Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Globally Competent Students Recognize Perspectives -Chapter 4 Reflection

Chapter four deals with helping students understand that each one of us in the world has unique perspectives. People have different perspectives and a key to becoming a global citizen involves the ability to acknowledge, understand, and appreciate different perspectives.  One personal example of recognition of different perspectives occurred in 1980 when I was living in Kenya, East Africa as a college student.  I was visiting a local hospital and several people assumed that I was a doctor.  I was surprised by this perspective.  I learned that there was an assumption that because I was a "muzungu" or white person I must be a doctor. The perception was based on peoples' past experiences and the idea that only a government sponsored position could afford someone the opportunity to travel so far to fulfill a service commitment.  There were many other religious and cultural perspectives which I encountered during my eight months there.

This chapter offers examples of how students have bee able to recognize perspectives in the following ways:

  • "Recognize and express their own perspective on situations, events, issues, or phenomena and identify       the influences on that perspective.
  • Examine  perspectives of other people, groups, or schools of thought and identify the influences on those perspectives. 
  • Explain how cultural interactions influence situations, events, issues, or phenomena, including the development of knowledge.
  • Articulate how differential access to knowledge, technology, and resources affects quality of life and perspectives."

The first example outlines a project between 2 American and 1 Indian school in which students explored shelters across the world.  Students communicated through blogs and Skype conversations.  Many lessons were learned about the different types of living conditions in India and America, abut shantytowns and suburbs and connections to nature and our environment.

Another project was described about a student, Alex, who did a comparison of humor in Afghanistan and America.  He explained the physiological benefits of humor and goes on to express how perspectives are key in the types of humor in these two countries.  He "argues that American humor is 'widely determined by observations made by one of multiple people.'  And it can easily be self-deprecating, as illustrated by the proverb 'it is better to be silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.'
Humor in Afghanistan has a different structure and social function. 'Bidar is a comedian on whom people rely to help them escape from pain and fear,' the essay explains.  One of his routines is to impersonate someone who is feared, helping people play with their pain.  Bidar's popularity in Afghanistan suggests to Alex that his kind of humor works in that particular context.  People in Afghanistan use comedy to forget aggression and heal from violence.  In addition, before local elections remote villagers use humor to promote themselves."

I thought that Alex made some interesting points.  I have never considered humor from a cross cultural perspective.  This is something I will explore further.  The chapter ends with a discussion of the need to give our students opportunities to challenge social stereotypes.  This topic could be covered in an entire book.  The main point is that there is a need at all levels to promote cultural sensitivity when formulating our ideas about others.  Stereotypes can be dangerous and education, experience and dialogue can help lesson the dangers. 

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