Taking a step back and looking at the state of the Earth as a whole might raise a few eyebrows. With news of terrorist attacks happening around the world seemingly every day, a constantly unstable economy, bigotry and hatred that forces its way into our lives at every twist and turn, it’s easy to see why some people say that, as a planet, we are struggling to a degree right now. A large part of some of those problems that exist around not just the United States, but the world, are made worse by a “me-first, others-later” means of thinking that may be a result of a lack of a real cultural understanding.
This isn’t to say that learning and experiencing other cultures will solve the world’s problems entirely–it won’t. But taking the time to get a grasp on not only your own problems, but those that exist around the world and understanding the lifestyles of others could lead to a greater understanding of others, their thoughts, and their actions.
Right now, our educational system is in a state of flux and criticism. Often, classrooms and schools find themselves underfunded, under-staffed, over-booked and replicating a core curriculum that they don’t necessarily agree with. And a cultural class within classrooms can only exacerbate the issue. However, if we start children off early with a sense of culturalism and worldly knowledge, perhaps these issues can be avoided in the future.
Bringing cultural studies into the classroom won’t just tack and extra unnecessary set of work into the curriculum, it can help stimulate young minds and open the door for further learning. Starting school-aged children on a path towards gaining a global perspective could be the steps needed to lead them down the road that eventually leads to studying abroad, traveling the world, or even a career in global studies or cross-cultural communication.
If your goal is to influence and inspire children, it may be best to do it when they are young. It’s been proven that it’s easier to teach a child a new language than it is an adult–but language acquisition is only one part of a cultural understanding. Children are often more receptive and eager to learn than teenagers or young adults. During these formative younger years, the opportunity to instill a cross-cultural understanding should not be wasted.
Bringing cultural studies into classrooms also facilitates learning outside of just that central subject. A cultural education helps to foster a broader understanding of the world as a whole, and can open your eyes to not only new cultures, but new perspectives. Simply put, not everyone solves their problems the same way, and a cultural understand can open the door to new problem-solving techniques.
It’s no secret that I stress the importance of getting a true global perspective. I was lucky enough to have the chance to have lived in multiple countries during my youth–though I recognize not everyone can say the same. Instead of putting off gaining a global perspective until you study abroad, the opportunity to teach it to America’s young minds should not be passed up on.