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Watson College News

Nationally Acclaimed Educator Kenneth Cushner Visits the UNCW Campus

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Nationally acclaimed educator and author Kenneth Cushner was the featured speaker at the Watson College Public Speaker Series event held Feb. 16 in McNeil Hall.

Cushner, professor of multicultural and international education at Kent State University, is author and editor of several books and articles in the field of intercultural education, including Human Diversity in Education: An Intercultural Approach (8th ed., 2015); Intercultural Student Teaching: A Bridge to Global Competence (2007); Beyond Tourism: A Practical Guide to Meaningful Educational Travel (2004); and Intercultural Interactions: A Practical Guide (2nd ed. 1996). Prior to his university appointment, he taught in schools in Switzerland, Australia and the United States, and has developed and led intercultural programs on all seven continents.

Cushner was a freshman at Kent State on May 4, 1970 when members of the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of Kent State demonstrators, killing four and wounding nine students. He said the event led to a life-long interest in studying intercultural development as a means of conflict resolution.

In a presentation titled "The Challenge of Addressing the Intercultural Dimension in International Education," Cushner defined intercultural competence as an open-mindedness and genuine interest in other cultures. Cushner said it's critical in our increasingly complex and global world because people of many cultures need to work together to understand, communicate and solve large-scale problems that cross borders.

Educators in the U.S. have a long way to go to achieve intercultural competence, Cushner said. Only four percent of education majors have international experiences, a number that has remained unchanged for 40 years.

"In the west, most teachers are white, only 10 percent are bilingual, and most have a low interest in international issues and hold deficit-type stereotypes," he said.

The goal should be to develop globally proficient students, and he has developed an Intercultural Development Continuum to measure progress. Steps on the continuum include denial, polarization, minimization, acceptance, integration and adaptation, said Cushner.

Polarization is a stage where people feel threatened, and minimization is where they begin to focus on similarities rather than differences, he continued. Minimization is where many people reside, and it's a difficult stage to move beyond.

"Here, people are often 'I' focused," Cushner said. "They will say, 'I treat everyone the same.' Moving beyond minimization requires broader thinking and more diverse experiences."

He closed his presentation with a challenge to educators.

"What can you do for yourselves and your students to help advance across the continuum?" Cushner asked.

Cushner met with faculty members on Feb. 17 for an open discussion. It was moderated by Elizabeth Crawford, assistant professor in the Department of Early Childhood, Elementary, Middle, Literacy and Special Education. The meeting was followed by an open discussion with students.

The Watson College Public Speaker Series was established by Dean Kenneth Teitelbaum in 2013 with a goal of bringing nationally known scholars to campus to share knowledge and ideas. Previous presenters include Sonia Nieto of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Lisa Delpit of Southern University in Baton Rouge, Michael Apple of the University of Wisconsin, Madison and Terrell Strayhorn of The Ohio State University.

Cushner's presentation and all previous public speaker presentations can be viewed online at www.uncw.edu/ed/speakerseries.