Daring to Engage, written by David Minger
We are asking for a moment of your time and attention, to learn more about NWLACC and the Global Cultures Program (GCP), in partnership with the SW Schools, which strives to prepare students for success and leadership in our increasingly small world. Why is this program important? Look around the world. Cross-cultural understanding cannot wait. In the worst cases, it is truly a matter of life and death.
My involvement with NWLACC as an advisory board member and supporter of the GCP led me to reflect and recall a time when I was around 10 years old, and chose to stay in during recess because I wanted to look at a book on WW II that the teacher had brought in. That day, long before the Internet, before rated movies, in the days of Ozzie and Harriet-type TV, I had a painful, acidic splash of reality. I saw the horrors of how POWs were treated in the Pacific theater – images I still remember today. It was jolting to realize that humans could be so monstrously and senselessly cruel. That was a difficult reality to engage as a young man.
The challenge for us all today is to recognize that the same humankind that can perpetuate cruelty can also create beauty and love, and those of us who want the latter are the great majority. Most people from all cultures just want to live happy lives. As Pasternak’s character, Dr. Zhivago, who was fleeing warfare to find safety for his family, responded when challenged “And what will you do with your wife and child in Varykino?” – “Just live.” This is likely the same thought hundreds of thousands of refugees currently have. It is a desire that probably lives in our own minds when we look a world that has become both wonderfully and painfully small.
To be clear, the goal of the “daring to engage” and the GCP is not to hash out political arguments or engage in fruitless opinion swapping. Rather, the goal is to find and build on our common human ground, the core of human needs that defines the true biological race we belong to: the human race.
To achieve these goals, we need to create relationships, often (and typically) one person at a time. To come together and engage with others of different opinions, beliefs, languages, and cultures so we can all learn and increase understanding, rapport, and empathy. This approach is the bedrock of the NWLACC’s successful and expanding Global Cultures Program, and our collaborative work with South Whidbey schools.
NWLACC’s Global Cultures Program offers a dynamic space for students from kindergarten through high school, to encounter people from cultures other than their own, and have a primary experience of both the differences and the similarities. This year’s programs have been predominantly focused on cultures from the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
It’s a simple concept – bring the world to students, in face-to-face encounters. Each of these primary experiences, whether tasting traditional foods of the culture, engaging legends & stories, trying out new musical instruments, learning new dance moves, dressing up in their clothes, hearing about what it was like to grow up in rural Africa or cosmopolitan Tokyo – forges a new understanding: there are so many ways of living life, and we all want to live free to express ourselves. Often surprising and amazingly different, the cultures of the world have a kaleidoscope of expressions, each valid and honorable. And at the core is our common humanity; we all care about the same things.
As the students and cultural presenters share in the program, we witness liberation from their social and educational confines, as they expand their awareness and compassion and realize there is so much more to the world they are about to inherit as adults. In cultivating this enthusiasm to understand and appreciate diverse ways of living, we are nurturing our future global leaders to work in harmony across diverse populations, cultures, and perspectives.
We see the Global Cultures Program as crucial investment in a more compassionate and broad-minded community, and in a future generation of sophisticated problem-solvers, truly dedicated to the preservation of all life, liberty and the pursuit of peace and happiness.
And we do need your help – monetary and otherwise, as well as your participation – for our youth to be prepared for life and work and leadership in a very small world, and for persons of all ages to help achieve greater understanding across cultures for a better world where all have a chance not to just live, but to live more fully.
So please, DARE TO ENGAGE, and to support NWLACC and the GCP, because cross-cultural understanding cannot wait!
David Minger has lived in four states during his career in higher education, working in both university and community college settings. Most recently he worked as a vice president in colleges in Arizona and Oregon, and also has been an instructor in subjects as diverse as English, education, customer service, memory techniques, computer operating systems, and multimedia design. He is a lifelong student of languages and cultures, and holds a master’s in linguistics from UC Davis while currently working on his doctorate in education through Oregon State University. He and his wife Susan moved to Whidbey Island in 2015.