Seeking Oneness in a World of Difference: Engaging with Diversity

Dr. Colleen Anne Kawalilak
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Dialogue, within and across cultures, can potentially inform and transform perspectives on the significant value of diversity. This paper explores the power of dialogue and its contribution to the co-creation of shared meaning and understanding in the world. To value diversity is to welcome and honour relationships of difference. By committing to this value, we step beyond basic awareness and trendy belief systems to engage with difference. Diversity is not valued without stepping beyond the familiar. Dialogue transcends notions of supreme individual significance and reconnects humankind to a greater community of like-minded souls. Humankind typically fears difference; silos of power evolve out of fear. Silos enclose and protect, (typically) serving as barriers to the experience of authentic dialogue. Silos go up — not out, contributing to a hierarchy of exclusion and fragmentation. Oppression of gender, race, age, sexuality, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and world-view are by-products of silos. Regardless of cultural differences, however, silos constructed by faulty belief systems and practices continue to have similar (global) — marginalizing effects. Adult educators, throughout the world, contribute significantly to turning silos sideways, to act as bridges, not barriers. Adult education has a rich history, testimony to the critical importance of honouring differences of beliefs, attitudes, practices and perspectives. The roots of adult education are cultivated beneath and beyond surface perceptions of difference. It is in the beneath and beyond that cultural differences are blurred; our similarities as human beings are made visible. When we transcend differences to explore similarities, we find safe space. In safe space, oneness resides. It takes courage, however, to step beyond to engage with difference. This requires surrendering beliefs, assumptions and attitudes that contribute to the formation of silos, of narrow perspectives that impede peripheral vision. Dialogue within and across cultures is critical for this paradigm shift.

Keywords: Dialogue, Adult Education, Diversity, Oneness, Relationships of Difference
Stream: Representations: Media, Communications, Arts, Literature
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Seeking Oneness in a World of Difference

Dr. Colleen Anne Kawalilak

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education Graduate Division of Educational Research Workplace and Adult Learning , University of Calgary

Although Canada is my home, I love to travel. My doctoral research was conducted in Western Australia (2003). I explored, through dialogue with adult educators and adult learners (all working or studying within Indigenous settings), alternate perspectives on adult education and lifelong learning. I was invited to conduct my research in an Indigenous community in Western Australia and this was both an honour and a privilege. My research and publishing interests include: global/holistic perspectives on adult education — lifelong learning; international education initiatives; workplace learning; alternate knowledge acquisition traditions; narrative methodologies; faculty development; community development; and spirituality in adult education settings. I have travelled extensively, presenting at conferences and working in the Yukon, North West Territories, Australia (New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territories); Cuba and Finland. My research at the present time focuses on the critical importance of cross-cultural dialogue in the creation of safe space, as a foundation for teaching, learning and creating community. I have experienced the power of cross-cultural dialogue in online, blended and in f2f (face-to-face) learning environments. I am passionate about adult education and am deeply committed to participating in the ongoing discourse on the co-creation of inclusive, holistic world-views.

Ref: D05P0037