Education has for a long time been a tool in the management of international relations. On a smaller scale, it has helped students to learn how to engage with others, in the classroom and in the world. As a part of this education is the development of a concept known as intercultural maturity. The case study at hand has outlined a framework, a series of steps, in which a student will reach this goal of intercultural maturity and become a more productive and understanding person in this growing world.
The case study “A Developmental Model of Intercultural Maturity,” by Patricia King and Marcia Baxter Magolda, speaks on the topic of an educational model of intercultural maturity. The article discusses the fact that intercultural maturity is a goal for all students by the time that they graduate from university. According to the case study, in times of elevated global interdependence, and this produces inter-culturally proficient citizens. These students are informed and make ethical decisions, and such decisions involve a variety of perspectives (King & Magolda, 2005). It is a goal for many colleges for their students to be proficient within intercultural maturity.
The three dimensions of the framework of the development of intercultural maturity are: cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal. Information in the case study was gathered through research and student interviews. These dimensions are reflective of two elements not recognized in most literature: the recognition of multi-dimensional intercultural maturity, and that this framework has steps in which a student becomes inter-culturally mature.
The first level, the cognitive dimension, radiates the way that students think about and understand the cultural diversity issues. Oftentimes, differing cultural ideals tend to cause fear in those who do not understand them, but in this first level, the student will understand that these differing views are important to the intercultural scope of the world. This includes the concept of multiplistic thinking, which means that students can recognize that there are different ways of thinking other than their own. The second level, the intrapersonal dimension, focuses on how students view themselves, their own cultural views and racial backgrounds: self-awareness is an important concept of this dimension. Literature shows that the more self-aware, open, and knowledgeable a student is, the more they are likely to accept other cultures as much as their own. In the third level, the interpersonal dimension reflects a student’s ability to effectively interact with ‘diverse others.’ Relationships with others that are different in a few ways include respecting and even understanding these differences. According to literature, people tend to make judgment statements, such as “I did not grow up like that,” or “that’s never the way I’ve done that.” However, during the college years, this time is formative when it comes to the mature development of intercultural relations. Illustrating these points, the student interviews reflect how they interact, judge, reject, understand, and respect each other in the face of diversity.
In the article “Education as a factor of intercultural communication,” the author discusses the purpose and importance of intrapersonal intelligence and notes that it is a key component of those people who have higher levels of intelligence (Gojgov, 2011). Life, as described in this article, shows its meaning in personal development, the development of family and friends, and making a positive impact on your environment:
The inevitable link between a national and universal culture is not the only obstacle to those who have difficulties in accepting existing differences. Consequently, the differences within one culture (thinking styles, sub-cultures, etc.) are felt as a counterbalance to similarities within one culture (language, customs, beliefs, knowledge, etc., considered to be a continuum created for centuries) (Gojgov, 2011).
Life is meant to be diverse, as plain as some claim to live it. As Goigov points out, the differences balance themselves out, but to ignore these is to throw off this balance. The balancing concept of diversity, that is to say, intercultural terms are very important in the United States – as it is should be. Diversity, intercultural desegregation, has especially come quite a ways in the U.S. higher education system, and it has had a powerful impact on the students and the community. “Over the last three and a half decades, diversity and its related interventions have evolved to encompass a broad set of purposes, and initiatives on college campuses” (Chang, 2005). In the past, universities have made efforts toward this impact by allowing non-white students, as well as women, in order to desegregate their campuses. This desegregation was “social justice concerns grounded in the democratic principles of equal opportunity and equality” (Chang, 2005). If a student is to truly make a positive impact in the world, they need to acquire the skills that render them capable of understanding, at least tolerating and respecting, those from different backgrounds with different ideas.
Globalization is a concept that is important in the aid of intercultural maturity. It is something that is important because it helps people around the world to learn to deal with each other, and within themselves, in a professional and personal way. “The term globalization is used widely to connote a range of meanings, including the justification of political and economic decisions… Related arguments discuss the nature and cost benefits of ‘borderless economies’ and the rise of ‘global capitalism’” (Stone, 2006). Globalization has left both negative and positive effects on international relations over the years (South Africa being a negative example; China is a mostly positive example), but it still brings about a universal knowledge of people and how they can or will interact with one another. “The internationalization of education, particularly higher education, is often associated with attracting foreign revenue to make up for reduced public sector funding” (Stone, 2006). Education is, despite the steps lined out carefully, an important step toward not only intercultural maturity but maturity for a person to live liberally and wholly. Education itself opens the student's mind to new concepts and understandings.
As well, international knowledgeability is also something marked as important as far as the development of intercultural maturity. The term can be defined as the “knowledge that pertains wholly to a specific nation or a group of nations and global or generic knowledge that is broadly relevant and transferable across national borders” (Stone, 2006). For students going into a business or marketing-related field, this skill development is especially important. In a world of such advanced technology and communications, it is now much easier to do business with another country without leaving your home office. So, of course, these professionals should be able to confidently deal with those who are culturally different from themselves during these situations. As well, anyone else who plans on living in the real world should be able to deal with those who are culturally different.
Intercultural maturity is an important skill to learn; it is indicated more and more in those of higher intelligence or levels of thinking. The authors of the case study concluded that the integrated framework would exemplify all major components as a way of helping students to believe and understand others ‘with the whole living self.’ The students that gain the desired level of intercultural maturity out of university are those who are best equipped to live in the world as it is, ‘with the whole living self,’ and with all of the understanding and respect necessary to accept people from all cultural backgrounds.
Gojkov, G. (2011). Education as a factor of intercultural communication. CEPS Journal: Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal, 1(2), 87-104.
King, P. M. & Magolda, M. B. (2005) A developmental model of intercultural maturity. Journal of College Student Development, 46(6), 571-592.
Chang, M.J. (2005). Reconsidering the diversity rationale. Retrieved March 2012 from http://www.aacu.org/liberaleducation/le-wi05/le-wi05feature1.cfm
Stone, N. (2006). Conceptualizing Intercultural Effectiveness for University Teaching. Journal of Studies in International Education, 10 (4), 334-356.