Several colleagues who attended this year’s National Staff Development Council annual conference came back talking about the keynote address of cultural anthropologist Jennifer James.

Cathy, a Friend of TLN who attended the NSDC gathering, wrote: ‘She began her presentation by defining civilization as a long process of learning to be kind. Think about that for a moment. In order to sustain our civilization, according to James, we must learn to be kinder. She then described how civilizations adapt to change. She also shared her optimism for the future, basing it on our Net Generation students. One of her most intriguing observations was that when global communication becomes available to all, our old mythologies begin to be destroyed. Leaders, she said, must reconcile the clash between old and new cultural traditions and mythology.’

We were equally intrigued. While we wait for James’ next book to appear (Cultural Intelligence), we’ve had to satisfy ourselves with this blog entry about James’ ideas posted during an AASA conference earlier this year.

Here’s a snippet:

Her study of cultural intelligence deals with adapting to change and developing thinking skills. Her work is helping people meet the challenges of today’s lightning-fast transitions…

She stressed that nothing else determines quality of life as much as how we will educate our children. Quality of life (being civilized) is the measure of people’s ability to get along with each other. Mythology, according to James, is the story you tell yourself about the way things ought to be.

“It changes power structures when you begin to play with people’s mythology,” she said. And unfortunately, people who can’t handle change that challenges their power want revenge.

Share this post: