This is my friend, Jessie, who was a WorldTeach volunteer at one of the elementary schools out here last year. She recently delivered this fantastic speech at a TED conference in Michigan. Jessie is definitely in my Top 5 Favorite WorldTeachers of All Time and she does a wonderful job here discussing her experience teaching in American Samoa.
Jessie has the incredibly admirable ability to see the good in everyone and everything; I’m afraid I’m more cynical in general. So, while my views of Samoan culture and how it shapes education are slightly less positive/forgiving than Jessie’s, I totally agree that the imposition of a Western education model on a culture that does not share Western values is not the best idea. We can do much better.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you think this is relevant or applicable to American schools? Should students’ individual cultural values be a consideration of state-wide or national education policy? How can a teacher in a multicultural classroom achieve this sort of balance? What’s more important: grades or behavior? Have you ever had a similar epiphany about the culture of your own classroom?