Engaging the Pedagogic
Chapter Two: The Challenge of Learning across Difference: Employing The Elephant and the Blind Men
This chapter examines the pedagogical heart of international education and its variants as the aim of fostering international/intercultural understanding or the capacity to ‘see through another’s eyes.’ Whilst such learning is often a rationale or desired outcome in study abroad and other international educational rhetoric, the complexities and challenges inherent to learning from the international experience are often under-acknowledged. This chapter employs the parable of the ‘Blind Men and the Elephant’ to examine a set of linguistic, existential, structural and psychical dimensions of difficulty constituting learning across radical difference. It argues that acknowledging and responding to these difficulties is a way toward fostering the cosmopolitan literacies defined and discussed in more detail in Chapter Five.
In some respects, scholarship on the dynamics of learning from international and intercultural exchanges and experiences lags behind the ramped-up internationalization rhetoric and the increasing numbers of international initiatives. On the one hand, learning from the international experience remains a kind of ‘black box,’ where advocates take for granted that the outcomes are positive or that the experience itself somehow is synonymous with the learning. On the other hand, pressures of performativity have heightened the demand for schooling the international experience, which ultimately short circuits transformative learning. These trends are discussed ← 19 | 20 → in the next chapter. This chapter’s intervention is to shed light on the dynamics of learning and not learning from the international experience that explicitly engages the complexity of human learning and becoming with non-specialized language.
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