Language and Culture; Teaching and Learning
Educational Media and Popular Cultural Forms by Elizabeth Ellesworth
Multiculturalism in education
Language and Culture; Teaching and Learning
Since multiculturalism is a part of our everyday lives, teachers need to teach tolerance for cultural diversity. To present a subject like culture in a classroom, the teacher needs to be very well prepared and aware of the cultural environment of his or her students. To help ESL teachers to approach such a subject in their classrooms, I decided to present a list of six interesting websites that integrated interesting activities and a lot of information on the topic of culture. Thousands of websites refer to the subject of culture but the ones I chose proposed activities that were easy to adapt to different cultural environments. Each site is followed by a brief description of its content.
This Peace Corps web page presents an interesting way of approaching the concept of difference among people by using tolerance. It provides clear explanations to various lesson plans that are divided by grade level. It also has a bank of stories that present the notion of tolerance and differences that can be really useful as teaching material in an ESL classroom.
This is a very good resource for teachers. This Teacher Talk web page stresses the aspects of cultural diversity in the classrooms, it provides information for teachers who are considered as being part of a minority, and it gives great ideas on how to present the notions of diversity and respect in the classroom. It also suggests how teachers should consider the diversity of their students when planning activities.
This site, Language Learning Activities for the World Wide Web, shows how a teacher can build a web page with his or her students. The topic, that is strongly suggested for this web page, asks the students to learn more about their own culture through food, fashion, burning issues, traditions
The article presented on this web page, Teaching Educators about Language: Principles, Structures, and Challenges, is a brief text explaining some of the challenges that a teacher will have to face while living in a multicultural society like ours. I strongly suggest to teachers to visit this site before planning activities that are related to culture for their students. It gives great pointers and helps understand the complexity of the subject.
This is the web page of the Centre for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition. It presents a lot of information about ESL learning strategies, ESL learning and teaching, and it has a great section on culture and language learning. It presents different approaches used to integrate culture in the classroom and it even proposes interesting material available on the Internet. It is fairly complete but it doesn't offer complete lesson plans and it doesn't present any creative activities.
This site presents a list of twenty-five Internet resources to help teachers teach about peace and tolerance for cultural diversity. Some of the sites mentioned offered very good classroom activities that are easy to use in an ESL classroom. They offered material form the primary to the secondary level. The material offered on these sites varied from colouring pictures, videos, stories, role-play activities, ideas for debates and much more.
Media and Popular Cultural Forms
By Elizabeth Ellesworth
Educational media, for Elizabeth Ellesworth, is a model that is shown to students in a way that they can not oppose it. Dramatization is made to show students how to act properly in a chosen situation about a chosen subject such as doing drugs for instance. The author says that the main use of educational films should be to arouse interest and curiosity or to be used as refreshers to people who are already familiar with the subject. Thus, those films have to compete with those of the entertainment world. Therefore, they have to have the content wanted mixed with the quality of professional movies. Then, the structure of educational films is changed in a way to represent what is done in Hollywood. Hollywood movies have a certain set of norms that prescribe particular types of forms and structures of story telling. Cause and effect chains of events, psychologically individualized "good" or "bad" characters who are active agents in the story, and a happy ending that answers all questions are the characteristics of that type of movies. This setting is used in educational media, and it influences the organization of the knowledge presented and therefore the nature of the meaning itself. However, in educational media, the characters are more vaguely described and seem to lack motivation for change, so the story, in order to be pursued, needs another incentive. An expert is that incentive which leads the ignorant characters to enlightenment. That type of film would not be necessary if the students, represented by the ignorant characters in the story, could learn the knowledge presented by the expert without the expert's help. Then, this knowledge, which is analytic and cut into principles and stages, shows that if someone understand the causal effect between actions and effects, that someone can avoid the negative outcomes. The fact that knowing the knowledge presented in the dramatizations leads to their own success and security reinforces individualism and responsibility for their own success. Obviously, the ones who do not gain that knowledge through the story suffer from the negative effects described in the story. That knowledge presented by the expert is seldom proven by facts or research, but considered as unquestionable truth in educational films. The story proves that knowledge to be the source of success. The characters always learn the unquestionable knowledge that leads to the happy ending. The way that is used in educational media to make that knowledge true is to create the film as if the story is real. There are two ways of doing that: the first is voice-over narration which is explaining the situations as if they were real at the same time that they happen in the story, and the second way of doing it is to show the characters as if they were independent of the narration. Then, educational dramatizations are not done in a way in which students could think more about the subject presented and in a way that they could find out what are the correct social implications asked from them.
Personally, I find the educational movies that the author is talking about very socially and culturally controlling. Characters are created as stereotypes within a set of norms and values taken from a particular culture. Students do not have their chance to judge subjectively the situations shown in these movies. They are not allowed to think by themselves, but to interpret in a desired way a chosen situation. Spectators are led to an interpretation rather than let to interpret the situation by themselves. These stories are made to shape the people that they aim at, but it is not only that kind of people who watch these movies. People from different culture would interpret the same story in different ways. Stories should only present the situation and then, the teacher could discuss what happened with his or her students. These stories could be real ones presenting facts supported by research. Then, students would be able to interpret what they want from the story. They would be free to think what they want to thinkabout a particular subject. After all, freedom is one of our most important values. However, capitalism, individualism, and economy are taking more and more importance in our society and that is what this kind of film represents. As the author said, people of different origins interpret the same film in a different way, so why not use those films in a proper way that would make students more positively involved in our society? If educational media is used to teach kids something, why not teach them to use their heads?
Multiculturalism in education
Canada is a mixed, pluralistic society in which people must learn about
other countries, their customs and cultures. Everything that immigrants from
the five continents bring with them is good to develop Canadian culture and
education. Young children are the foundation of tomorrow's society and as members
of the group we should teach them to build a better world with more understanding
of human behaviour.
Bilingual and multicultural education is emerging and teachers should work
together to dispel the myths of stereotyping and help students to understand
and respect differences. Teachers have an important role to play as models for
acceptance and appreciation of cultures other than our own. A good multicultural
education helps children to understand that differences should make our nation
stronger, not weaker , and encourage positive changes within our society.
Teachers should organize cross-curricular activities to integrate the concept
of multiculturalism. For example to integrate multiculturalism in their classroom
children's literature would bring students to discover new concepts about multiculturalism.
Through this medium we can also teach valuable lessons relating to diversity.
Visual media can be another powerful tool in education. The students can actually
see, hear and almost feel the character's persecution. Because elementary school
population are becoming more culturally diverse, children need skills to accept
and appreciate differences. Cultural diversity can create tension among students
and result in a negative school climate. A student who doesn't feel accepted
by his or her classmates may develop low self-esteem, anxiety, aggressiveness,
absenteeism and learning problems. A program that develops pride of cultural
differences builds a positive community.
When we talk about multiculturalism in education we tend to separate it
into two types of education: multicultural education and anti-racism education.
Multicultural education involves the recognition that everyone belongs to a
cultural group and to accept and appreciate cultural diversity, to affirm that
all groups are equal within our society, that everyone has the right to receive
an education of quality. It is also to provide opportunities for individuals
to appreciate the cultural heritage of others and finally to promote cross-cultural
understanding and racial harmony. On the other hand when we talk about anti-racism
education we associate it with the importance of reflecting on individual's
attitudes toward race and anti-racism. Furthermore it involves the understanding
of what causes racism, to identify and address racism to a personal and institutional
level, and to take personal responsibility for the elimination of racism. It
is important to provide opportunities for individuals to act toward the elimination
of racism in all its forms, including stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination.
Both educational orientations provide experiences that promote strength
through diversity and cultural equity. In both cases the opportunity is given
to the student to learn and experience differences through social, artistic,
physical and intellectual activities.
The goals of multiculturalism and anti-racism education are:
- To enhance understanding and respect of cultural diversity
- To increase creative intercultural communication
- To provide equal opportunities for educational achievement by all learners, regardless of culture, national origin, religion, or social class
- To develop social responsibility
It is essential in today's Canadian society to point out the importance for young children to integrate in harmony. It is part of the teacher's role to facilitate the integration of every individual in the group. We tend to associate behaviour and learning problems with young immigrants more than with the majority group. The Canadian society has an important role to play in immigrants' education and we should be proud of our diversity.
Sabatier C. (1991). Les relations parents-enfants dans un contexte d'immigration. Ce que nous savons et ce que nous devrions savoir Santé mentale au Québec, XVI.
Vie Pédagogique, Enseigner et apprendre selon une perspective culturelle, Février-Mars 2001, Numéro 118
Social Equity Branch (1994). Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Education Planning Guide (Draft).