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letters | Crash course in global relations

A failing, perhaps, in how student was prepared

When Henry DeGroot wrote, “Don’t believe the lies your school and government tell you,” in violation of his signed code of conduct, he says he did so with the hope “the kids would read it and think about why this foreigner was writing this.” If DeGroot had been properly prepared, he would have known the kids perhaps would think the following: He was arrogant; disrespected their elders, their teachers, and the kids themselves; had caused them to lose face; was ignorant of their culture; and was immature. That he was hoping “they would be critical, or at least think about how their school and government interacts with them,” points to a failure in Newton’s cultural preparation program.

Unfortunately, many schools pay mere lip service to the idea of cross-cultural preparation. Without preparation students get less out of semester-abroad programs and often return with negative stereotypical images of the host country.

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The best preparation addresses cognitive, emotional, and attitudinal learning combined with on-site discussions of personal experiences. Teaching “the intricacies of Chinese culture and social norms,” as Newton does, addresses only the cognitive portion of the necessary preparation. Newton should assess its current program against these criteria.

Richard Amster

Cambridge

The writer provides training and coaching in cross-cultural management.

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