The Washington Conference: 2/19-21/2015

Pursuant to attending this past weekend’s US Department of State/IREX conference in Washington, it was an unexpected surprise to hear the strong emphasis displayed by the private sector and our government in preparing our students to be globally competitive.

While I certainly gained many insights from a teaching perspective, I found even more interesting learning a very interesting fact from one of the administrators.  In his conferences (there were some separate teacher and administrator sessions), executives from major companies, such as Microsoft and Western Union, spoke emphatically to the need for globally competent employees that can compete with the much more world savvy representatives from Chinese and European companies. These executives stated that frequently, these latter competitors’ ability to relate to the customer’s culture and different perspective, allows them to win the contract.  They emphasized the need for a globally competent American education starting in the elementary grades.

Furthermore, I gained several insights on globalizing my classrooms.  As you surely understand, the difficulty of including a global perspective in a core course at NCSSM presents itself in the form of having barely enough time to cover the required content.  I even devised a workable solution for that dilemma.  For example, when addressing the topic of energy, I can have the students do a calorimetry lab in which they burn a nut (peanut, walnut, etc.) in a set-up that transfers the energy to a container of water, allowing thereby the measurement of caloric content.  I can then relate the lab results to world hunger and provide as extra credit points, added to a test, the opportunity to prepare a short literature review paper on some aspect of hunger from a scientific point of view.  In this manner, I can imbue my core chemistry class with a global perspective with minimal time investment. In addition, I can probably apply this formula to other topics.

Having been involved in international matters since 1983 and having experienced adapting to a new culture, I certainly see the value of preparing globally competent students. Therefore, I intend to expand the global perspective of all my courses, continue offering the Italy Mini-term experience, and most importantly initiate next year a series of extra-curricular Special Study Option courses to enhance NCSSM students’ global competitiveness.

I look forward with excitement to the challenge.



One thought on “The Washington Conference: 2/19-21/2015

  1. We are, indeed, a most parochial society. Britain is often thought of as a very insular society, but the percentage of British who hold passports is very much higher than that of the US population.

    Years ago, I ran across a Kurt Vonnegut quote that, to my mind, neatly encapsulated the ultimate solution:

    “I’ve often thought there ought to be a manual to hand to little kids, telling them what kind of planet they’re on, why they don’t fall off it, how much time they’ve probably got here, how to avoid poison ivy, and so on. I tried to write one once. It was called Welcome to Earth. But I got stuck on explaining why we don’t fall off the planet. Gravity is just a word. It doesn’t explain anything. If I could get past gravity, I’d tell them how we reproduce, how long we’ve been here, apparently, and a little bit about evolution. I didn’t learn until I was in college about all the other cultures, and I should have learned that in the first grade. A first grader should understand that his or her culture isn’t a rational invention; that there are thousands of other cultures and they all work pretty well; that all cultures function on faith rather than truth; that there are lots of alternatives to our own society. Cultural relativity is defensible and attractive. It’s also a source of hope. It means we don’t have to continue this way if we don’t like it.”

    I’m glad that there is a concerted effort, albeit one whose scope is wholly inadequate to the need, to address this issue. Thanks for doing your part!


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