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Working Paper


Open-mindedness is a goal for a liberal-arts education, falling under the more basic goals of transmitting and developing major areas of knowledge, providing the foundations for a democratic citizenry, and promoting sustained intellectual pursuits. Cross-cultural studies can further these basic goals in subtle, but powerful ways by drawing attention to assumptions about one’s own culture normally just taken for granted, by encouraging diversity of ideas, and by helping to improve critical self-understanding (such as an appreciation of one’s fallibility and limits). Because these studies can promote open-mindedness as a mere offshoot of evident contrasts with one’s own culture, the teaching for open-mindedness is no additional burden on an already crammed curriculum. The teaching is highly motivating because it is filled with surprises about one’s culture and one’s self, particularly in learning of the narrowness of one’s current understanding.


David C. Lam Institute for East-West Studies

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