Below is a summary of Chapter IV of the report Educating for Global Competence: Preparing Our Youth to Engage the World, by the Asia Society and the Council of Chief State Schools Offices. This chapter is titled “Globally Competent Students Recognize Perspectives.” In the chapter, the authors explain what is meant by recognizing multiple perspectives and give examples of two projects involving schools that are working to increase their students’ perspectives.
One of the qualities of globally competent students is that they should recognize perspectives from other cultures. In Chapter IV, authors Mansilla and Jackson discuss the benefits of recognizing perspectives and share two examples of how schools have done this. The authors explain that there are four aspects to gaining multiple perspectives. Students must be able to:
understand their own viewpoint and how it is influenced by other factors,
examine other perspectives,
understand how cultural interaction can influence “situations, events, issues or phenomena,” (p. 31)
gain an understanding of how a lack of resources such as technology can influence a group of people.
In one project discussed in the chapter, students from two California schools worked with students in a learning center in a slum from India to play the role of artists designing new types of shelters. The students interacted online through blogs, email and video conferencing. As they worked on their projects, the students gained new perspectives of the types of shelters around the world and how culture, lack of resources and other factors influence one’s perspective. For example, the California students had a new appreciation of their own advantages as a result of living in a wealthy country. The Indian students offered advice to the U.S. students such as using the slope of the roof of their structure to collect rainwater. Both groups reflected on their differences, but also noticed similarities in the way they planned and brainstormed to attack the task at hand. In the end, the students became “designers with a global consciousness” as a result of having worked together. (p. 34)
In another project, students in the U.S. and Afghanistan studied humor in each other’s cultures. They noticed differences such as how humor in the U.S. is often based on observations of daily life while humor in Afghanistan is frequently used to escape from painful situations. In an essay about the project, students reflected on their new perspectives and how they can integrate them to have a new understanding of the world.
These projects show that recognizing perspectives help break down stereotypes and develop cultural sensitivity in students. The authors state that this cannot be done effectively by reading texts alone, but by “engaging cognitively and emotionally” with other cultures to truly understand each other. (p. 36) As a result, these globally competent students will not view others as a threat and can integrate ideas from various cultures to gain new perspectives.
I think these projects clearly illustrate the benefits of having students engage with other cultures. These benefits can be lifelong. For example, the California students who collaborated with Indian students living in shantytowns will always remember this experience when hearing about India. It may even affect their perspective on problems with poverty in our own country and spur them to take action to alleviate this problem. Several students from the project have continued to work on designing structures that reflect learning from their interactions with the Indian students and propose solutions to problems in their communities. Although the authors did not mention this specifically, I think these projects help U.S. students break down stereotypes about poverty. The U.S. students may only know images of starving children from TV ads, but through programs like this they understand that children with limited resources in other countries can often think of creative ways to solve problems and do more with less. This is a very valuable lesson for U.S. students who are surrounded by wealth and opportunity.