Posted: February 28, 2019 | Author: Amanda Renée Rico, Ph.D., Director of Education for the World Affairs Council of Greater Houston and a Yorkshire Parent
While it can be easy to become caught up in the news that directly affects our country and local communities, global conversations are an integral part of how we shape our opinions of the world around us. As the parent of a 4-year-old, I find myself continually questioning what type of environment my daughter will grow up in. Will it be open, diverse, and welcoming to people of all cultures, ethnicities, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds? I certainly hope so!
It just so happens that Houston houses an organization focused exclusively on educating our community on contemporary international affairs. It’s called the World Affairs Council of Greater Houston and it is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that prioritizes the local and global ways we as Houstonians are responsible for shaping our future. The Council’s mission is to promote understanding of the world—its people, politics, economies and cultures—to enable the Houston community to participate more effectively in our increasingly globalized world. In my capacity as the Director of Education for the Council, my role is to provide opportunities for high schoolers and undergraduates to participate in these conversations by meeting international figures who shape public opinion and policy.
In a 2016 BCC article written by Andreas Schleicher, the Education Director for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Schleicher notes a pressing need for “new rankings to show young people’s competence in a world where globalization is a powerful economic, political and cultural force” (PISA Tests to Include “Global Skills” and Cultural Awareness). The idea of global competency as a necessary skillset—something once thought of as relevant only for careers in foreign service—is becoming more commonplace as globalization forces people from all walks of life to live and work alongside those from different cultures. Schleicher goes on to assert that “Educators have been struggling with how to prepare students for the culturally diverse and digitally-connected communities in which they work and socialize.” In working with high schoolers and educators from across Greater Houston, I can say that this could not be more true! While gaining traction in select school districts, cultural competency is not currently considered an integral part of Houston students’ curriculum. Instead, teachers must seek out new and inventive ways to educate their students on other cultures and the socio-cultural and political benefits and ramifications of cross-cultural contact.
To facilitate filling these needs, I encourage teachers, parents and administrators from across Greater Houston to become more involved in bringing the world into their homes and classrooms. Yorkshire Academy does an excellent job of doing this, and I’m grateful that my daughter has access to so many international resources through the school. Likewise, the Council is happy to provide you and your students or children with any resources you may need. Sometimes all it takes to broaden our world view is to hear from the foreign policy experts, ambassadors, and diplomats with “boots on the ground,” so to speak.
Looking forward, the Council will be accepting requests from all Houstonians to nominate an International Teacher of the Year, who will be honored at our annual Jones Award Luncheon in April 2019. Feel free to reach out if you have a special teacher in your child’s life! And remember—think globally, but converse locally!