NBA-China ‘mini crisis’ to be taught at Ridgefield High

The National Basketball Association’s dealings with China have received national headlines over the last 10 days, and now Ridgefield High School students will get a chance to learn about them and other international business relationships in a new class that was approved by the Board of Education on Tuesday night.

Jesse Peterkin, the school’s business teacher, presented the new semester-long course titled “International Business” that will be open to sophomores, juniors and seniors during the 2020-21 school year.

“International business is a popular topic and through this course students can learn from case studies to analyze current ongoing situations, like the NBA’s dealing with China,” Peterkin said. “I don’t know if you’ve heard about this mini crisis but I just saw that they were burning LeBron James jerseys in Hong Kong for what he said the other day. ... It’s on the top of a lot of people’s minds.”

Peterkin said that another subject that fascinates his business students is a looming trade war with China and other nations.

“Students ask me all the time, ‘how are these going to affect the markets?” Peterkin told the board. “We think it’s critical for students to understand world business in order to compete. They will gain a better understanding of international markets, exchange rates, communications, currencies, and cultural traditions.”

He pointed out that Ridgefield students are very well traveled — sometimes even before they enter the high school.

“I’ve had sophomores come in who’ve been all over the world,” he said. “Offering a class that fosters this type of engagement will be helpful. We hope it inspires them to study international business at the collegiate level and one day work abroad.”

High school Principal Dr. Stacey Gross agreed, noting that the course would be attractive for students who have interests on a global scale.

“This will incorporate cultural exchanges and highlight the little things we see as differences in a global society,” she said.

She used the example of French exchange students who just arrived at Ridgefield High School Monday afternoon.

“They do lunch very differently at their school in France,” she said. “Knowing the customs and practices of another nation could affect everything in a business deal.”

Finding the right resources

Board member Doug Silver wondered about how the course would find “contemporary materials” to use in the classroom.

“How do we get access to the right materials?” he asked. “How do you find them?”

Peterkin said most examples would be case studies, and that some of them would be timely — like the NBA and China.

“We will have to see if there’s a relevant textbook to teaching international business but I imagine it to be heavy on using case studies,” he added.

Silver wondered how the class would test for different abilities.

“What if there are math obstacles? Or if the reading materials are too above them?” he asked.

Peterkin said it was a familiar challenge.

“We face that in all of our business classes,” he said. “College level case studies are really important to offer. That’s the best way to test aptitude. There will also be projects related to cases.”

Four other courses

The Board of Education unanimously approved four other new courses at its Oct. 15 meeting.

They were “Health & Education in Urban Communities,” “Composition Across Technologies,” “Product Design I,” and “The Innovation STREAM” — an interdisciplinary course based in the school’s reading department.

“It’s exciting for the English department because we’re usually teaching Shakespeare,” said Patricia Boutilier, who presented the Composition Across Technologies course.

Boutilier, the English department chair, said it was the right time for the school to be innovative in its approach to composition.

“We want to drive them to new interest areas, like podcasting and show what makes an effective podcast,” she said. “How to speak persuasively and effectively. ... It’s also about combining text and image to tell a great story. How do you make a great handout? These are the types of questions we will explore.”

More than anything “Composition Across Technologies” will help students tell their stories.

“We will focus on writing skills and teach writing but this is an extension beyond just writing, and it will present new opportunities for a bunch of different kids that might not be interested in a composition course otherwise,” she said. “We’re thinking it will attract business majors who want to sell products and tell a story to a broader audience. .... Another group we hope to attract is journalism and yearbook students who are dealing with that intersection of technology and print.”

Boutilier told the board she’d like to limit the course to juniors and seniors.

“They have to have confidence as writers,” she said. “And the subject matter is more advanced than an incoming freshman can probably handle. We want to have a more mature student base that has a certain level of skills. They will be presenting beyond just their student peers and their teachers. We want them to take the lessons learned and apply them in the real world.”