Why Intercultural Fluency?

In my mind there is a very necessary shift that needs to occur in the world of diversity work.  There are many reasons for this shift.  Perhaps one of the greatest reasons being the feeling many people have of not knowing what to do after a training or workshop.  It is one thing to acknowledge diversity as a noun, and all that comes with that; doing something with that information is far less understood.  For a school like ours, with a focus on diversity as well as experiential education, it is crucial that we address the question of what do we do with the reality of diversity.  The word ‘intercultural’ is a perfect starting point.  To begin with it has a perfect opposite, ‘intracultural,’ which is the state of relating to ones own cultural group.  This is a state of being common to most because we are with our own kind.  It is also a state beyond which we as a school are trying to push our community.   One reason for this push is because as a community we are intercultural by nature, therefore it helps us be with ourselves better.  This directly feeds another reason to push beyond the intracultural modes of existence, which is our stated goal to foster local and global citizens.  An intracultural existence is not conducive to global citizenship, and in the United States in this day and age it is not conducive to local citizenship either.

There are many facets to consider when shifting to an intercultural existence. We need to help our students understand what is necessary in order for them to become better interculturally, including the self-knowledge, character development, patience and empathy required for such work.    In addition our students have to be challenged experientially in this regard as much as they are with any academic area.  In fact the only way to increase intercultural fluency is through experience because the main focal point is one’s relating abilities with humans culturally unlike you.  We also understand that in order for the students to develop this mode of existence, the adults in our community must be developed as well.  Example is often an effective teacher, and students are constantly watching the examples adults in their lives set.

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