Honors class deals with real life

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, March 3, 2016

Discussing issues from Beyoncé at the Super Bowl to Battle of Algiers, the Class Covering Conflict and Different Cultures asks students the hard questions.

The class is held in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and is taught by professor and veteran reporter Curtis Wilkie.

The first portion of the class each semester deals with racial issues between blacks and whites, while the latter half deals with Middle Eastern and American relations.

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“It adds a new perspective to issues that are still relevant today,” freshman Emily Tipton said.

Tipton is in the Honors College as well as the Croft Institute for International Studies.

Tipton said the class is small, but everyone comes from a fairly diverse background. It keeps students on their toes by asking them to look beyond a social media post or hearsay and really know the facts.

The topics brought up in class for discussion are challenging to the students because there is no room for taking things at face value; students have to dig deeper and come to a conclusion before they make statements about cultural issues in the media.

Wilkie brings in literature, news articles, movies and personal experience in the field to teaching cultural communications.

Tipton’s first semester at Ole Miss was tainted with her own generation’s racial debate over Mississippi’s state flag and Confederate symbolism. She admitted she was not as familiar with the history of Ole Miss and its desegregation as she could have been.

Now in the spring semester, she began to recognize more of the historical value of what happened on campus in civil rights era.

“I was so fascinated,” Tipton said.

The class is currently in the second half and discussing Islamic extremism, border issues in the Middle East, the cultural differences and similarities between an Arab, a Jew and an Iranian. Middle Eastern conflicts are never easy to solve diplomatically and cultural misunderstanding can factor into political mistakes.

Wilkie discussed his time covering conflicts in the Jerusalem, Gaza and others countries during his time reporting for the Boston Globe.

“It’s a conversation for sure,” Tipton said.