INTEGRATING CROSS-CULTURAL STUDIES IN THE UNIVERSITY CURRICULUM : INTERCULTURAL EDUCATION BEGINS AT HOME
Elon University (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Conference name: 2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2009
Location: Madrid, Spain
Abstract:“Even students with advanced proficiency seldom develop bilingual skills and intercultural knowledge sufficient to meet their professional career needs by the time they graduate. As a result, the United States chronically lacks the multilingual language proficiency it needs to function effectively across cultural boundaries,” as H. Stephen Straight laments (ERIC Digest, 1998). Indeed, the inability of American schools in particular to produce multicultural competence has repressed this nation’s international effectiveness. Great opportunities and grave challenges abound in a ‘global village’ with more interdependent ecology, multicultural artistic and intellectual activity, and daunting cultural and political conflicts. We often lack the human resources needed to interact appropriately and successfully across the world's plurilingual and diverse cultural borders (http://lxc.binghamton.edu/lxcpart.htm). Offering experiences abroad beyond short-term cross-cultural connections, taking students outside their linguistic and cultural comfort zones, and stressing the value of international internships and service to develop intercultural understanding are of course major goals. However, the awareness that a solid cross-cultural educational foundation starts at home in our own curricula is vital. My paper will explore this idea, illuminating the implementation of multi-faceted cross-cultural content into coursework, which gives students the ability to see their own major from a multicultural perspective. Diana Davies explains that “we find students who have content knowledge, without having the skills and attitudes necessary to operate effectively in an increasingly globalized and inter-connected world.” Teaching and learning any subject across cultures, whether it’s engineering or art, not only allows faculty and students to function better in this new society and globalized economy but also encourages them to view their studies in a global context, to venture beyond their own cultural and linguistic borders in order to gain further perspectives and knowledge (http://lxc.binghamton.edu/lxcpart.htm).
During the presentation, I will first discuss the goals/rationale of cross-cultural education. Then, I will share experiences, the curricular materials, methodology, and goals/learning outcomes for my new seminar, for example. The course focuses on the diversity of French culture and the complexity of current and historical French–American relations through the lenses of colonization and immigration, the interconnectedness of socio-political, economic & educational systems, and globalization. It examines France’s paradoxical relationship to itself and the country’s shifts in national identity due to decolonization and immigration. When exploring multicultural France, students are encouraged to imagine how Americans may view the same subjects. I will also highlight my college’s pursuit of/struggles with internationalizing the campus. Finally, attendees interested in exploring the use of languages and cultures as a tool for internationalizing the curriculum across all disciplines can share struggles and successes from their own experiences and brainstorm innovative ideas at a grass-roots level, that is to say, by simply starting with class activities. I envision this as a collaboration of creative minds, a true cross-cultural experience in itself, and even the initiation of an international network of intercultural educators.