2-4 April 2012
Rooms VII & VIII, UNESCO Headquarters
Conception of the "Schools of the Dialogue of Cultures"
by Marietta Stepanyants
Lessons of the two World wars of the twentieth century remind people that "all wars begin in the minds of men". This seemingly self-evident truth, fixed in the Constitution of UNESCO, has defined the contents and thrust of its future activities. In the preamble to the Charter adopted in 1945 it is said: "Peace must be based, if we do not want to fail, on the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind". This solidarity does not come by itself. It requires preparation; it can be achieved only through a concerted and tireless work. Conscious of this, UNESCO started to develop the program named "Culture of peace". At the Congress "Peace in the minds of men" in Yamoussoukro (1989) the program began to acquire the status of the core ideology of UNESCO. Officially, since 1992 the concept “Culture of peace” has become the program of action of UNESCO.
In 1999 that concept was endorsed by the UN General Assembly in a special resolution, which included the Declaration and the program of action on a culture of peace. On the initiative of the group of the Nobel Peace Prize winners the UN General Assembly declared the year 2000 as the "Year of the culture of peace", and the period 2001-2010 as the "International Decade for a culture of peace and non-violence for the children of the world." The main task, which was delivered, is "learning to live together."
It is known that the primary role in bringing up people in all times and everywhere has been always played by education. Since the dawn of its history mankind sought, at first, to respect morality and culture of an individual and a tribe, and then - of a wider community: of a state, an empire, a civilization. The primary role in transferring from generation to generation and in maintaining historically enduring cultural values; in preparing an individual for the successful functioning in the society and culture has been played by education. This universal mission of education did not rule out fundamental differences in educational strategies and methods resulting from temporary and cultural characteristics.
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.
Although today everywhere and at all levels it is common to talk about a dialogue of civilizations and cultures, in reality to carry on such a dialogue are ready neither political elites nor the public as a whole. This judgment is equally true for Russia.
The wish of Russia (fully justified, considering the size of the country, its economic and military capabilities, and the richness of the cultural heritage) to play a leading role on the international arena requires the ability of its citizens to hold on a dialogue with the others. In the acquisition of good neighborly relations, partners, allies, one can not trust only on military might and economic competitiveness. The position of the other side should be understood, and a skill to bring to it your own views is needed. In this case, a lot depends on mentality, on cultural traditions and mores.
Of no less importance is the dialogue among cultures for solving Russian internal problems. The Russians need to gain collective identity instead of the lost Community-"Soviet people". It is not easy, taken into consideration the desire for identity, autonomy, and even the full sovereignty of national and ethnic groups living in the Russian Federation.
Of course, other States face problems partly of the same kind. So, for example, in France, Germany, UK, Denmark the problem of immigrants, mainly from the countries of the Muslim world, has come forward acutely. "New" citizens, in accordance with the principles of a democratic state, demand equal rights with indigenous nations. At the same time, they are not ready or willing to change their lifestyles, traditions, religious beliefs. The Europeans wish to maintain its national unity, but find it difficult to recognize the brethren on the nation of people recently settled on their land who work here for the good of the whole nation. The immigrants want to be thought of as the Europeans, but they are not willing to give up the identity inherited from birth. Consequently, explosive hostility, distrust and hatred are increasing.
In Russia similarly there is an unprecedented before the influx of immigrants. Some of these CIS citizens, others are nationals of China, Vietnam, South-East Asia. Economically, Russia needs immigration, given the shortage of labor. However, immigrants often cause strong dislike. They are hated for taking job vacancies, for tending to stick together, for demonstrating the group solidarity, for adhering to their traditions and customs. Sometimes that dislike is reaching to the point of racism.
Still, immigrants are not the main "headache" for the Russians. Unlike in Europe, in Russia the processes of national identification are complicated by other circumstances. Tatars and Bashkirs, Yakuts and Buryats, Ossetians and Chechens – only a small part of many ethnic groups that live compactly together and are truly indigenous citizens of the country. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the start of democratization there is awake of national consciousness of large and small non-Russian peoples. It makes acute the problem of the Russian identity as such and its self-determination.
Consequently, the dialogue of cultures has no alternatives. It is vital. What methods are fundamentally important to the success of the dialogue?
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.
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.
For the Hindus the universals of that kind are the notions of Brahman, Atman, Dharma, moksa, karma, etc. The "carcass" of the Chinese culture is primarily comprised of the categories like Tao and te, yin-yang, ren, li. No dialogue with the Indians or the Chinese can take place if the "opposite" side lacks basic knowledge of the fundamentals of those cultures.
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.
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 could be one of the most important tools in a transition from abstract and often simply demagogic declarations to practical implementations. The purpose of multi-cultural education 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. I think that 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. Here the two factors are of particular importance.
The first is that the ruling elite has no political will for genuine, rather than imaginary, educational reform in the above mentioned specified direction. In Russia this situation is partly due to the inertia of its past practices. In pre-revolutionary Russia education, including its University level, was characterized by permanent confrontation between the two polar currents: one focused on openness, on the involvement of Russia in the intellectual world of the West, on freedom of expression and ideological differences; the other is on the other hand, defended the need for isolation, maintenance and consolidation of the pillars of Imperial ideology. Moreover, it is the second course, ultimately, was dominant. Paradoxically, the October revolution of 1917 which radically changed all the sides of the public life and crushed the ideological pillars of Tsarism, however, failed to "uproot" them. The former pillars were replaced by the new ones, which, however, "grown up" from the womb of the old roots. Orthodoxy of the Russian Christianity was replaced by Marxist-Leninist dogmas; Tsarist rule – by communist dictatorship; narodnost - by Soviet patriotism. Finally, the life in general, and education, in particular, has stayed isolated from the plurality of ideas which existed in the world behind Soviet borders.
Secondary, 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.
Up till now nowhere multicultural education has been fully practiced as an integral part of education. In fact, the first major initiative to change the situation comes from the Foundation "The Dialogue of Civilizations", whose leadership, represented by Vladimir Yakunin, intends to transform the network of educational units in JSC «Russian railways» into the schools of the dialogue of cultures. It is quite evident that to carry out a large-scale project, which could become a "pilot project" in the transformation of the entire educational system of the Russian Federation, is not a matter of a single day. It can be implemented in stages over several years.
It should be started with the development of the very concept of "the schools of the dialogue of cultures", in which one has to bear in mind the total number of JSC «Russian railways» schools, their territorial location, operating at the present day curricula, qualifications and professional skills of the teachers. The principals of the schools and teachers are to be consulted so that their requests and capabilities, suggestions and recommendations are taken into account.
The next step is to develop a general programme for the course on the dialogue of cultures. The course is limited to a small number of hours that can be allocated for its teaching in the already overburdened school curriculum. With this in mind, it seems appropriate to include in the programme besides the Western and Russian cultures the study of the cultures belonging to major non-Western civilizations: the world of Islam, China and India.
The next stage is to train the teachers and to prepare for them manuals. Finally, the textbook (or manuals for school children) on the dialogue of cultures should be written and supplied to every school pupil. A successful realization of the project requires constant monitoring of the course "dialogue of cultures" carried on at the schools.
From the above said, it is permissible to conclude that intercultural education is a landmark in advance to the goal which is difficult in reaching, which requires much time and collective efforts. Such education should 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 Russian identity, as well as to a smooth coexistence between the peoples of our planet.
"Russian Railways" President Vladimir Yakunin meets with the heads of educational institutions of "Russian Railways"
Head of educational and methodical project "Dialogue of Cultures" prof. Stepanyants MT awarded a Diploma
The program of multicultural education for the senior classes of secondary schools of OJSC "Russian Railways"
School course on "Dialogue of Cultures" is introduced in grades 9 and 10 in variable part of the curriculum. It would take 68 hours for 2 years (one hour per week). In grade 11 issues of multicultural education is planned to be integrated into social studies courses, history, literature and foreign languages.
The main objectives of the Programme:
February 1, 2014 English translation of the Programme (Intercultural Dialogue. Curriculum programme for high secondary schools of the Russian Railways, OJSC) submitted to the International Coordination Council of the World Public Forum "Dialogue of Civilizations" in Vienna.
Schools of the Dialogue of Cultures
The World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations” (World Public Forum – Dialogue of Civilizations)
and German-Russian Forum. Berlin, May 14, 2014
Interview with professor Marietta Stepanyants
Professor Marietta Stepanyants'
(Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of sciences)
report and discussion on the progress in implementation of the project "Schools of the Dialogue of Cultures"
at The World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations” International Coordinating Committee meeting which took place in Vienna, Austria, on March 4, 2015
Project the ICC participants agreed on the necessity of spreading the experience of this educational project on international level
Rhodes Forum 2012
Round Table “Culture Dialogue Schools”
Marietta Stepanyants (Russia) – Chairholder, UNESCO chair in philosophy,
Round table "Dialogue of Cultures School", Rhodes, October 1, 2016
In the framework of the XIV World Public Forum "Dialogue of Civilizations" entitled "Chaos versatility: an urgent call for dialogue" (Rhodes, Greece) on October 1st, 2016 the round table "Dialogue of Cultures School" (organizer and coordinator - Stepanyants MT) was held. The presentation of the project "School of Dialogue of Cultures" of the Research Institute "Dialogue of Civilizations" (headquarters in Berlin) was held at the opening of the round table. Also presented was a preprint of the English translation of textbooks for high school students with the stamp of the UNESCO Chair "Philosophy in the Dialogue of Cultures", Institute of Philosophy (Intercultural Dialogue A Text Book for higher Secondary schools Edited by Marietta Stepanyants DOC Research Institute: Preprint, 2016. 223 pp.).