Saturday, November 7, 2009

Globalization, Schmobalization

I have been listening to Edward Fischer of Vanderbilt University talk about people and cultures of the world.  He has made it very clear that much of what we have in our minds comes from the culture we grew up in.  I doubted the extent this was true until he explained that why we think we are sick is cultural.  The idea that the physical world can be studied, sometimes understood and controlled or modified is cultural and some cultures don’t buy the idea.
Teachers have the experience of making a statement in front of the whole class, sometimes several times and then finding that some member of the group didn’t hear it, some forgot it, some know the statement and make use of it.  There is no way to make uniform the thinking, background, history or attention of a group of people.  That is true for a small group like 30 and much more true of a large group like the Texans or the Inuit.
Fischer talked about McDonald’s, often used as a symbol of globalization.  Some McDonald’s in the world serve beer, some wine.  Some serve rice and wouldn’t survive without doing so.  In some, the accepted polite practice is to spill all the orders of fries into a single pile, to be share by all at the table.  Take anything single item such as food and pass it around the world and you will see variations pop up
I have read that Napoleon’s minister of education swore he would get the schools of France in order.  He promised to have every child in France of the same age reading the same words at the same time.  It is a simple idea: get it right and enforce it everywhere.  At times, it works or seems to but basically over time, the uniformity will decay or be surpassed or outdated.
One of the strengths of American approaches has been keeping the eye on the goal and doing what is possible to achieve the goal, even by unusual or individual means.  As time goes by, we will see this all over the planet.  People are getting their confidence up and their thinking caps on!

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