Date of this Version
Published in Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council Vol. 12, No.1 (Spring/Summer 2011). ISSN 1559-0151
Clifford Geertz ends his Introduction to Local Knowledge, the 1983 collection of his lectures, with an admonition:
To see ourselves as others see us can be eye-opening. To see others as sharing a nature with ourselves is the merest decency. But it is from the far more difficult achievement of seeing ourselves amongst others, as a local example of the forms human life has locally taken, a case among cases, a world among worlds, that the largeness of mind, without which objectivity is self-congratulation and tolerance a sham, comes. (16)
Carolyn Haynes, in “Overcoming the Study Abroad Hype,” reminds us that American higher education has come to expect that “study abroad” will do for our students what we have not accomplished through courses designed to open minds, enrich imaginations, and polish world citizens. She also reminds us that global understanding is far from a guaranteed outcome of foreign study. Often, routine perceptions, stereotypes, and long-standing assumptions about people and places are resistant to change—particularly when they are only implied rather than articulated or challenged—and prevent us from achieving the “largeness of mind” that Geertz advocates.
At its most recent annual conference on “Global Positioning: Essential Learning, Student Success, and the Currency of U.S. Degrees” (January 2011), the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) focused on “globalizing” undergraduate education. The presentations addressed international experiences, but sending students abroad was not, as such, a dominant issue addressed. Rather, presenters concentrated on courses and co-curricular experiences that help students develop ways of seeing and knowing that promote perspectival flexibility, arguing that without appropriate and pertinent ‘mindsets’ students were unlikely to derive the maximum benefit from study abroad.