Edited Inksheds on

Session VI
Ethics in Teaching and Learning Cultural Differences

  1. "The Second-Language Writer and the Liberal Education: the Ethics of Voice in Academic Writing," Michael Sider & Theresa Hyland, University of Western Ontario
  2. "Motivating ESL Students to Engage with Literature," Vivian Howard, Dalhousie University
  3. "Who's Learning What? Teaching and Learning Cultural Differences," Thom Parkhill & Dorothy Turner, St. Thomas & Eastern Mediterranean Universities

Michael and Theresa

I felt silenced because I could not have a concept. I felt silenced because I couldn't think of anything to say that was appropriate and every time I had a useful idea I had to take so much time to think of how to say it "fairly" within the rules of the game that by the time I was "ready" the discussion had long since moved on.

Mostly even in the diverse worlds of writing centres we don't know about these cultural differences. Most parts of the university are not positioned to help students with analogous problems -- at least writing support people have some mandate to help. -- Margaret

We all had constraints . . . to work within . . . it would have been more effective if only one or two people at the table were constrained and the others were free to speak as they pleased.

It's a game, right? So it was fun . . . the success of the communication process depends on many factors, but it's the good will factor that dominates in most helpful acts of communication. And it may be that the will is clouded and warped some times by the political battles in which I'm engaged.

Two things were missing: real inability and real intention. I had to consciously create moments when I could "not comprehend" number. -- Russ

Negotiation is the right word. (Although we barely got started -- I feared we'd all drown before reaching the solution . . . ouch!) The key is finding common ground somehow. -- Brock

It's not a new feeling, having to negotiate language. I think I've always been in a community divided by class, taboos, religion, gender, age, gentrification, etc., which meant you soon became aware of codes and registers and incomprehensions. -- Lynn


Jigsaw method of teaching: great stuff. Might be extremely useful applied to drama such as Shakespeare (three brief scenes or three soliloquies). -- Brock

Dorothy and Thom

Maybe that's the link that Thom needs to use. I am "the other" and here is a course on your narratives. How does my presentation of this help you decide what you are and what you are not? . . . I wonder if the student who went to McKenna did so because she didn't like this feeling of "discomfort" and chose to resolve it by making it an issue of power. I think that as First Nations students and people feel more empowered in all aspects of their lives, these questions of co-optation of voice will disappear.

I guess I'm arguing that [Shakespeare's] canonicity, his possible share in the development and perpetuation of . . . British colonialism is a necessary part of a complexity that has somewhere within it a radical potential too. Surely understanding a canonical author as more than just a canonical author, seeing that particular political place as in dialogue with other stances, is important if you're going to look also at stylistic stances. -- Michael

I want to have one shot at stretching [students] as far as I can, at getting them to see the world from somewhere radically different and knowing what that feels like -- and 18th C literature is what I do that best with. -- Russ

Ann's question -- should we continue teaching Native American religions -- is a good one. It seems to me that I fumbled the answer a bit. I engage in the study of religion because I think it worthwhile. From it I learn about myself and my relationship to others. Miigmag and Maliseet religions are as worthwhile to study as Buddhism and Hinduism. Thus the academic study of those particular religions is necessary. I'm one of the few academics doing it. -- Thom

One of the ways a person can teach something in a context where it is / appears problematic, ethically, is to present to them the array of pedagogical choices (methods and materials) you have available (by virtue of your own skills, knowledge and money resources) and have students select from within the choices.

I am anxious that the children and their families have access to the "canon" but not because it "fills some hole, gap, lack" -- I think I am most concerned that teacher attitudes about the "canon" create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I don't think you have to defend or justify as long as you aren't the only option(s) for the students.

Teaching the canon does not necessarily mean teaching uncritically . . . We don't need to heroize the authors but we can use the texts as important historical as well as aesthetic documents. This knowledge is fundamental to an informed appreciation of non-canonical post-modern texts . . . I guess what I mean is that how you teach / analyze is as important as what you choose to teach / analyze. -- Vivian

Non-aboriginal students also deserve the chance to study native religions, though I can see why they might be better off taking courses from a native studies programme. In any case -- thanks, Dorothy and Vivian, for demonstrating and exemplifying such good teaching. -- Margaret

Given the university culture (Eurocentric), perhaps some co-teaching would be useful too -- to put native religious teachings in students' current context.

If one can only teach one's own kind about one's own kind, where do we end up? No possibility of communication or community -- solipsism. -- Brock

I feel about this the way I feel about the propaganda in business publications, the hype in technology, the lies in history . . . Yes, I'm selling poison and I can't always stop to explain why I think it's poison. All I can do is say: look, this is part of human culture which, for good reasons or bad, I have chosen to examine. My hope and faith (well, intention) is to get at the principles of rhetoric and logic and the cultural contingencies that go into the making of the texts. -- Lynn

In the ELT course I expect the goal was to teach the English language. The use of literature as text for this doesn't seem to be so problematic. What's the essential difference between using the model North American essays and newspaper columns or poems? Literature may not help the students order a "pocketphone" but it will help them understand the language and the soul that accompanies that language.

If you don't teach these literatures, how are people going to learn about cultural difference? If our goal is to meet « way, perhaps it doesn't REALLY matter which culture's representative teaches; it matters more how it is taught. Elicit students to voice their growing sense of "what's different between my culture & theirs."

Who was unethical? -- the instructor trying in good faith to confront probematic texts and the residue of colonialism via the collaborative pedagogy in the classroom, or the individual who, without discussing his/her problem/objections with the instructor, bucked the problem up the political/academic powers-that-be? It's the familiar problem of the liberal education (going back to Mill -- thanks Michael and Theresa): some (many?) people don't want to confront the other (usually troped as the offensive), but there's no liberal education without the confrontation . . . That's why the kind of teaching Thom and Dorothy are doing is necessary, and the difficulty is necessary. -- Brock

To come to the Other as a seeker, a disciple, a listener is one process -- it presumes a supplicant position -- learner -- before authority (authentic authority) who can tach or withhold according to whatever principle s/he lives by. (Space here for cartoon of guru on mountain-top). To come to the Other as categorizer, organizer, locater, imperialist -- let me fit Other into my world view, subject it to my intellectual cutting and stretching and fitting, is another thing altogether. . . . Now, the trouble with "going on doing this" is that the learning which is being offered to students at the University is the second kind -- or even if the student comes seeking enlightenment, what s/he's really going to get is the university package -- enlightenment as constructed by a power structure that is PLM [People Like Me]. -- Susan

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