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Cross-Cultural Writing: Intergenerational Communication


Who knows only his own generation remains always a child.

George Norlin


There are only two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though everything is a miracle.

Albert Einstein


The trouble with life isn’t that there is no answer; it’s that there are so many answers.

Ruth Benedict


There is more to life than increasing its speed.

Mahatma Gandhi


Teaching support team

Dr. Jack Williamson, Community Liaison,

Dr. Luellen Ramey, Community Liaison,

Frank Kogen, Community Liaison and Tech Support,


Historically, humans have other-ized – Us vs. Them.  We are hard-wired to do so – as hunters and gatherers, we needed to know who had our backs if either a mastodon or an enemy tribe approached. Now, we’re no longer worried about mastodons; we have new ways to other-ize. 


In the United States, Americans celebrate a frontier mentality.  We live where we can build our lives, moving from place to place for college and jobs, leaving family behind.  Between that frame of reference and the exceedingly different circumstances in which different generations have lived in the last century, including the Great Depression, Cold War, Vietnam, cultural upheaval, and technology revolution, we have grown apart.  This does not help us.  Slavoj Zizek, who addresses international and environmental concerns in his essay “Enjoy Your Nation as Yourself!” argues that our “physical survival hinges on our ability to consummate the act of assuming fully the ‘nonexistence of the Other,’ of tarrying with the negative” (Zizek, 237). 


Here at the University of Colorado exist individuals who experience yet even more kinds of “other-ness” for a variety of causes: first generation students, military service, race, ethnicity, gender identification, parenthood, nontraditional and working students, age, immigrant, and ways kept even more secret. 


The goal of this course is to bridge those chasms and find new ways to collaborate and communicate, to identify challenges and posit solutions so that we can recognize and transcend “other-ness” and even celebrate it. The challenge is to reinvent ways of thinking about difference and divide, whether by age, race, nationality, gender, etc., academic proscriptions, and other impediments, in order to use difference productively for creative problem solving for issues we face in the 21st century.  Beginning with a focus on generational difference, we will then move through social and socio-economic issues that arise from other-izing.


By the end of the course, you will have a framework with which to examine different kinds of ways to evaluate information and either accept or deconstruct constructs related to “other-izing”, and design tools to move forward proactively within that understanding to enact a stronger community for yourself and those around you. You will also have worked as a team with community members to take on a major social issue or community issue.  As the course is built on mutual mentorship (although it falls under the umbrella of service learning), you and community members will teach each other new skills or give new insights, and work as equals to solve challenges.   Hopefully, we’ll become “us.” Well, if not that, this class will be great preparation for the work world and will look phenomenal on your resumes, as the ability to work with other generations is something that employers actively seek.  The community members offer outstanding networking possibilities, as they all have interesting professional and “real world” experience.  And, of course, as this is an upper division WRTG 3020 course, you will improve your critical thinking skills, research skills, and your critical and creative writing skills in regard to the topic at hand.  The format for this class is as diverse as the scope of what we are taking on.

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