Pushing the Walls of the Classroom Aside

Article excerpt

We talk about being a part of the "global community" and how our country is "so diverse" so much that I wonder if we truly comprehend indeed how much our world is changing and what it all portends. The increasing diversity on our college campuses really hit me when I traveled back to my alma mater Wellesley College last month for an alumni function. The last night on campus we were serenaded by an a cappella group, which 10 years ago when I was a student, was predominately White. Fast forward to 2004 and the group's demographics had significantly changed--Asian, Indian, you name it. While at the conference, an alum who is a middle school math teacher in Northern California told me that out of the several "Black" students in her class, only one had two Black parents. Could that be, I wondered. But then I thought about my own circle of friends, who I must say, are quite a "diverse" bunch. Out of the half dozen girlfriends I have that are married, I counted two that married someone of the same ethnic group. Take yours truly, for example. I grew up assuming I'd marry an African American Baptist like myself, and I married a Nigerian Catholic.

It is children from such unions that are sitting in America's classrooms today and will increasingly dominate this country's classrooms in a few years. They likely will have at least one parent that was either born in another country and or speak another language besides English. As a result, there's a fairly good chance that the child will, if not be entirely fluent in another language, be able to understand and speak a few words of a foreign language. So although the percentage of American students that study abroad or are able to speak another language (fluently) has historically been abysmally low, I think we'll see a change over time. If one has parents that speak another language or if one travels internationally to visit relatives, such experiences can only result in future students seeking a more international approach to their education.

We reported a few years ago that the events of Sept. 11, 2001, actually sparked an interest among more American students to travel abroad, as opposed to staying closer to home. …