Teaching in today’s global classroom should mean that cultural diversity is an important part of the overall function of education. By diversity I mean that the United States is a multi-racial and multi-ethnic society, or what others describe as cultural or racial pluralism. This is largely due to the wide sea of humanity that has been migrating across the earth, especially since the end of World War II. Human migration in the twentieth century has increased not only with the devastation brought by wars, but also with the affordability of commercial flights and other forms of modern transportation.
For the past decade, the two largest groups of international students studying in the United States are from China and India. Most of these students will return to their motherlands and join the expanding middle-class. Moreover they will become a part of the leadership that will develop these nations in the twenty-first century. Today, China’s population, the largest in the world, is 1.4 billion people. India has the world’s second largest population consisting of 1.3 billion people. A large part of what happens in China and India will shape the twenty-first century because together they constitute over one third of humanity and their gross domestic product (GDP) rises each year.
As educators, the rise of China and India means that we should understand more about these parts of the world. For example, professors have to become more culturally conscious about how we construct our syllabi and our assignments. We cannot simply reduce American sociology and history down to a number clichés with respect to Blacks, Native Americans and Whites. Rather we have to include topics like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the impact of the British East India Trading Company, in addition to critically reassessing how we teach immigration. We have to expand the American immigration narrative beyond the European Ellis Island story.
We must also remember that New York’s Statue of Liberty was a gift to the United States from France as a symbol to memorialize the emancipation of enslaved Africans in America. Visitors are reminded of the statue’s anti-slavery origins by the broken chains at its feet. Therefore, we must break our chains placed on our minds by liberating how we think and how we teach today. We must find new and dynamic ways to teach courses, across the disciplines, relevant to all of our student’s needs and the pressing demands and mounting crises of the twenty-first century.
Throughout my teaching career, I have developed a number of methods and assignments to facilitate the intellectual development of racially and ethnically diverse student bodies. My thirteen years of teaching in China has only enriched my understanding of how important it is to effectively teach a classroom of students who do not share my history, culture or heritage. Teaching and living abroad has many challenges and many benefits, intellectually and spiritually. Above all, it has helped me to grow and to develop into a better scholar and human being.