How well does any person understand the frames of reference in which another person operates?
Consider the following questions.
· How do American state Legislatures report to Congress?
· Where in American government does one find the Department of Religion?
These are valid, useful questions asked by people with whom I spoke about “Philosophy and Principles of Public Administration.” I have addressed 8 groups of provincial and local government officials from China, via San Jose State University’s International Leadership Programs ( http://ies.sjsu.edu/ilp/ ). Such groups include 20 to 40 “delegates.” They spend 3 to 5 months in Silicon Valley. Then, they tour the United States before returning to China. I have read (in the Wall Street Journal) that the government of China sends many other such groups to destinations in and beyond the United States.
The roster of one group indicated that 2 delegates worked for a province’s television system. I asked if they knew that American TV is not a governmental function. They said they did not know such. I talked about the topic and indicated that even Public Broadcasting is now mostly privately funded. Someone asked, “What about Voice of America?”
These experiences provide reminders of how easy it is to lose sight of assumptions people take for granted about their own situations and about the vantage points from which other people might be trying to understand those situations.