Reclaimed – “Interculturalism in Schools”

August 18, 2012 Off By JR

The last two days we have been learning about/discussing multiculturalism, interculturalism, culture, and what the heck that means…I think? These lectures have blasted open my way of thinking, and after the first morning my brain was swollen and throbbing with new ideas and connections. So maybe we can break into this with somethings I have come away with and open up a discussion.

First some definitions:
Multiculturalism is like a salad, many different elements but nothing really mixes. This is maybe political first and educational second.
Interculturalism is like a soup, where everything mixes in. This could be educational first and political second.

So we can try to tackle cultural identity. This identity can be created (yes I meant created) in nations through stories, education, flags, national anthem, etc. to give people a sense of belonging. These differences we see in each other otherwise would have us wonder why we are together. So we need a reason to be together, and gain a sense of belonging. One of the preliminary task articles for the DETEF course described how individuals do not necessarily represent an entire “culture”, but instead take pieces of their surroundings that suit them. In this way everyone has their own culture and interpretation of the culture of the whole.

So not only have I become hyperaware of that, but our instructor made me think more critically about a question that many people I know ask, and that I often ask, especially while traveling; “Where are you from?” Reflecting on my reason for asking the question maybe I too fell into the trap of possibly placing others in predetermined boxes based on my concepts of what entire nations might be like. Now everytime I hear it I hesitate. In the interactions I have seen with the summer schoolers I have not really seen any obvious negative outcomes from the answer to the question, but I wonder what subconscious processes are happening. This requires much more reflection.

Browsing through my notes this post could easily turn into many more pages than you would like to read I am sure, so maybe I will end this section with a few questions:

  1. Should education be turning children into an imagined citizen? (putting them into determined cultural boxes)
  2. When meeting in a class, if we say where we are from the other students identify differences (through mental models etc). How might our class be different if we did not say our country of origin, or residence?
  3. What if we did not meet face to face, but online? How would that change our perspectives?
  4. How do these learned assumptions affect us, for example we are educated to believe in ideas like; digital native – digital immigrant
  5. Why are people using the word “culture” in specific situations? (defensively, offensively, explanatory, etc)

So this evening I ended up going out for some socializing of my own, as the social program is not planned again until Wednesday. I met with Amanda, Tuuli, and Nina for a bite to eat near Esplanade. As you can see in the photo Helsinki is celebrating it’s 200th birthday (as capital) and these chairs are everywhere.

I also went to the market by the harbour to see one of the many WDC2012 pavilions, the Helsinki Design Market. Here local designers can display their works. From glass, to reused rubber, to wood, and cloth the resounding theme of sustainability was present. One of my favourites was old lemonade bottles turned into a glass, a tumbler, and a shot glass.