Friday, July 13, 2007
At one point in my life I was selected to take four 11-year-olds to an international camp in Leeds, England, through an organization called Children's International Summer Villages or CISV. "My" two boys and girls were chosen after a number of screening sessions. We spent a month living with children from 11 nations and junior counselors (teenagers) from two more.
The purpose was to focus on our similarities as humans, not our differences. Children from Scandinavian countries (similar not identical languages), English-speaking and Spanish speaking nations were not bunked together. The objective was to make us communicate and work with each other. Activities were designed to mix the kids, not segregate them by any manner. It worked - a great four weeks and contacts made that were maintained for decades.
Today instead of providing opportunities for American students to mix, too many college campuses encourage various subsets to maintain their respective exclusivity - in dorms, ethnic organizations, etc. The idea of mixing across cultures has become taboo.
The goals of the 1960's and CISV were to foster awareness, appreciation and acceptance across the board. Today, the same people who voiced they wanted this cross-culture community are the same people who now demand that separate facilities for ____________ subset be supplied at universities and funded at public expense. And this same mindset claims it wants everyone to be a member of the "global community" while using its authority to segregate student populations by mostly outward characteristics.
This does nothing to foster an American identity, an ideal which is truly unique on the planet. No other nation (or global community concept) provides the opportunity to succeed with hard work, regardless of race, creed, ethnicity, national background, etc. A key reason this belief grew was because our universities used to encourage an environment to mix; today they foster division by differences and discourage finding common ground.