I found a new site and blog space today that I really like, NAFSA: Association of International Educators  (founded in 1948 as the National Association of Foreign Students Abroad). Well, I feel as if I’ve found long-lost relatives.

In “We Have a Listening Problem” blogger Vincent C. Johnson says: “At any given time, much of the U.S. foreign policy agenda consists of dealing with what we refer to as the unintended consequences of past agendas. They may be unintended, but in many, if not most cases, they were not unanticipated. Most policy failures were not only predictable, but predicted. We just didn’t listen.” WOW and WOW again.

I’ve written here about learning foreign languages, educating culturally, learning music, the relationship between jazz and business, yadda, yadda… but Vincent hits the nail on the head so succinctly… “we have a listening problem” and all the current fuss with corporations reaching “next billion” customers globally in rural areas, emerging markets and such and investing so heavily in R&D (see my article on Jazz and Emerging Markets) is a matter of finally listening to what people ALL OF THE PEOPLE say they want, need, and desire. Now, imagine if we had listening in their languages in years past? Talk about opportunities wasted, time lost, relationships squandered.

The same is true for our diplomatic efforts. In her article “Leading Through Civilian Power” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton discusses the importance of not simply (and unimaginatively and arrogantly) engaging a nation’s elite and government officials but engaging citizens. Listening to citizens, imagine that.

I rant here all the time about educational testing, the focus on math science and reading,  and cognitive ability… I know language training requires lots of cognitive skills ( you know that too) and I am irritated by the fact that we don’t take areas other than math, science and reading seriously. We are missing so much! Language training requires applying skills that are learned, demonstrating cognitive ability is meaningful and has practical value beyond test achievement.

Cultural education is key because music (just because that’s my thing, there are other ways to educate culturally) requires listening. The blues has a call-and-response pattern that hails from African-American culture. One needs to LISTEN to the call in order to create the appropriate response. Improvisation requires musicians to LISTEN to the song, the key and time signature and creatively articulate an individual response to what is heard. The musician can’t just play whatever s/he wants because s/he is part of an ensemble or band and they’ve agreed to play a certain score in a certain time and key signature. The musician must LISTEN and then respond.

Be like musicians, LISTEN and hear the sound of WORLD PEACE.



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