Cross-cultural Education Reaps Rewards
Students, teachers attend classes in Asian countries; host foreign students.
Editor's Note: This story is part of a nationwide Patch series probing the economy's effect on local schools.
The value of cross-cultural education is immense, say educators at Concord-Carlisle High School. A recent exchange with Turkmenistan is a good example.
English teacher David Nurenberg piloted the exchange program by traveling to the Asian country two years ago, and set up a sister-school relationship with a high school there.
Superintendent Diana Rigby said Nurenberg arranged a visit in October by Turkmen students. He established a partnership between CCHS and School Number 17 in the Western city of Balkanbat. Last February, Nurenburg and some CCHS teachers traveled to Turkmenistan, and this year, Turkmen teachers visited CCHS classrooms and shared their perspectives.
State Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester met with the Turkmen teachers to discuss their visit, Rigby said. Chester toured CCHS and learned about their experiences.
"The advantages are obvious," said Alan Weinstein, assistant principal. "Students get a more cross-cultural perspective on the world. Living in towns like this in America, kids don't always get a broad view of other cultures or how other schools work."
Weinstein said teens can be under a lot of pressure particularly in their junior and senior years, and experiencing another culture whether in Asia or elsewhere, can be enlightening.
"They get a sense of how life happens there," he said.
He said Turkmenistan was once ruled by a "rigid dictator in a rather closed society," until recently, and that students coming to Concord were surprised at the openness of the school community.
"It was mind and eye-opening for them," said Weinstein. "Their civilization is vastly different. That broadening experience allows students from both schools to see how others think."
He said teens from any country have much to talk about and learn from each other. The Concord-Carlisle program is paid for privately. Students pay for their own trips by fundraising in the community.
The School Committee approves the exchange visits. In the past, the CCHS band has traveled to Nanai, Japan and hosted students from Nanae, Concord's sister city.
Nurenberg accompanied band conductor Al Dentino to Nanae last April vacation, and posted on his blog that cross-cultural exchanges never seem to get old.
"Every time I revisit Japan with a new group of students, I get to see the country again through their eyes, and share in their elation at realizing just what they are capable of," Nurenberg wrote.
"The building blocks of international peace and cooperation are right here, on this level, with friendships between kids from different cultures. This is important work," he added in a note to parents.