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Multiculturalism in Classroom

Multiculturalism in Classroom

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Published by Ivana Sudan

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Published by: Ivana Sudan on Jun 17, 2012
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WHAT CAN MULTICULTURAL LITERATURE DO FOR THEEFL CLASSROOM?Raúl Ruiz Cecilia & Juan Ramón Guijarro OjedaDepartment of Didactics of Language and LiteratureFaculty of Educational StudiesUniversity of GranadaABSTRACT
The final aim of this paper is to raise awareness regarding multiculturalism in ourclassrooms. In EFL settings, target culture is constantly redefined and enriched withnew ways of seeing and thinking portrayed by students' pluri-L1s. We think that would-be teachers need a special training in these issues at tertiary level. That’s why we feelthe urge of developing a multifaceted approach for a cross-cultural understanding of peoples around the world. To develop the above mentioned approach, we have workedwith multicultural folktales from different parts of the globe in our classes. In this paperwe present an instance from India chosen on a non-biased basis and bearing in mind ourtarget group’s interests. We looked very much forward to training our students in cross-cultural issues; familiarizing them with new ways of interpreting reality; approachingmulticultural literature from a humanistic perspective; and growing them multiculturallyfriendly.
1. Introduction
 If you read only what mirrors your view of yourself, you get locked in. It’s as if you’rein a stupor or under a spell. (Rochman,1993)Nowadays, it is a truism that we live in a multicultural world. Peoples from allover the world are coming together in an attempt to develop their selves in contact withmultiple ways of seeing and perceiving reality. However, new generations need specialtraining to overcome problems derived from culture contact and potentialinappropriateness in cultural decoding. When we are taught to rely heavily on one’s firstculture and not trained to be in other’s shoes, then we may be lead into culturalmisunderstandings instead of cultural richness. An assumption to hold the call forcrossing cultural borders is that coming to know other cultures results in self-growingand relativism of the mainstream culture. As Cai (2002) states, “we need to crosscultural borders to broaden our vision and shape ourselves to fit into a pluralisticworld.”Schools are the perfect setting to introduce multicultural topics. Children need todevelop cultural awareness from the earliest stages of learning. Teachers should selectand use multicultural-laden readings and tasks in order to deconstruct potentialprejudices in those generations. Down (1992) affirms that “… from reading, hearing,and using culturally diverse materials, young people learn that beneath surfacedifferences of color, culture or ethnicity, all people experience universal feelings of love, sadness, self-worth, justice and kindness.”
2. Objectives
The objectives we pursue with this paper are:(1)
Envisaging other cultures as enriching sources of knowledge.
Multiculturalapproaches give us the opportunity of increasing world knowledge and raising apositive awareness towards the Other.(2)
Developing students’ cultural awareness
. It is necessary that our would-beteachers develop a sense of cultural sensitivity and that they are well aware of itsimportance within the language classroom. Approaching a new culture wakes upthe awareness of our own system of beliefs, of values, of being. We relativizeour closest reality and learn to swap places with the Other.(3)
Training students in cross-cultural issues
. If we want our future teachers todevelop and transmit positive attitudes towards multiculturalism, then it isimperative an implicit training in these issues. Teacher trainers need to believein what they say in order to train their students successfully in cross-culturalmatters.(4)
Raising awareness towards cultural differences
. We should not envisagedifference as an enemy but as an ally. Understanding of differences meansunderstanding of the Self.(5)
Developing students’ critical thinking.
Learners will approach multiculturalissues in a more thoughtful and effective manner. We will enable them to ask more and better questions about other cultures and participate in the learningprocess itself. Students will also develop the skills necessary to evaluate theresources that they consult to become acquainted with multicultural issues.(6)
Approaching multicultural literature from a humanistic perspective
. Weplace the focus on the Self. We want to make them aware of the importance of their perception of their experiences. It is and approach which enhances personalgrowth and change.(7)
Working with literature that transcends stereotypes
. The stories have to becarefully selected and presented in order to avoid the transmission of stereotypes(gender or cultural stereotypes).(8)
Moving students from informing to empowering
. The use of multiculturalliterature in the EFL classroom needs to go beyond simply informing.Multicultural literature should be made an important part of the curriculumrather than an add-on.(9)
Growing students multicultural-friendly
. We strongly look forward togrowing multicultural-friendly new generations where respect and understandingprevails.
3. Literature and education in values
The Common European Framework for the Teaching of Languages
(Council of Europe, 2001) stresses the importance of literature in the language classroom for theeducation in values. Literature, in this sense, is tackled from a linguistic and aestheticviewpoint. Within these imaginative, artistic or aesthetic uses of language, we embracetasks to develop expression, comprehension, interaction or mediation expressed orallyor in the written form. These tasks would include.
singing: infant songs, popular songs, pop songs…-
listening, reading, telling, or writing imaginative texts (tales, songs…)including audiovisual texts, cartoon stories, illustrated tales…)-
performing plays with or without script.-
attending or acting out literary texts as, for example: reading and writingtexts (short stories, novels, poetry…); representing and attending poetryrecitals, plays, opera…Then, literary education ranges from aesthetic awareness to educational,intellectual, moral, emotional, linguistic, and cultural aims. The success, however, alsodepends upon the talent, educative, literature and personal awareness on the part of theteacher.As just stated above, benefits derived from literature are not limited to thelinguistic or cognitive levels. We go a little bit further: we pursue an education of thewhole person. In this way, if we pay attention to the values portrayed in literary texts,students develop positive attitudes towards them. In addition, in a parallel process, theydefine and redefine their own values. They can also learn to express their feelings andthoughts and, what’s more important, to share them with their peers. In this way, the useof multicultural literature in the EFL classroom can be highly motivating for studentssince they become well acquainted with their inner world.Following this premise, literature appears as a system which draws togethervalues within a society or culture acting as support for the expressive developing of it. Itenables us to grasp complexities, problems and meanings of values of that society withthe purpose in mind of understanding the meaning of Others. This is of great value forthe coexistence of people and a correct civic-mindedness. That it, the understanding,acceptance, and involvement of the Other through tolerance and otherness. It is anessential mean to reflect those conflicts which are grounded on ethnic, culture, gender,religion, or social status problems which affect the Other. Finally, literature functions ascultural glue which gives sense to a specific community.
4. Premises to work with multicultural literature
Each culture “lives by and through” thestories it “creates and preserves”. (HenryLouis Gates, Jr)A truly understanding of our modern society entails the acceptance of multiculturalism as a growing reality. Multiculturalism is the passport for achievingequality, keeping one’s identity, taking pride of our ancestry, and having a sense of belonging. Once we surpass the barrier of mainstream culture as the only acceptable, weare able to develop solid feelings of affectionate esteem and self confidence. Experiencehas shown that multiculturalism encourages racial and ethnic harmony and enhancescross-cultural understanding.In the ever challenging task of growing a society multiculturally friendly, weneed to take into account several factors. First of all, teachers have to believe inmulticulturalism. From our point of view, this is the basic pillar in the process of developing positive attitudes. If we don’t believe in what we say, then we are doomed tofail in the raising of multicultural children. Secondly, we have to feel what we say.Children need to experience that the teacher’s feelings are in accordance with his or her

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