intercultural learning

You are currently browsing the archive for the intercultural learning category.

Speaking of different versions of the same language – did you know that at school (obviously it doesn’t matter whether you study in Austria, Britain or Timbuktu) teachers only concentrate on some strange standardized version of a language nobody really uses.

My teachers spoke “Oxford” English; at least they claimed to do so. When I started teaching English I was advised to stop using this “horrible” American English I am kinda proud of. Now I am with the Language Testing Center at the University of Klagenfurt and in charge of producing listening items with all kinds of native speakers. Of course, I have already gotten some feedback on the American, South African and British speakers who have helped me with the recording. And guess what I was told: Austrian teachers focus on Oxford English (surprise!) which is why I should stick to British native speakers only!

Sure, that’s how real life works: You got, let’s say, three clones. One is British, one American and the other one is Australian. They look the same, smell the same and always say the exact same things. You just pick the one you like the most! (In some way, that’s a completely new kind of discrimination, don’t you think?!)

Nigger you just fucked with the wrong bull. Come here, you should’ve learned your place on the fucking basketball court. But you fucking monkeys never get the message. My father gave me that truck, you mother fucker, you ever shoot a fireman? You come here and shoot at my family. I’m gonna teach you a real lesson now, mother fucker. Put your fucking mouth on the curb [...] Put it on the curb, right now! That’s it! [...] Now say goodnight
(American History X).

Being asked about it, I strongly believe that a lot of people would be convinced that something like ‘racism’ is a thing of the past. As long as those people only refer to the inhuman and despicable treatment of, for instance, Jewish people in Europe in the first half of the 20th century or black slaves in the United States, they may well be right. How do those people, however, explain white people burning down asylum-seekers’ hostels? How do they explain New York police men leaving 41 bullets in an African American’s body just because they thought he was pulling out a gun? How do they explain teenagers making racist remarks in the middle of an Austrian schoolyard?

The truth is that racism still exists. The truth is that our world is full of prejudices and stereotypes poisoning human relationships or preventing them from being established in the first place. Instead of getting rid of them, we support, nourish, and spread them. Some people may say I am exaggerating. I do, however, think that the seriousness of our situation must not be underrated.

Thinking of our future, I feel that young people, especially, should get to know and learn something better and more fulfilling than racist attitudes. They must not drown in self-hatred and hatred towards others, but learn to appreciate the difference. Being a teacher, I have strong interest in dealing with this very delicate subject at school. Teachers are role models, no matter whether they want or do not want to be one. Consequently, they do have a great impact on their students’ personal development. There is no question whether they should make use of that impact or not. They just have to.

My book is meant to take away people’s blinders and make them open their eyes. They do not only have to accept the fact that racism is still omnipresent, but they also have to seriously engage in finding ways to deal with both the good and bad things our world has to offer.

My book is divided into three different parts. The first one gives a historical overview of the term ‘racism’. Dating back to the Middle Ages, ‘racism’ had been religiously or physically motivated for a long time before humans started to set up biologically determined hierarchies in the 19th century. All of a sudden, there was scientific evidence of the superiority of some people over others. This conviction culminated in the overtly racist regimes in Germany, the United States, and South Africa in the 20th century. After that, the term ‘racism’ underwent some crucial change. Scientists finally proved the belief of biological superiority and inferiority wrong. Therefore, we do not talk about biological racism any more. ‘Racism’ has, however, taken on different forms and can now be considered ‘cultural racism’. The first part will, additionally, deal with the origin and spreading of stereotypes and prejudices. Furthermore, I will have a look at the question when humans learn the concept of ‘race’. It should not be surprising that it is learned at a very early age.

The second part revolves round an actual suggestion of how teachers could fight or work against the spreading of racist thinking and acting. I consider ‘Intercultural Learning’ one of the most promising and inspiring ways to positively influence young people’s cognitive and emotional development. To me, it is an all-embracing discipline, determined to encourage qualities like critical thinking, tolerance, open-mindedness, and solidarity. As the term suggests, intercultural learning means getting into contact with other cultures, entering into a dialogue with each other, trying to reflect upon similarities and differences, and, eventually, growing from engaging with it.

The third part represents the core of this book. It combines the first two parts which are primarily theoretical and revolves round a practical teaching approach. What I intended to do was to provide teachers, students, and even parents with a suggestion for a possible access to the subject. I decided to use a movie named “American History X”. I strongly believe that this movie holds a number of possibilities of how teachers could introduce the subject without totally confronting the students with its complexity right away.

Introduction of “Racism in the 21st century – How everybody can make a difference”, ISBN: 978-3-8364-1033-5

Find the book on Amazon