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Being Cross-Cultural: Education, Life, and Ethnic Studies

Arizona Ethnic Studies Photo courtesy of: Wikimedia Commons. Photo labeled for reuse.
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By Aidan Loughran

Being cross-cultural is complex, but important to understand in modern society. While some may have an idea of what it means to be cross-cultural, others might not have a clue. Essentially, being cross-cultural is when an individual can relate to and notice differences between cultures.

The Diversity Symposium is a popular, annually held conference at Colorado State University. Prior to the pandemic, this event attracted large crowds full of people with interest in topics such as culture, global mobility, and diversity in general. Each day, speakers were brought in to share their expertise in specific areas of diversity. I was fortunate enough to attend Dr. Christine Sleeter’s speech, “Why Ethnic Studies and Critical Race Theory Matter for Education.”

Christine Sleeter is an author, speaker, and teacher who focuses on how the world can learn to respect diversity in shared spaces, such as schools.

Multicultural classroom (Image credit: Pixabay)
Multicultural classroom (Image credit: Pixabay)

Sleeter began by explaining how she grew up, which was in a predominantly white neighborhood. She went to school every day and was accepted, respected and fit into the “norm.” As she got older, Sleeter realized she was never exposed to people of color like she wished she would have been. Because of this, she began to study and teach Ethnic Studies. She later accepted a teaching position in inner-city Seattle.

After growing up in a white community, Sleeter was now in the position of being intercultural since she immersed herself into a predominantly African-American community. She said living and teaching in this area changed her view of herself, the United States and what should be taught in schools.

So, what should be taught in schools? Should terms like “cultural mobility” be mentioned more frequently in schools and in life?

School education learning
School, education and learning

By understanding diversity and cultural mobility on a domestic and global level, Sleeter did not only teach her students but learned from them as well. By looking past groups of people that are different than us, she found we are missing the chance to appreciate and look deeply into different groups. This is the most effective way to learn about others and get the chance to become cross-cultural and culturally mobile. In Sleeter’s article, “Impact of Ethnic Studies on Attitudes,” she talks about herself and her teaching styles, along with the ways in which ethnic studies can positively impact people.

She also asked us, “What is knowledge?” and “Who gets to decide what knowledge is?” I then thought deeper into the fact that while we learn by going to school, we also learn from the outside world: home, cultures, families, etc. To me, this critical thinking and insight is a step toward understanding what it may be like to be cross-cultural.

Cross-cultural (via Pixabay)
Image via Pixabay

An interesting article titled “Culture in the Classroom” talks about what it means to be culturally sensitive in the classroom. To be culturally sensitive, you should be or at least try to understand what it means to be cross-cultural. As individuals, we need to understand what others have been through so that we can become culturally aware in this society.

Sleeter’s main point throughout her presentation was that treating students as intellectuals is the most important thing we can do to be successful teachers, learners, and citizens. She showed a video of a fourth-grade teacher who goes to school every day with this approach. This teacher treats each student with respect and builds relationships with them so she can understand them as a person, which translates to her understanding the way they learn. The school found that her fourth-grade class had higher scores on their tests than any other.

After watching this video, it became clear that these results stemmed from this teacher treating her students as intellectuals, which is exactly what Sleeter tries to help people understand through her studies, books, and presentations.

This fourth-grade teacher, along with Sleeter, are transparent with their students. They understand where they come from, how it has impacted them, and how they will succeed as individuals. By doing this, being cross-cultural is becoming more prominent and will do nothing but help us grow and learn to love, accept and understand one another.

Aidan Loughran

Aidan Loughran has a strong passion for the world and the people that surround her each and every day. When writing for Culturs, she wants her readers to relate to everything she writes. She fills her writing with a passion for the world, cultures, and life in general. Third-culture kids along with all other individuals of unique ethnicity, race, culture, and tradition all have a story to tell — a story that she wants to be a part of.

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