I’m going to try to pull together my thoughts this day following on the horrific attacks in Paris.
I’ve been an international educator for over 40 years. I’ve had to make sense of 60s student protests, the Vietnam War, the assasinations of two Kennedy brothers, of M.L King, of the murders of Israeli athletes in Munich, of two intifadas, of apartheid, of 9-11, of the deaths in Iraq & Afghanistan, of a sniper randomly killing citizens in Washington,DC and the suburbs, of the murders of children and college students, of police brutality –and now, of the murder of innocents in Paris.
And I’m feeling tired of all this killing and death. Of all the words in print and on TV and radio trying to think it through – to explain why. To rationally analyze our way out of the fog of unbearable loss of life.
And so I was drawn back to a book I’ve kept since graduating decades ago from the Experiment in Internatonal Living (since renamed World Learning) graduate school for international training in Brattleboro, Vermont. A beautiful place of learning. The book is a memoir by the founder of the Experiment, Donald Watt. The title is “Intelligence is Not Enough.” I’ve long thought this was merely a cute turn of phrase. An ode to the meaning of the early years of the Experiment which pioneered the model of “homestays” for US students with families in Europe…A way to explain the importance of the kind of experiential learning which comes from the living-learning experience of the homestay.
At the end of the book, Watt writes: “…in the future, fears and hates will not disappear without planned effort.” I doubt he realized how prescient those words were.
After Paris last Friday, there have been many statements on twitter about the importance of bringing about greater understanding through study abroad. Of course, this is true – and I’ve been working toward realizing that kind of “understanding” my entire career in many different ways. But today I’m thinking this is not enough. In the aftermath of the attacks in Paris, I believe we need to re-double efforts to bring greater clarity and meaning to international education; to programs whose goal, on paper, is to increase understanding between people of different cultural, religious or ethnic backgrounds. Or whose goal, as is often the case with respect to study abroad, is to widen the world view of students or to foster worldmindedness.
These words are not enough. My colleagues on campus need to sharpen the message and structure programs to achieve the outcomes they profess to achieve for their students. Sending Americans abroad in greater numbers is not enough. Sending students to study in classrooms abroad is not enough. Bringing more international students to U.S. campuses is also not enough.
We need a more sophisticated approach to all our efforts to bring about the kind of “understanding” we international educators seek for our students and for our communities and campuses.
Intelligence is not enough – not today.