Wednesday, April 17

University Internationalization

So, we've been talking about internationalization of my university.  Like, do we want to make it a big part of where the university is heading, etc.

And today as some people talked about it in all the "right" words (the kind you get hired to spearhead such an initiative with), it occurred to me that those "right" words seem kind of wrong.

Like...cross-cultural interaction is supposed to aim for teaching privileged people that they're not the center of the world, but that it isn't necessarily about teaching them that it's wrong if they find themselves there.

I felt it was about setting upper-middle-class white people up to be benevolent dictators in an apartheid country.  "You're going to be the minority in this country, so learn about someone different than you."  But there was no mention of anything like, "You're going to lose your power in this country, so learn how to not be in charge."  Just, "Learn about someone different than you."  Which is why I feel like we were talking about learning to be really noble, nice, friendly white South Africans or something.

The person talking today mentioned how internationalization started after WWII, when we thought having people go to each other's countries could make them such sensitive people that we wouldn't have big wars again, but that we needed to move beyond that.  But ultimately, I felt like that "next step" in "internationalization" was "making a classroom discussion out of your brown neighbors."  (See this post - found via blackamazon)

I'm torn - this kind of education is the STORY OF MY LIFE.  Satisfying curiosity about people who're different than me.  I have lived this model of learning and still live it.  I wouldn't be blogging without that part of my life.

But I feel like there has to be a better way than this to better our local society.

I remember a dinnertime argument w/ a close family member who felt that an immigrant community in my town/state, no matter how big it got, shouldn't ever get majority rule in charge of my town/state, because white people had better ideas about policy-setting than they did.  (Not that she knows anything about that immigrant community's social structure.)

This.  This is the kind of opinion that I think is so important to change.

I feel like the real work is not in putting our immigrant neighbors into an academic mental zoo, but getting privileged people open-minded to the idea of living by policies set by them.  It's not just about surveying Hmong people about their family structure and finding a common pattern and memorizing that pattern as trivia you now know about Hmong people.  It's about cultivating an attitude of being okay sending your kids to a public school district whose board's policies are shaped by Hmong ideas of what's good for children and families.  "Internationalization" of education seems to me that it should be about teaching humility - fostering attitudes that one is not the first person in history to live under a different culture's rules, like them or not.  And so on and so forth - real democratic power, not apartheid.  Something like that.

That's all I've got.

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