s another benefit, not directly related to IR but just as
compelling for an inner-city school like Roosevelt, where many students
never consider higher education: Whenever a student team teaches a
session, it brings along the reality and the possibility of a USC
“I think in a way we give them role models,” says McLinn.
TIRP volunteers are young, just a few years older than the high
schoolers they’re teaching. And they’re attending college. That can’t
help but make an impression.
Listen to Roosevelt student Javier Banuelos talk about his desire to
improve conditions in places like Nigeria, the country his group
studied earlier that morning:
“What’s interesting to me is to get more involved, to see what other
countries need. I’ll probably go around to all these other countries …
if I have a chance, try to help them build,” he says.
It’s not unusual for ambitious youths like Banuelos, who dreams of
becoming a civil engineer, to turn to the armed services as a way to
pay for college. If he should take that route, Banuelos may find
himself posted to a foreign country with a gun in his hand and – save
for a few hours of TIRP – no understanding of the forces that sent him
That void is what USC professor and School of International Relations
director Steven Lamy has been trying to fill his entire career. As a
graduate student at the University of Denver in the late ’70s, Lamy
immersed himself in outreach, driving from Wyoming to New Mexico to
lead weekend workshops with high school history teachers.
“He was on the road Saturday after Saturday,” says Michael Fry, now a
professor emeritus of international relations at USC, but at that time
dean of international studies at Denver. “Steve was running the
[outreach] program for the graduate school. It was extremely
successful. High school teachers were just flocking to the seminars,”
Most doctoral students follow a standard formula: maximize research
time and do everything possible to minimize your teaching obligations.
But for Lamy, communicating his research was the exciting part. At
Denver, he realized that his field’s traditional vehicle of
communication – academic journals – misses a large and important
The teachers Lamy met on those weekend excursions were starved for
knowledge – especially the academic knowledge professors share only
with other professors. He met teachers with master’s degrees and
doctorates subsisting in an intellectual “desert.” The problem was not
a lack of interest but a paucity of university-level IR continuing
education. Lamy’s workshops filled the vacuum.
When Fry accepted a post at USC’s College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
in 1981, he found the IR school’s undergraduate and outreach programs
lacking. A year later, he persuaded his Denver protégé to join him in
Los Angeles and rejuvenate it. Lamy succeeded so quickly and so
completely that when the two spoke at a conference in 1983, Fry was
introduced as the professor who came to USC with Steve Lamy.
TIRP and CALIS are the direct descendants of those early outreach
efforts. (For a full description, see the center’s home page at
Changes in sponsorship and grant funding have led to changes in the
names and affiliations of programs, but the goals have stayed the same.
CALIS, founded in 2000, includes TIRP in English and Spanish (about 200
high school students a year receive Spanish-language IR instruction) as
well as teacher professional development, leadership conferences for
high school students, visiting scholar programs for local schools,
collaborative projects with other USC schools and many more activities.
For example, last October six Los Angeles teachers active in CALIS
attended the university’s 2004 Asia Conference in Korea on scholarships
furnished by the USC Marshall School of Business.
Co-sponsored by the East Asian Studies Center (a sister unit also based
in the College), CALIS is partially funded by a state initiative to
improve foreign-affairs instruction in California schools. CALIS staff
say they have found no other IR outreach program that teaches high
school students directly. Other well-known programs, such as those at
the University of Denver and at Brown University, focus mainly on
teacher training or curriculum publications.
||Premier for a Day
TIRP volunteer Ben May helps Franklin High students role-play the part of Third World decision-makers.
Photo by Philip Channing
of the first outreach workers to join Lamy at USC was Teresa Hudock,
formerly a teacher at a Catholic high school in Studio City, Calif.
They met at an in-service day for archdiocesan teachers. A year later
he hired her to help run his outreach program. She now directs CALIS.
“What I was drawn to then is exactly what I am still working on now,”
says Hudock. She remembers being struck by the clarity of Lamy’s
framework for studying IR. His model organizes the classical schools of
political thought into three distinct “Worldviews” – those of the
system maintainer, the system reformer and the system transformer. With
this model, a student can understand, explain and predict the policy
choices of a person or a nation.
Lamy did not invent the schools of thought described in his model. They
have been around for centuries. He did, however, classify and organize
them in a way that clarifies the sources of clashes between rival
nations and political systems.
Differences in policy choices are linked to differences in worldview.
“The Worldviews framework,” Hudock explains, “reveals the nature of
conflict. So, for example, when analyzing the critical issue of
security, students can develop a case for either an arms race, arms
control or disarmament depending on whether we focus on how the world
is anarchic or the dynamics of collective security or the merits of
creating peace through justice.
“With a systematic approach to track each perspective and its logical
policy choices, students can then see the possibilities for negotiation
or compromise between conflicting assumptions and values.”
But to talk only about the Worldviews model would be to understate
Lamy’s contributions as a teacher. The evidence suggests he belongs in
that select group of legendary USC faculty whom alumni will still be
talking about at their 50th reunion.
How many professors take mug shots of all their students to keep their
names and faces straight? How many notice a single student’s absence in
a class of 250? How many grade every last student essay (Lamy instructs
his TAs to write their comments in pencil; he then reviews all the
assignments and exams himself)? How many refuse to employ
multiple-choice exams no matter how large the enrollment? And how many
receive near-perfect teaching evaluations, year after year?
On a recent Thursday, one of the days Lamy tries to set aside for
research, he drafted five letters of recommendation for law schools.
That brought the tally to 55 in October; the previous year he had
Estela Leon, the Roosevelt teacher, says: “If you ask me who’s the most
inspirational teacher I’ve ever had, including high school, college,
elementary, I’d say Professor Lamy.”
Not many professors can walk into the Central Intelligence Agency
headquarters in Langley, Virginia, as Lamy recently did for a seminar,
and encounter a table full of his former students in the cafeteria, let
alone greet them all by name.
“Dr. Lamy, Dr. Lamy,” they burst out at sight of their former teacher.
Then as the sensitivity of their position dawned on them, they
demanded: “Don’t tell anyone we work here!”
Lamy has won 18 teaching prizes, including the 2002 USC Teaching Has No
Boundaries award, the 1998 Outstanding Service Award from the
Association of Trojan Leagues of USC, and the Burlington National
Faculty Achievement Award for Excellence in Teaching. He is an honorary
member of the USC Mortar Board Honor Society for his contributions to
undergraduate teaching, and he has been nominated by USC President
Steven B. Sample for Case Professor of the Year, sponsored by the
“He’s not just a great charismatic teacher, but he’s also a very
thoughtful and pedagogically innovative teacher. He really started case
studies teaching here,” says Jane Cody, associate dean of academic
programs in USC College.
Pioneered at Harvard University, the case-study method focuses on
specific events or organizations as a springboard for exhaustive
analysis of a given subject. Lamy was co-director in the late 1980s of
a case study program funded by the Pew Foundation for training future
diplomats. That earned him an invitation to train faculty in case
teaching at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government from 1990-94. He was
the only non-Harvard scholar to be invited under the Pew-funded program.
Just as he did as a graduate student, Lamy devotes copious time and
enthusiasm to teaching – hardly the standard formula for academic
success. When he first came to USC a well-meaning colleague counseled
him to duck his teaching duties as much as possible and concentrate on
research. Lamy ignored the advice.
“Anyone who commits that amount of time, effort and human resources to
teaching and to outreach is, in one sense, defying the model,” says his
former mentor Michael Fry, who also supervised the dissertation of U.S.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
“He is a national treasure for doing it,” Fry adds.
While Lamy enjoys what he does immensely, he wishes he could spend more
time on research. “Not too many people would devote a good part of
their life to professional suicide … by focusing on outreach,” he says.
“But if you believe in the possibility of reform and change – I mean,
this is the core of enlightenment, isn’t it? That we can make the world
better? – then you’ve got to start when kids are 3 feet tall, not when
they’re 6 feet tall. That’s one reasons why outreach to the schools is
The “professional suicide” remark should be taken with a grain of salt.
When you are the tenured director of the largest IR school in the
country and the third oldest in the world – the school celebrated its
80th birthday in 2004 – the health of your career is beyond question.
Lamy sits on the editorial board of the international relations series
of Cambridge University Press and is associate editor of the journal
International Studies Perspectives. He has published more than 30 book
chapters and articles in his two favorite areas: alternatives to
mainstream realist and capitalist theories, such as reform
internationalism or Wilsonian neo-liberalism; and the emerging area of
“niche diplomacy,” which studies the roles of middle powers on the
international stage. He is currently working on a case study of Pierre
Trudeau, the late flamboyant statesman who was at once Canada’s most
admired and most reviled prime minister.
What Lamy has sacrificed by focusing on teaching and outreach is the
chance at fame and fortune – through political appointment and
“He and I used to laugh and say: ‘Well, we know we’ve taken holy
orders,’” says Fry, referring to their shared commitment to teaching.
A considerable consolation has been the surge in popularity of IR in
recent years. In the fall of 2003 Lamy’s introductory class, IR 210,
had a record 300 students enrolled , with a huge waiting list. Lamy
offered it again in the spring; 260 students signed up. Thinking he had
cleared the backlog, he expected to see no more than 150 students this
fall. He got 285, with a four-page waiting list.
“You actually feel smarter walking out of the classroom,” writes one
student in an assessment that’s typical of Lamy’s course evaluations.
“But if you want to actually sit in a seat and take notes, it is wise
to get there early. And don’t even think about skipping his lectures,
because he knows when you’re not there.”
The factors behind the swelling enrollment are hard to pinpoint, though
foreign policy and world turmoil probably loom larger in students’
minds in the post-9/11 era. Whatever their concerns coming into the
class, Lamy tries to dislodge students from their preconceptions.
“I try to get kids away from thinking, ‘Oh, Bush is just too
conservative,’” Lamy says. “No, Bush is a system maintainer. But so is
Clinton. Somebody says, ‘Kerry’s too liberal.’ No, Kerry’s not too
liberal; he’s a system maintainer. He’s just a different kind of system
Lamy says his goal as an instructor is to get kids to think outside
what he calls “the groove.” This well-traveled channel “has been dug by
socialization in schools and relationships with parents and friends,”
he explains. “I don’t care if they stay in that groove, but I want them
to come up for air once in a while and to look at some other
Lately, Lamy is excited to see a growing number of IR majors at USC who
first encountered TIRP in high school. These students ask for more
readings, he notes. They respond to the material, they make the subject
And they volunteer for TIRP.
Marziali is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. His last article,
“And Referenda for All,” about direct-democracy expert Elizabeth
Garrett, appeared in the Autumn 2004 issue.