Dealing with Cultural Mismatch

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The purpose of this site is to discuss two contrasting cases of cultural mismatch when people violate each others cultural expectations and how they deal with the situation. 

Case A:  "Look at Me!"
Clip1: A White Africaans teacher in a South African Black township school wants to make a point to a new Black Sotho student that next time he comes to school he should wear short pants because of school policy*.  The Black student puts his head down and does not look at the teacher while she talks to him.  The White teacher repeatedly demands that the Black student look at her while she is talking to him.   The more she demands this, the more he puts his head down and remains silent.  Although she tries to be helpful and friendly to him, she apparently communicates a threat and even hostility to the boy... (watch Clip 1 and judge for yourself):

* Note: The school policy about short pants is justified by very hot summers in South Africa (in Pretoria area). The children may have heat stroke if they do not wear open cloth, especially during physical exercises. There is no air-conditioning at the school.



Clip1 "Look at Me!" (RealPlayer rm format, use when the connection with the server is not reliable for streaming)
Clip1 "Look at Me!" (Windows Media Player wmv format)
Clip1 "Look at Me!" (QuickTime mov format)

Transcript: White Teacher, "Look at me!"

Clip2: Interview with a Black teacher about communal norms for youth's respect for elderly
This is an interview with a Black teacher at the same school, who talks about the tradition in many local tribal Black African cultures (like Sotho) for youth to express respect to the elderly by putting their head down and avoiding eye contact.  He also talks about confusion for the Black youth to communicate in places where white people are in charge (explicitly mentioning the school).



Clip2 "Respecting elderly" (ReaplPlayer rm fomrat, use when the connection with the server is not reliable for streaming)
Clip2 "Respecting elderly" (Windows Media Player wmv format)
Clip2 "Respecting elderly" (QuickTime mov format)

Transcript: Black Teacher on respect of elderly

Conclusion:  This case demonstrates that cultural mismatch leads to hostility from the White dominated culture.  Because of a different power position, people with less power have to be more culturally sensitive.  They simply cannot afford not to be sensitive - the consequences would be too severe for them.  This pattern is not deterministic but conditional: cultural mismatch does not necessary lead to hostility and insensitivity.

Case B: Needs to be found... 
We need a case where a cultural mismatch leads to a greater understanding between the involved cultures.  Please help us to find this example.

Feel free to share what you think about dealing with cultural mismatch below

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Comments* (to separate lines put two Enter):

Name: Mike Cole
Date: Sunday, 20 April 2003
Time: 01:53:45 PM -0400

Comments

Hi Eugene--

Interesting question about how to make positive use of cultural mismatches between home and school cultures. A couple of thoughts although no answer.

First, Patricia Greenfield has a whole curriculum based on ameliorating chance of problems from cultural mismatch (rather, Greenfield and associates. "Bridging cultures between home and school." Second, there is a website devoted to relevant issues at

http://www.lab.brown.edu/tdl/index.shtml

Hope this helps.

mike

Name: Ana Marjanovic-Shane
email: anamshane@speakeasy.net
Date: Sunday, 20 April 2003
Time: 11:26:12 PM -0400

Comments

Hi,

I liked your site. It invites analysis. It is simple, yet provokes thinking. It is a good way to share material.

As for the cultural mismatches between the teachers and the students. Wouldn't it be normal to have teachers prepared and knowledgeable in the culture(s) of the student's they teach? Wouldn't the teachers be better teachers if they know their students well?? If you want to teach in the Zone of Proximal Development, doesn't this mean that the teacher should know where this zone is for every student??

I can't resist to send this multilingual poem to you -- you may be the only one who will possibly understand maybe 80% of it. Tell me what you think:

All the best

Ana

Name: Carolyn Graves
email: carolmed@udel.edu
Date: Wednesday, 15 September 2004
Time: 03:29:46 PM -0400

Comments

I found this link to be very interesting and it is amazing to me that this is still happening in a society that has every culture and language you could possibly imagine. There may never be a solution to cultural mismatch, but I think that classes like this one is a step in the right direction. It should be required of teachers now to get trained in how to deal with a diverse population so that all students can get their best possible education regardless of where they come from. It should not be that they feel less than or left out because of what is going on in the home. Since the home is the major source of education for all children, it may help if teachers had a list of who was to be in their class before the start of the semester and visit that students' home and meet the parents of that student before classes begin. It would help the teacher to understand where the student comes from and the type of home they live in and would also help parents to understand how important their involvement is in educating their child. This might not prevent all cultural mismatch, but it could help in helping the student and the teacher to know a little more of what is expecting of them.

Name: Carolyn Graves
email:
Date: Wednesday, 15 September 2004
Time: 03:28:53 PM -0400

Comments

I found this link to be very interesting and it is amazing to me that this is still happening in a society that has every culture and language you could possibly imagine. There may never be a solution to cultural mismatch, but I think that classes like this one is a step in the right direction. It should be required of teachers now to get trained in how to deal with a diverse population so that all students can get their best possible education regardless of where they come from. It should not be that they feel less than or left out because of what is going on in the home. Since the home is the major source of education for all children, it may help if teachers had a list of who was to be in their class before the start of the semester and visit that students' home and meet the parents of that student before classes begin. It would help the teacher to understand where the student comes from and the type of home they live in and would also help parents to understand how important their involvement is in educating their child. This might not prevent all cultural mismatch, but it could help in helping the student and the teacher to know a little more of what is expecting of them.

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Many thanks to Mark Smith, a graduate student of University of Delaware, who helped to transcribe the clips and to Danielle Muller, an undergraduate student of of University of Delaware, with whom we discussed the project. Clips were made in near Pretoria, South Africa, in January 2003.

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