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International Mindedness

Who in the world, historical figure or living person, best personifies your idea of international mindedness?  It was a question posed this past weekend during the visual arts workshop at the International Baccalaureate World Schools Program Conference.   The International Baccalaureate program or “IB” for short, is a rigorous international scholastic program which encourages students to think about themselves, the world and their place in it. (Details about the program in an upcoming article.  Stay tuned.)   At the high school level, students are required to integrate international mindedness into each subject that they study.  But what is “international mindedness”?  After a animated discussion regarding  “who” exemplified this trait, many of us at the workshop needed to clarify our definition of what the term “international mindedness” meant.

Many felt that to be internationally minded meant that you show respect, sensitivity and honor for cultures and people who’s background differs from your own.  Several participants offered ways that their schools demonstrate this with multicultural activities and experiences for students and communities.  Another participant proposed a duality in her idea of international mindedness by stating that it could mean a celebration of the commonalities that we share as people or a celebration of our differences and what makes each of us unique. My own contribution defined international mindedness as an unconditional sharing- a willingness to share your gifts, your time, your resources with others unconditionally with no agenda.  I also added that unfortunately we too often see this trait surface when a disaster has occurred.

The discussion around this topic was energetic and thought provoking.  Most public schools make attempts to recognize diversity and multiculturalism, but do little to create genuine international mindedness in students.  How can we as teachers promote that way of thinking in our classes?  Is it important?  How will it change the way our students operate in the class? In the world?

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