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TRANSCULTURAL FRIENDSHIP: OUR POLITICAL FUTURE

Chapter Eight: Middle Childhood

Section 9: Peer Interaction

 

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Filipina Dance by the Baranga Dance Company at the Filipino Heritage Festival, Plaza de Cesar Chavez, San Jose, CA, on Sunday, August 2, 1998.

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The importance of peer interaction in middle childhood can hardly be overemphasized. There are limits to what a teacher can teach. Because of the teacher's inherent authority, bolstered by additional wisdom, experience, and usually size, the child has much difficulty holding up his/her own perspective in contrast to that of the teacher. The viewpoints are rarely coordinated -- one is accepted, the other put aside. This applies to the moral and intellectual realms.

 

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The peer on the other hand is not so awesome as to discourage confrontation. If I say it's better to go this way, and you say that way, I will argue, justify, and try to persuade, and you will do the same. This process forces both of us to become more aware of why we believe what we do, and of the strengths and weaknesses of both positions. The process may force both of us to attempt to coordinate the perspectives to create a solution or compromise that satisfies both perspectives and their corresponding interests.

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The result may be a better intellectual grasp of a situation. Or it may be an expanded social, even moral, understanding of how to get along with others more synergistically. The data shows clear movement from choices made from a single egocentric perspective to decisions made on principles of fairness or "reciprocity", meaning that the solution must be satisfactory from two or more perspectives. This process has been detailed in several places by Piaget and its importance to the peace movement has been explained by Susan Morse in "Egocentrism to Reciprocity: Prerequisites for World Citizenship."

 

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Peer interaction is also important for developing a positive self-concept and an attitude of respect for others. The teacher's sanctioning such interaction implies recognition that the peers can contribute to each other's education. This increases respect for others and for oneself as a capable contributor. It promotes a sense of responsibility and commitment to the class as a whole. The peer interaction brings differences to light, and the coordination of perspectives develops an expectation of unity merging from perceived differences. This is the small group counterpart to transculturalism.

 

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If the classroom is multicultural, cross-cultural competence will be developed. It will be noted that such competence must be built in accordance with developmental principles -- from concrete to abstract. The result of traditional exposures to other cultures tends to be scattered tidbits rather than well-assimilated ways of being that can evolve into the grand scale competencies of concern to our future.

 

 

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