Ithaca, N.Y. — Small group in small corner. No small talk. Harvard student Brian Palmer tries to explain the impact on his attitudes and thinking of a stay in India last summer.
Young Scott Jones of Freedom, Maine, just returned from a Russian language camp in Minnesota, has had some of his cultural assumptions challenged, too.
Venerable English educator Alec Dickson listens understandingly. Dickson was founder of British Community Services Volunteers Overseas, a predecessor of the Peace Corps.
Such spontaneous generation-spanning, nation-spanning dialogues bridged formal sessions of ''Education Toward a World View,'' an international conference sponsored by the Lisle Fellowship July 25-29 at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. The conference marked the organization's 50-year involvement in increasing global understanding.
Venezuelan politician, educator, and feminist Mercedes Fermin-Gomez, who holds a doctorate from Boston University, told conference participants how her family taught her strong moral values.
''My grandfather would not let us swim in the river that ran through his hacienda land, because there was a group of people who lived just downstream, and those people used the water for drinking,'' she said.
She urged her audience to gain an understanding of Latin America at first hand, to stay long enough to get inside the cultures and to master the language.
''Language and communication are more of a barrier (to international understanding) than national boundaries,'' she told the group.
Another speaker, Indonesian Gedong Bagoes Oka, former member of the Indonesian parliament and founder-director of the Bali Canti Sena community for training village youths in education and social service, is a diminutive woman who quieted the conference by closing her eyes in prayer before she spoke or answered questions from the stage.
''Be good, do good,'' she responded to a question about how an individual can promote world peace. For journalists specifically, ''Do not embellish, do not obscure, speak the truth.''
Lisle Fellowship works to eliminate international tensions through overseas field studies followed by group analysis of common experiences. DeWitt Baldwin, the jovial, white-haired gentleman with a grandfatherly manner who founded Lisle with the help of his wife, Edna, explained the Fellowship format as follows:
* Arrange to have a group from as many cultures and races and religions as possible.
* Take the participants out in small groups to work in nearby communities for one week.
* Afterwards, let the participants share their reactions with each other. In this way, they will begin to understand how cultural programming influences attitudes. This wider perspective is the beginning of a world view.
Continuing his own global commitment, Mr. Baldwin is actively involved with the formation of a national peace academy.
The address of Lisle Fellowship is 146 College Road, Suffern, N.Y. 10901. ( 914) 356-4650.m