If people are to think globally, they must have opportunities to express themselves and to act at the local level, a New Mexico educator said Thursday.

George Otero, founder and director of Las Palomas de Taos, a multicultural learning center in Taos, New Mexico, was in Salt Lake City to address a national conference of Literacy Volunteers of America.Opening sessions of the conference were held in the Red Lion Inn grand ballroom. Meetings will continue through Saturday.

Otero, who has given workshops throughout the country on global and multicultural education, says the current crisis in the Middle East is a good example of how people may hear or read about a situation but not understand how it involves or affects them.

Interviews with political, military and other officials with expertise in the area may be conducted. People may watch or read such interviews but aren't able to begin to understand or identify with the problem until they actually take part in public discussions about the issues, he said.

He said schools and public institutions are among those responsible for sponsoring such discussions.

"We've had high school students in our center during the past week. Many of them were very numb, concerned and fearful about the situation in the Middle East. But they feel very inadequate in trying to decide what's true and false" about what they're hearing and reading, Otero said.

"What's frustrating for them is that there have been no forums, no opportunities for them to raise their questions and concerns, to state their fears and to hear how other young people and adults" feel about the situation, Otero said in an interview.

The speaker, who received a doctorate degree in multicultural education from the University of Northern Colorado, said television programs such as Ted Koppel on ABC's Nightline may be interesting and informative. But such programs often don't do a lot to help other people really understand the news, he said.

For people to really understand and learn they have to be participants. They have to be "raising their own questions and having them answered."

People have to be involved. "Somebody else can't do it for them. That's why my message (means) a lot to literacy volunteers, who are striving to give people more power and control over their own lives and learning," Otero said.

How does one make current news events such as the Persian Gulf crisis more meaningful for those who are illiterate?

The 42-year-old educator said people must first acknowledge that "everyone has a perception and a perspective on these issues that deserves to be heard. Then you set up a situation where they can be heard. Then you support people in exploring the implications of their points of view. That provides motivation. Once people are (recognized) for their point of view and are able to state it, then they are motivated" to pursue further learning, Otero said.

"I truly believe the media become scapegoats. (The media) do their best to put out information and ideas, essentially issuing a call for public discourse, public discussion. What I'm suggesting is that our educational institutions and community organizations have to convene the public to town meetings and forums where the public can respond to the news," Otero added.