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Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia: Food and Culture in the Classroom

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Not all scholarly resources, no matter how compellingly argued or well researched, work in the classroom. Finding good resources for undergraduates is difficult enough, but finding good resources for teachers in professional development programs is even more of a challenge. Works that have the proper credentials plus the appropriate appeal are not always easy to come by. Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia is a resource that fills these needs: it works with teachers and with students. After reading and discussing the essays, students of any age can come to a better understanding of the cultures of East Asia as well as the role of what James Watson calls “transnationalism.” Besides, almost everyone has some basic understanding of McDonald’s and what it stands for to contribute to the discussion—even those who swear they have never stepped under the Golden Arches or tasted a Big Mac, either here or in Beijing.

For the last several years, we have assigned Golden Arches East to undergraduate classes at Saint Louis University and to the participants in the teacher education programs of the International Education Consortium in St. Louis, Missouri. We have found that a wide range of students and teachers respond positively and enthusiastically to the themes in the book and to the questions it raises about the meaning of the McDonald’s phenomenon in East Asia.

Golden Arches East is particularly suited for use in teacher education programs because concern for teachers’ time in afterschool and summer programs is always a necessity and the authors’ engaging writing styles (and conciseness) make the material both accessible and informative. Moreover, the book allows teachers to double dip: after they have read and discussed it, they will have few problems turning around and assigning it, or portions of it, to their high school students.

Golden Arches East was assigned in two undergraduate courses: “Origins of the Modern World,” a freshman seminar that focuses on historical encounters among Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas since the 1500s, and “East Asia Since 1600,” a survey of modern Chinese, Japanese, and Korean history. Students in the courses also viewed “The Japanese Version,” a film that looks at the way the Japanese have appropriated pretty much everything under the American sun.

Watson, James L., ed., 1997. Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.