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Modesto, California
The Search for Common Ground: Culture in California's Central Valley
Faculty participants in The Search for Common Ground attended a production of San Joaquin Blues, a play about life in the Central Valley, in order to create curricular units on the performing arts in region. Image courtesy of Modesto Junior College.

Faculty participants in The Search for Common Ground attended a production of San Joaquin Blues, a play about life in the Central Valley, in order to create curricular units on the performing arts in region. Image courtesy of Modesto Junior College.

Modesto Junior College’s mission to serve the immediate community inspired its new program, The Search for Common Ground: Culture in California’s Central Valley, which was funded by an NEH grant. The project aimed to provoke discussions that would explore the lives and culture of those who live in the Central Valley, and in particular the migrant, refugee, and low-income communities from which many of the college’s students hail. In partnership with local community colleges and state universities, Modesto Junior College developed a series of instructional modules that could be shared across the region. These modules teach critical thinking and writing skills while focusing on the Valley’s rich cultural heritage through works of art, film, music, food, and literature. These include Dorothea Lange’s photography, Merle Haggard’s albums, and Joan Didion’s and John Steinbeck’s writing, among many other works.

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