International Mindedness

Leo Unglaub

The concept of cosmopolitanism as Rudolf Steiner used it might be summarized with the words ethical individualism, individualist anarchism or living in the realm of free spirit, rather than obeying a profane ruler. In part, his notion of cosmopolitanism grew in response to the experience of thriving nationalism everywhere in Europe. If Steiner’s idea was a spiritual response to rampant narrow-mindedness, international mindedness could perhaps be said to have its quite pragmatic roots in the desire to provide an education that is transferable from one country’s education system to another. Perhaps both these approaches to learning and engaging with the world might result in an individual’s sense of membership in the global community?

To be sure, things have changed since the early days of international schools in the second half of the 19th century. International mindedness has become a core value as has instilling in students an ethic of respect and understanding for people from different cultures. So, while there is still talk about providing a “rooted education for the unrooted,” the authors of this book also discuss, at times in rather abstract terms, how international mindedness is to be achieved, how the “global dimension” of the concept comes into play and what the “international view” entails. One attempt at defining the idea rests on the concept of “compassionate wisdom,” an attitude that would enable “interpersonal and responsible relationships and understandings.”

Much as the IS community and the authors of this book were interested in discovering with considerable methodology how international mindedness as a core value is put into practice, it remained difficult to address this question in case studies, “[...] partly because teachers [...] appeared to have different interpretations of what these values were ...”

With this variety in mind, one might question the utility and novelty of the concept of international mindedness, all the more so as the reader is often led back to more broadly understood terms such as respect, understanding and compassion for other cultures. From the recent approach of inclusive education to multiculturalism to Waldorf education, we find that teachers embrace these values, which give students the “capacity to transcend the single experience of nationality, creed, culture or philosophy and recognise in the richness of diversity a multiplicity of ways of engaging with the world.” [1] This does sound like the realm in which free spirits reside, doesn’t it?

International Mindedness. Global Perspectives for Learners and Educators. Edited by Lesley P. Stagg, Urbane Publications, Rochester 2013, 233 pages

[1] International Schools Journal Vol XXXI No.2 April 2012, p. 79