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Education Opinion

We or Us v. Them

By LeaderTalk Contributor — September 26, 2009 1 min read

I recently returned from a state-wide teacher education conference, NC-ACTE. This is a local conference and thus tends to deal with local issues....yet I was glad to see some major issues introduced. One was brought up by our Teacher of the Year. Being a foreign language teacher, it is only natural that her luncheon talk dealt broadly with intercultural communication, embracing technological change, and the need for cultural exchange. These are points I advocate every day. The one point however that made me scratch my head is this idea of ‘competition.’ We often hear rhetoric such as “America is loosing its competitive edge” and “we need to understand others so we can compete against them’ and my favorite is the sports analogy, “we need to understand the other team so we can beat them in the global marketplace.”

Rationalizing international exchange under the guise of competition creates a dangerous space. This creates an us versus them mentality - this is negative, counterproductive, Fordist mentatlity. I would rather hear this exchange take place under the umbrella of cooperation. This may then create a we mentality. This is a positive space. I take students overseas, teach comparative education, and prepare educators to be technologically savvy school leaders by stressing reciprocal relationships and a focusing on a marketplace that is driven by working with others to create solutions for everyone. I feel my students leave me better prepared to create this new space.

Are we socializing and thus preparing our k-16 students through the lens of cooperation, collaboration, and intercultural understanding or are we holding tight to a paradigm where they are taking our jobs and we must win? The difference is not so subtle and the results may be huge!

Jayson Richardson
University of North Carolina Wilmington

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