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My newest article appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education on April 30, 2017. 

“In a Pirahã village along the Maici River in Brazil, I squeezed mustard onto a piece of bread. An old woman from the village watched me. “Why do you eat bird shit?,” she asked. There was irritation in her voice. Then I looked at her more closely: My curious inquirer was sucking the brains out of a roasted rat head.

There was novelty in what we were seeing. Diverse perspectives. We had stumbled upon the necessary condition for all learning.

There are those who say that learning is changed behavior following exposure to new information. If we already know the information we are receiving, such as the familiar food before us on the plate, we have not mentally expanded. Same food, no learning. New food, learning. Eating a plate of surströmming would be new behavior for me, based on the new information that one can, in fact, eat a terribly stinky fish. Just as sushi was once new to me as an adult, and solid foods as an infant. Food is a captivating teacher…” (read more of Seek Out Strangers – the less comfortable we are, the more we learn)