The educational journey for all our students at Cameron will be viewed through the framework of an international studies program, and an understanding of the shared humanity that binds nations together will provide the backdrop. Learners will be empowered by having them relate curriculum that transcends the boundaries of the classroom to the realities of the global community. A wide variety of learning opportunities will be presented to each student, and that will result in an informed, compassionate, lifelong & CultureSmart learner who strives for excellence in an ever-changing world.
There are many windows through which we can look out into the world. It has much to offer all of us, but there are many different ways to view it – and students, in particular, often have narrow perspectives, having peered through but one of these windows. With that in mind, the students in Cameron Height’s International Studies Program are encouraged to broaden their horizons and to consider things from many points of view because this is what adds to the richness of life. It is our feeling that they need to learn about different cultures and their beliefs, values, customs, and traditions as all nations move closer together. In so doing, they gain perspective by viewing themselves as only one part of a much larger human experience, and we believe that they will arrive at a deeper understanding of the world around them. The International Studies Program at Cameron Heights provides windows on the world through which to gaze in order to help students discover their own place in the nature of things, and to help them better understand the many aspects of the human experience.
The international focus of this program is appropriate, we believe, for many reasons. First, Canada has long been a country of immigrants. In 1971 when Prime Minister Trudeau committed the government to a policy of multiculturalism, he firmly established Canada as a Mosaic, rather than the Melting Pot of our southern neighbours. It is important, then, that all students understand and celebrate who they are and how they fit into this Mosaic. This is especially true in our own community. Kitchener is the fourth largest centre for immigration in the country, and it is interesting to note that over seventy-five different first languages are spoken in the homes of our own Cameron Heights’ students.
The “Global Village” is in fact becoming a reality for all of us. Rapid developments in communication, travel, technology, economics and politics have brought world issues to our doorstep. We must all now learn how to become more responsible global citizens. Indeed, Canada’s future may depend on it. Our trade policies necessitate that we prepare students to compete in a global marketplace. This is particularly true in the service sector where Canada has a competitive advantage and multi-national corporations are constantly seeking employees who are sensitive to the nuances of culture and who are committed to a global vision.
Not to be overlooked is the fact that students have come to value a curriculum infused with global thinking. For students, an international curriculum provides an invaluable opportunity to engage a broad range of human experience that respects all peoples and that values the richness of cultural distinctiveness. At Cameron Heights, emphasis on the CultureSmart process helps students to understand cultural similarities and to celebrate cultural differences. The CultureSmart classroom has an atmosphere that respects all peoples and embraces social justice, and it has a decidedly positive impact on student attitudes and better prepares them for life in a diverse society.
Finally, teaching from a cross-cultural perspective encourages teachers to develop new ideas about how to integrate international themes into the curriculum. It excites the imagination and increases the potential to promote an awareness and appreciation of other cultures by considering different points of view. It also encourages interdisciplinary curricular planning, team building among staff, and it provides a strong sense of direction for the school.
It is for these reasons that we believe students will benefit enormously from having been provided with relevant and interesting windows on the world.
These global realities necessitate that we teach from a broader cross-cultural perspective, enabling our students to be “CultureSmart” moving beyond simple awareness and tolerance of different cultures to active learning from these cultures. CultureSmart means helping students to interpret a cultural experience, to consider the implications of this new perspective, and then to have the vision and courage to integrate it into practices that will make the world a better place.
Being CultureSmart is not a new concept. Early American settlers from Europe knew little of democracy until Benjamin Franklin, in his official capacity as printer for the colony of Pennsylvania, began to interpret records of the various Native American assemblies. He came to understand that each nation elected a sachem (delegate) to serve on the Grand Council. Realizing the implications of this governmental system, Franklin proposed that the original Thirteen Colonies each elect a delegate, and eventually convinced the Founding Fathers to integrate this idea into a federal system of government. Ironically, the General Assembly of the United Nations, also based on the system of delegate representation, is located on the very territory in New York that once belonged to the League of Iroquois Nations.
Today, being CultureSmart is as important as ever. Consider the case of government policy in the country of Bhutan. Whereas in North America government policy is driven by the Gross National Product, in Bhutan the overriding government policy is Gross National Happiness. We are immediately struck by the difference between our product-centered and their person-centered outlooks. How would North American culture be affected if it were to integrate a similar philosophy?
All cultures have distinctive features that offer rich learning experiences for students and prepare them for life in a diverse society; and increasingly, schools in North America are adding international and cross-cultural components to their curricula creating opportunities for students to be CultureSmart.