I suggest some of the following preparatory steps and resources for teachers planning to use the documentary for an argument writing assignment:
Suggested guiding questions:
- What is globalization, and how does it impact product manufacture and sales?
- Who produces goods for the U.S. market and where?
- Why do more and more U.S. companies manufacture and source products overseas, and why do U.S. consumers purchase these products?
- Why do overseas factories welcome U.S. customers and investors?
- What are the working conditions at foreign factories producing goods for the U.S. market?
- Why do factory workers in foreign factories work under the current conditions?
- What role, if any, does gender play in the U.S.-overseas production chain?
- How are artifacts/products embedded with social and cultural meaning? How and why does a product become disposable?
- What are the economic and social impacts of globalization?
Suggested teacher resources:
- Fishman, Ted. C. China Inc.: How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World. New York: Scribner, 2005.
- “Made in China: Wal-Mart Unions" on the YaleOnline website
- “200 Years of U.S. Trade with China” on the Asia for Educators website hosted by Columbia University
Suggested Opening Activities:
"Made in China" Label Search
Ask students to check their clothes, shoes, and other personal items to look for “Made in China” and other product labels, and ask them to record the names of all countries printed on the labels. Use pins or masking tape to record the countries, along with the number of items, on a large world map (which has been placed on the wall or taped onto the whit board). Without further commentary, ask students to proceed to the next step.
Give the following instructions to the students: What does our map, with our notes, tell us about global trade? What do you already know about today’s global trade and its impact on people in the U.S. and other countries? What are your personal assumptions about “Made in China”?
Have students share their thoughts with the entire class. Write their main points on the board in two columns: global trade and “Made in China.” Ask the students to summarize what they already know about global trade and what their assumptions are about “Made in China” products in particular.
My complete lesson plan, which is available upon request, suggests two follow-up assignments:
1. An oral presentation, by groups of 4-5 students, summarizing and analyzing the motives and conditions of one category of people shown in the documentary and proposing one argumentative thesis statement about their topic. The students will get to choose from the following: The party crowd in New Orleans, the New Orleans businessman, the Chinese factory owner, the young female factory workers in China, and the families of the factory workers in China
2. An argument essay, expressing and supporting an opinion on some specific aspect about the human impact of globalization, as shown within the context of the documentary Made in China: Mardi Gras.
By the way, the documentary has also been used as a resource by many other disciplines, including sociology, history, and anthropology.