Cross Cultural Psychology:
A Globally Connected Course
Prof Irene Lopez (left from Kenyon College)
and Prof Wedjan Felmban (right from Effat University)
and Prof Wedjan Felmban (right from Effat University)
Teaching about diversity is becoming increasingly hard in the U.S. Thus, I was overwhelmed with joy, with a former student of mine recently forwarded me this article that she wrote about her experience in my Cross Cultural Psychology class. In the article she wrote about how globally connecting with another student from Effat University completely changed her worldview. It's moments like these that make me feel more hopeful for a more inclusive world.::
So it appears that we have received Kenyon's blessing and support to visit Effat University. A colleague and I are planning to visit during our Spring Break and to prepare I've begun researching our trip. Things I'm learning so far -
Note to Self: Things I May Not Bring into Saudi Arabia
2. Products containing frog meat
3. Christmas trees
5. I may not bring a live chicken (good to know)
I am so excited for this trip. I really hope it happens!
Did it work? Was all the work that we did to connect our courses worth it? well, there is only one way to find out! Today I forwarded to my class a series of questions regarding our globally connected experience and will post a summary of (anonoymous) responses when I finally get all of the data. I was particularly interested in the students experiences with intergroup anxiety. There is a theory that reducing intergroup anxiety may be related ton increased cultural sensitivity. In the future, it would be good to explicitly measure these two constructs but for now these are the questions I asked:
Do you think you know what is abnormal? Well, hopefully by the end of this talk you won't!
In this our final connection, I taped a lecture on culture and mental health for Prof. Felmban's Cross Cultural Psychology class.
1. What Criteria Should We use? I first discussed the various criteria that have been put forth to understand abnormality, best conceptualized as the 4 Ds (eg deviancy, distressing, dysfunctional and dangeriousness), and discuss the shortcomings of each criteria.
2. Is distress, and the way that it is expressed, universal (etic) or culturally specific (etic?) Next, I tried to help students understand distress using emic and etic approaches by further analyzing the cultural idiom of distress known as ataques de nervios.
3. Analysis of Culturally Specific Form of Distress. Then I discussed the 4Ds in relation to ataques
4. What type of help should I give? And finally discussed various ways to treat this form of distress that use etic (eg use of behavioral and cognitive techniques to lower arousal) and emic (eg use of rubbing alcohol) to help lower emotional arousal.
The hope is that students come away with a more nuanced idea of distress that does not simply reduce illness to purely biological dysfunction.
How do students who live on opposite sides of the world get to know each? As part of our global course connection, students at our respective sites were paired with a partner with whom they had to interview. The results? Stay Tuned for postings below.
Coming to class after the Election was very difficult. I briefly considered cancelling class as I personally was not sure if I could come in to teach. It had been a very painful night and the thought of holding class, as if nothing had happened, seemed dishonest at best.
However, I also knew that it was precisely these moments when I *had* to teach. By not teaching, I was staying silent, and that option seemed like the worse of all. Of all the classes that I teach, Cross Cultural Psychology, is by far the most meaningful and, by extension, also the most difficult to teach.
Indeed, as I often tell my class, It is only when things get hard and uncomfortable that I know I must be doing my job right.
Why? Because learning about others and accepting others where they are is unbelievably difficult. As I stressed to my class, good people can, and do, disagree. And yet, while this is true, it is also important that we do not impose the burden of tolerance solely on those who have historically carried the heavier load.
So what did I do? I held class - and it was difficult - but I hope good. Students talked if they wanted to or sat in silence. And then I gave them the option - to write to our sister school, Effat University, in Saudi Arabia, so that they may explain their feelings at this point
This assignment was completely voluntary and ungraded. Students could write a direct letter to their assigned partner or just write a more general letter. Students could sign their letters or not. Many of the students did take me up on the offer and I wrote as well.
The photo above is my letter to my friend and colleague, Prof. Wedjan Felmban. I value our intercultural and interfaith friendship and my experience in connecting this class just reaffirms my faith in the power of teaching Cross Cultural Psychology.
Today Prof. Felmban guest lectured to our Cross Cultural Psychology Class on her dissertation which dealt with the phenomena known as the bias blind spot.
Teaching cross cultural psychology is hard. Teaching cross cultural psychology in rural Ohio is even harder. How can I teach about issues of culture without sounding like an ad for National Geographic? How do I make the experiences of others real? How can I help my students get a distance near experience when, in reality, we are just far, so isolated, from others?