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FACULTY PROGRAM TO FOSTER MULTICULTURAL AWARENESS

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It may be that the world isn't getting smaller but that countries and cultures are getting closer. Educated people have come to realize this and recognize that concern for the values, traditions, desires and beliefs of these closer cultures is a way to truly protect and nurture their own individual self-interest.

Interest in others is the only truly enlightened self-interest.This idea is what motivated Dr. Gary Parnell of Snow College to write for a Department of Education grant to provide a series of faculty seminars for English professors at Snow College. The Snow faculty designed the program that was developed and implemented by the Kennedy Center for International Studies at Brigham Young University. The goal of the program, according to Parnell, is to help bring international issues into the Freshman Composition and other writing classrooms.

In an increasingly international and intercultural world, it is vital that educational efforts include a strong emphasis on developing interest, empathy, understanding and tolerance for the marvelous variety of cultures, systems, lifestyles and languages this world has to offer. If we ignore the diversity of the world around us, or worse, if we actively resist involvement in the world of others, we expose ourselves to serious dangers.

Even if the rest of the world continues to good-naturedly tolerate our self-satisfied ignorance and apathy so that we avoid their well-deserved hostility, we are almost certain to find ourselves increasingly irrelevant in a world where knowledge really is power.

We risk the prospect of being increasingly relegated to the role of a quaint museum of apathetic isolationism. Only the most fundamentalist of the Moslem countries presently rival the United States in its willingness to ignore the need for more international and intercultural education in terms of foreign language, area studies, studies abroad, cultural geography and comparative political systems.

Thinking that the United States can do better, English composition teachers from Snow and English teachers from public schools meet with experts in language, geography, history and culture of five major regions of the globe, studying one area each week for five weeks of the summer. Countries and areas receiving special emphasis are the USSR, Japan, South Africa, the Middle East, and Central America.

Armed with new understanding and enthusiasm for these areas and cultures, the teachers will return to classrooms in the fall and assign writing projects that require research, discussion and serious thinking about issues in international understanding.

Because research and common sense indicate that students write better when they have something important to say the project seems destined to accomplish two important goals. Students will become more interested in the world of differences beyond our borders and they will write more interesting essays because they are motivated by the importance of their message to get it right and make it clear.

A step in the right direction is still only one small step. It would be wrong to expect too much from such modest efforts.

Anyone who has lived overseas for any extended period knows the futility of expecting to truly understand another culture after even the most extensive study at a distance. But even if deep understanding is not possible, a more modest yet vital goal is within reach.

We can, in a very short time and with a reasonable effort, change attitudes. We can engender a more open mind, a greater willingness to tolerate diversity and to listen to alternative interpretations. We can foster an inquiring humility where there was once only arrogant ignorance.

If we know what is good for us, we will cultivate in ourselves and in our children the realization that we are moving at an ever increasing pace toward a truly global community and that it is in our self-interest to be accepted in our closer world by feeling comfortable in that community.