I was a visiting research and teaching scholar at the Graduate School of the Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia during the fall semester of 2014. I co-taught 50 students in four graduate-level courses, including a Ph.D. seminar that explored whether an undergraduate Liberal Arts curriculum would empower Indonesian higher education and enhance Indonesian democracy.
We started our seminar with a discussion about cultural differences between Americans and Indonesians. I suggested, “Americans smile a lot.” My students objected, “Indonesians smile a lot” and “joke often.” As an example, my students joked that Indonesian higher education offered more “freedoms” than American higher education did: “Americans have copyrights; Indonesians have the right to copy.” I asked, “What are major differences between Indonesian and American cultures?” Without hesitation, my students responded, “Americans have rights. We have values.” I protested, “Americans have values, too.”