GlobalSmackDown Keeps Students Informed on Important Global Issues

Professor Timothy Horner

On Monday afternoons on Villanova University's campus, Dr. Tim Horner—a professor in the Center for Peace and Justice Education—hosts a weekly 23-minute, on-campus discussion that focuses students on timely and important international news and issues. This program, which Dr. Horner calls the “GlobalSmackDown,” aims to develop students’ curiosity about and connections to the larger world around them.

This afternoon, Monday, Oct. 8, Dr. Horner covered the just-released report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“The experts who contributed to this report haven’t just crunched the numbers,” Dr. Horner told the group of students and staff gathered for Monday’s GlobalSmackDown in Falvey Memorial Library. “They described in detail how climate change will impact human lives and culture—in degrees of specificity that hasn’t been done before.”

GlobalSmackDown entered its seventh year this fall. Below, Dr. Horner answers a few questions about his GlobalSmackDown program—its origin and goals and the important information it provides students on complex global issues.

What was the idea behind Global Smackdown and what is your goal for students?

Dr. Horner: The idea for GlobalSmackDown grew out of the Arab spring back in 2011. For a couple minutes before every one of my “Nature of Genocide” classes, we would do a quick update about what was happening in the Middle East. Students wanted to know what was happening, yet it was all happening so fast that they couldn’t keep up. It was then I realized that there are students who really want to know what is going on in the world, but they feel overwhelmed by the amount of information that comes at them every day. This is when I first decided to start the GlobalSmackDown.

Why 23 minutes?

Dr. Horner: It is 23 minutes for precisely the reason you asked about it. People notice things like that. There is another practical aspect that people usually have classes or other events on the hour or half hour. This means that they can attend GlobalSmackDown and still get to a class or appointment by 2:30. I was inspired by John Stuart and John Oliver. Not in the comedy, but in the effort to make complex global events understandable and to provide as much trustworthy news and analysis as possible.

What recent topics have you covered and what do you intend to cover over the next few weeks?

Dr. Horner: I try to cover as much of the world as possible, but inevitably we do spend a lot of time dealing with events in the Middle East. These are the places in the world that are moving the fastest. But, whenever there are major elections or big moments in other countries, I definitely cover them. The one country that I do not cover is the U.S.  I say the same thing after every GlobalSmackDown: "God only knows what we will be covering next week." That is true. I do not plan these in advance.

All of the news stories that I use in GlobalSmackDown are from the previous few days. Sometimes I give historical context and use something from the past, but this is about getting people familiar with what is going on at the moment. I will sometimes use Twitter feeds to watch things live as they are happening. A few years back we watched as the Pope was elected. Yes, it actually happened during one of the GlobalSmackDowns!  We also watched a live twitter feed of one of the early peace marches in Homs, Syria. In the years that followed, we tracked the city as it was systematically destroyed.

It isn’t always easy for people, who are very busy with their own immediate concerns, to see how their lives can be expanded by understanding global events. The world can seem overwhelming, but over time you begin to see the humanity underneath the news. Our ability to connect to the world hinges on our capacity to care for the world.