March 15th, 2019
While describing their “unruly” intellectual style, Israeli scientists often employed an emotional “language of fire” in contrast with German cold cognition
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cultural misunderstandings like this are growing as campuses internationalize. In recent interviews with scientists at Harvard, M.I.T., Boston University and other institutions, I found that respondents embrace diversity in their workplaces but also raise concerns about puzzling behaviors of their international students. They say that cultural diversity in research settings is crucial but point out that some international students are “too obedient” or “hard working yet lacking in originality.” Without training in cultural sensitivity, they are often surprised and occasionally make errors of communication.
…Part of our problem is that culture is a taboo topic. Most scientists claim that “science is science.” They presume that cultural differences are irrelevant in science. However, upon reflecting on their concrete practices, most of my interviewees admit that culture affects the way they think, organize, teach and interact. They also suggest that culture unconsciously defines their scientific priorities. German culture, for example, inculcates habits that support rigorous and methodical incremental science. Israeli culture, in contrast, equips scholars for engaging in bold, innovative leaps.
The differences are systematic. In recent talks about “Fire and Ice,” I presented these contrasting intellectual styles through interviews with 144 Israeli and German scientists. The Germans, suggested respondents, are orderly, exacting, formalistic, heavy, systematic, well organized, thorough, rigorous, punctual, strict and disciplined. In Germany, they explained, emotions are not allowed into the lab. In Israel they are.
Respondents suggested that in contrast with German soberness, the Israeli intellectual style is creative, entrepreneurial, jumpy, open, disorderly, flexible, improvisatory, courageous, associative and intuitive. While describing their “unruly” intellectual style, Israeli scientists often employed an emotional “language of fire” in contrast with German “cold cognition.” “Science burns in my bones,” said one Israeli.