As the first of what will be regular posts on interest topics of mine–race/culture, mindfulness, leadership (refraining from politics or religion)–I thought I’d start with an excerpt from a recently published article in The American School of Bombay‘s Intersections periodical. I wrote about schools’ neglected curriculum, that which goes deeply into race and culture issues (i.e. the differences among us). Most schools give superficial attention to the issues tearing apart peoples in the West (and the world, for that matter). The disturbing race-driven events taking place in my own country prompted me to call in from Saudi Arabia to On Point Radio’s show “Race and Violence in America.”
International schools are ideal laboratories to explore the myriad differences within our humanity. Our populations are diverse, our mindsets are global, and we are able to educate our motivated youth away from their ethnic comfort zones. This is a recipe for growth. Skills such as collaboration, problem-solving, communication, and critical thinking are getting appropriate attention as relevant for the 21st century. However, we cannot take full advantage of our privileged position if we cultivate these 21st century skills without also confronting the real-world context of applying these skills in an environment bursting with tension—stress caused by our difficulty in coming to terms with our racial and cultural differences. Unfortunately, most schools across the world are not delving deep enough into topics of race, culture, and active anti-racism. In avoiding the uncomfortable, or the difficult, we are doing our youth a disservice.
We have a moral imperative to prepare our youth for an interconnected world, where cultures intersperse (and sometimes collide) more easily than ever. Today’s young people think about race more often than we might believe. They turn to each other about what they see and think, and they would surely benefit from an adult interpretation of these issues. Through the media, they find numerous examples of injustice: racism in professional sports, mass evictions of Roma from settlements in Europe, and advertisements reinforcing negative stereotypes. They see public officials mistaking ethnic origins for national identities. They see our communities getting more segregated. They see the wealth gap widening. Often treated as simply newsworthy items, each issue or incident is a teachable moment, an opportunity to expose and come to grips with underlying issues of race, culture, and human rights.
How we understand, appreciate, and act on the differences inherent in humanity continues to be of paramount importance to society—as evidenced by blurring racial lines, a flat world, and entrenched institutional bias—and it has become more difficult to do so because it is not politically correct to be completely honest about one’s own racial views. In fact, there are countless examples of people (well-meaning or not) losing their jobs or reputations when mishandling a racial issue. As a result of this hypersensitive climate, a frank discussion on race has been forced out of the public sphere. Racism, once “in your face”, now operates under the surface, re-emerging at inopportune times. When an incident does occur, racism is quickly denounced, and perpetrators condemned. But this knee-jerk response rarely moves society closer to peace and harmony. Racism has been exposed, but not addressed. No learning has taken place. So, where better to unpack race issues than in the relative safety of the school setting?
For the full article, follow this link…
 Friedman, Thomas L. (2005) The World is Flat. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. New York.