Introduction to Schools of the Dialogue of Cultures Project

The era of globalization calls for adjustment in the field of education that meets the demands of the times. Education can no longer be limited exclusively to national culture.

The very survival of humanity depends on the ability for a dialogue of cultures and civilizations; hence education which takes into account the cultural diversity has become a moral imperative.

The dialogue of cultures has no alternatives. It is vital. What methods are fundamentally important to the success of the dialogue?

  1. a) In order to be engaged in dialogue one side must be prepared to listen to the position of the other one. To listen, of course, does not mean to hear, much less – to understand. Understanding is closely correlated with the difficulties of perceiving the language of the other culture. It is not so much about vocabulary, but rather the sense laid in words denoting concepts, especially those which constitute the backbone of a culture.
  2. b) Along with the nominal existence of human universals, each culture has its own set of universals that make up its “rim”. Every culture being a complex of super biological programs of human life activity consists of world-outlook universals. They accumulate the historically piled up social experience, and in the system of those universals the men of a specific culture is evaluating, perceiving and exploring the world.
  3. c) Tension or conflict between different cultures often arises from misapprehension that the widespread stereotypes are rooted in the erroneous view of the existence in the culture of the static constants. In fact, time is always left their fingerprints even on what is considered the dogmas of the teachings. This is especially true, when it comes to an era of radical transformation of traditional societies, their tuning to the modern post-industrial world.
  4. g) Before entering into dialogue its possibilities should soberly be assessed. It is impossible in practice, and not acceptable in principle to strive for uniformity in the mindset to understand the meaning of human existence and the norms of his conduct. At the same time, efforts should be made to develop common approaches to the problems of the world order on which the fate of humankind depends.

Skills for caring dialogue do not arise by themselves. They are obtained. And in the process of gaining them the crucial role belongs to educational institutions and their practices. Multicultural education is one of the most important tools in a transition from abstract and often simply demagogic declarations to practical implementations. The purpose of “Schools of the Dialogue of Cultures” program is not only to create a favorable climate for coexistence of different cultures, but also to profit as much as possible from that diversity for the sake of both individual and common perfection.

Despite the growing awareness of the need for multicultural education, the model system of its kind yet nowhere exists. In general no one is yet prepared for the full introduction of multicultural education, focusing on the role of the moderator of the dialogue of cultures. Intercultural education as an integral part of the school (a University) education to this day has never been practiced. In fact, the first serious initiative in practice comes from the World Public Forum “Dialogue of civilizations”, which initiated the project “School of Intercultural Dialogue”. Implementation of such a big project has been started on the basis of the educational institutions of the Russian Railways Company in collaboration with the UNESCO Chair “Philosophy in the dialogue of cultures” at the Institute of philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The Dialogue of Civilizations Institutes’ “Schools of the Dialogue of Cultures” program is aimed to continue this work. Actual multicultural education is not possible without training of teachers, availability of textbooks and methodological studies, which in turn are in direct dependence on the situation in humanities. Since the latter are designed to provide commented translations of the original texts thus ensuring at least basic source base, broad and deepen research so that to identify the specificity of a given culture and to bring up the level of meaningful comparative analysis.

The intercultural education is a landmark in advance to the goal which is difficult in reaching, which requires much time and collective efforts. Such education would be aimed at creativity, at building an original solution of the problem of having different identities in some shared space of identity, so that the whole could be a combination of parts. It is intended to help people with different identities, which are at the same time forced or wish to live together, to think about, discuss and voluntarily come to the inevitable compromises. This is the way to the formation of civilizational identities, as well as to a smooth coexistence between the peoples and nations.

The “Schools of the Dialogue of Cultures” program will be introduced to the school children of the high grades (children of 9th and 10th grades). The curriculum is very limited and the real implementation is limited to 1-2 lessons per week and designed for a 2-years course. To teach school children about the other cultures is to give them the knowledge about the cultural universals (main notions, main values which the culture of civilization consist of). Through that they could picture the image of different civilizations and then after getting this image they will understand what is common between different civilizations and, at the same time, what is different, what are their specifics.

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