Cross Cultural Sensitivity
Having students come and spend weeks overseas gives our team an opportunity to shape those that desire to be used by God. Over the last eight or nine years we have seen a shift in the students that have come. When we began we had a list of rules and communication policies for the purpose of security and engagement. About 3 years ago we began to see a change in the students coming. They came with what seemed to be tunnel vision for what they wanted to do and what they decided were the rules. This small sampling of private school students does not define a whole generation of young people however we can mark a significant change in the way some engage the world and each other. University professors have told me that they see parents not so much as helicopter parents, having over their children, rather see them as snowplow parents, the flatten all obstacles in the students path. Concerning trips (local and abroad) the university is being encouraged to present options to parents (rather than students) since are the ones making the decisions for their students.
As a middle class white male with college students that fall in the generation Z category, I sometimes have a cross cultural misunderstandings with my own kids. In the book, The Coddling of the American Mind, the authors write a hopeful challenge to young people,
From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.1
I will admit that there is much in this book that I immediately reacted to, feeling justified to demean and bash all those crazy pampered violent students…but then I took a day to think about my own kids and how they would react to the stereotypes painted in this book.
University students today seem to have been protected more than in generations past. Though some might call them privileged or caught up in a type of group thinking or even self centered, we can observe a generation of young people that want change. As the father of a 22 year old young woman that is passionate about injustice, I see that this passion is focused on changing the world. Many in this generation are inclusive of different races and cultures especially those perceived as marginalized. Haidt and Lukianoff agree when they say, “If we want to create welcoming, inclusive communities, we should be doing everything we can to turn down the tribalism and turn up the sense of common humanity.” 2 How this done differs from each generation. This young generation seems to enjoy voicing their concerns about what they see as injustice. Though each generation will disagree with how we define the need for change, I do believe we all have the right to find our voice. Some critics of this book have said, “..it seems clear that the authors want students not to speak up, but to sit down and shut up—or, if they must speak, to speak decorously, in ways that won’t actually challenge or change institutions.”3 It does seem as though the examples written Haidt and Lukianoff’s book call us to want a change in the way student protest. However one needs to ask is that the reason they use those examples? “Rather than trembling in fear of their students, maybe professors and op-ed writers would do better to try to learn from young people speaking out against sexual assault, racism, and indifference to suffering.”4 These new “radical” children are just the next generation to be passionate about changing the world.
It is true that I have had some moments of frustration with what is called generation Z, even in conversations with my own children. I do not believe that the violence during protest is justified for this or any generation to promote their views. However I also believe that generation Z’s passion for the often overlooked populations of this world is significant. We can not simply dismiss the passions of our young people simply because they are sensitive to depressive moments. Possibly this sensitivity has made them more aware and less callus to the brokenness of the systems of the world. When dealing cross culturally having the ability to develop a relationship with someone that we would not normally be drawn to moves both us and them toward a middle ground of conversation and understand. Just as we want to be heard, have value in what we do, and how we do so to does the internet generation. Let us be the ones that help bridge that cross cultural gap that is producing our frustration and theirs as well.
1 Lukianoff, Greg and Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting up a Generation for Failure (UK: Allen Lane, 2018).
2 Lukianoff, Greg and Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting up a Generation for Failure (UK: Allen Lane, 2018).
3 https://psmag.com/education/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind-is-sort-of-brainless accessed May 16, 2019
12 responses to “Cross Cultural Sensitivity”
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I love how much of an advocate you are for young people, and your daughter is super stellar. So great to see you as a dad encouraging her to be who God has made her to be in the world. Also, I wrote about the snowplow parents too! 🙂
Chris. I am still working on that balance of understanding this generation and total frustration:-) I do see hope but know there are challenges as well.
Your includer is showing 🙂 It seems like this whole post is pointing me towards ways of welcoming and receiving Gen Z. And I love it!
You say this: “However I also believe that generation Z’s passion for the often overlooked populations of this world is significant.” I couldn’t agree more. Both my sons help open my eyes to the vulnerable.
It shows itself often. I enjoy finding passionate young people that want to be used by God in unique and creative ways. This does make me look carefully at what I am doing and who overlooking. I have tried to build teams if people with different perspectives in the hope that we can continue to find creative ways to work for the Lord.
Bravo for seeing the potential in Gen Z. I see it too. However, like you mention, I think we need to channel this passion by advocating for working toward our common humanity, not by creating barriers between us/them, and not by focusing on the gaps instead of the common experience lived by all. I find that the current climate creates more division rather than less.
The other interesting element of your post is highlighting your own kids’ behaviours. I’m trying to learn from my sons too. Nate, who I just hired, is pushing me forward because of his perspectives and sense of injustice.
Mark I see the potential and often I see the frustration. I do hope some my frustration is due to that cross cultural/generational view of the world. Last week I had great talk with my daughter. We see the world so differently that if I am not careful I can offend by not see value what she sees. I love our kids but I still have a lot to learn. I am sure you understand.
Great perspectives, and I especially liked the thoughts from your daughter’s age group.
One question I have been pondering after reading your post–should Americans even be sending groups overseas–does it just turn into tourism–and would the money be better spent if they just sent a check to you in China?
Jay. I gets this question often.
1. First many people that ask this claim they want to send the money equal to a trip but usually don’t.
2. I am firm believer that overseas trip change the participants: often for their whole life. How much is someone to sees the world and participates in fundraising for the work, advocating for overseas workers or become passionate for another ethnicity within the USA.
3. So to answer your question. It depends on the focus of the group. There are many trips that are designed to teach about cross cultural work but probably equally as many that hinder work or have no plan and becomes a tourist trip.
We can talk about this further off the blog if you want.
Greg, great job. The sign that your daughter was holding up was awesome. Loved the cross in the middle. Funny to see that sign next to her friends. Unless im missing something, Feminist AF would stand for “Feminist As F***”. Thats typically what “af” stands for in texting/social media.
Didn’t know that. Thanks millennial :-). I just loved she quoted MLK and not just some stupid slogan. She is a thinker.
Btw you should probably stop using that in your own texting.
Greg, I don’t know if its all the years I worked as a Youth Minister, or just the fact that I raised 4 kids, but I think I can agree that there is always frustration when dealing with this new generation of young people. From the direction of our reading, I think I agreed more than disagreed that there is a need for young people to sit down and listen for a while. I am all about voice, but I prefer voice with knowledge…and a little wisdom sprinkled in is helpful too. I fear that is what this generation does not understand yet. They are passionate…but often ignorant. They know what they want…or perhaps feel is a better word…but lack the understanding of so many things. Just speaking for my own kids, the frustration with their passion and lack of knowledge was a source of many arguments. But with all that said, I am sure we could all use the advice to sit down, shut up and listen more.
It was good of you to see aspects of iGens in a positive light, particularly as it regards diversity and acceptance of differences.
I think many of the frustrations we have with iGens is more to do with generational misunderstandings than it is to do with the younger generation getting things wrong. I know that my own parents did not understand the decisions and purposes for them that I was making and were just as frustrated.
I do wonder about the future of this generation and where they will lead as they come into adulthood. I also think it will be interesting to see how they raise their own children and what measure of helicoptering or laissez faire they will have as parents.