Friday, January 26, 2007

Reading: Big Brother, Immigration, English Only Debate

Read this and the news stories linked here. What do you think about this trend? Do those of you living in or having recently visited English speaking countries agree with what these articles say? What have you observed? Is there any culture anywhere in the world that is free of intolerance? What is to be done?

Let the discussion begin!

British values (story and link from English Teaching News)

At the height of the Big Brother racism row, education secretary Alan Johnson said that the 'ignorance and bigotry' shown on the TV show must be tackled and that the debate 'highlighted the need to make sure our schools focus on the core British values of justice and tolerance'.

Big Brother racism story – “Big Brother racism row grips Britain, India” (MSNBC)

Less than a week later, a government report on citizenship lessons has found that not enough emphasis is placed on UK identity and history. The report's author, former head teacher Sir Keith Ajegbo, warned that there was a particular issue for schools dominated by white pupils, and said that more should be done to improve children's understanding of diversity. "It is these white pupils whose attitudes are overwhelmingly important in creating community cohesion," he said. "Nor is there any advantage in creating confidence in minority ethnic pupils if it leaves white pupils feeling disenfranchised and resentful. Many indigenous white pupils have negative perceptions of their own identity." The report concludes that all pupils should study 'free speech, the rule of law, mutual tolerance and respect for equal rights' and have opportunities to explore and debate difficult or controversial topics. Alan Johnson has welcomed the report and announced that a new strand for citizenship classes, 'Identity and Diversity: Living together in the UK' will be introduced.

Schools 'must teach Britishness' (BBC)

US Immigration & English Only Debates

Not all the controversy and conflict about take place in the UK. There has been bitter, ongoing debate in the US over immigration. This debate is frequently characterized by racist assumptions and comments. Related to the immigration debate, the recurring single language controversy claims that the US should make English the only legal language and discriminate against non-English speakers. Diversity training and multicultural studies have been staples in the US schools for years. However, they do not seem to be changing basic attitudes. At the same time, US students are learning less and less about the rest of the world.

Ward: Your view excluded in immigration debate

Gingrich Backs English Official Language Push

Not is this related set of problems is unique to English speaking countries. France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and other European countries have also noted increased intolerance and growing concern over retaining traditional national identity.


  1. OK now - let's get on this. You've all had time to read through at least a couple of articles.

    If you are having problems with figuring out vocabulary meanings from context, here are some vocabulary in reading context

    I prepared guidelines for writing reading reponses that I will post after discussion & before writing

  2. Hi all,

    Almost everyday, we watch on the tv or read in the newspapers some crimes committed for ethnic or religion discrimination cause. This event is common in all countries without exeption, but with more or less forte acuity according to the diversity of the society.

    The causes of the discrimination propagated around the world are multiple. In my opinion, the most important are as following: first, some group of people can't support the diversity, in others words they haven't educated to respect the other's religion and culture. In plus, the immigrants are accused that they are behind the shrinking of the employment opportunities and creating the cost because of this we attend the discrimination against them. At last, some ideas inherited from the past, especially period of the colonization which is with the supeiority of people on the other.

    As solutions of this crucial event I can advance some propositions. On the one hand, school must play a leading place in educating pupils at an earlier age how to cohabit with the diversity, to be a good citizen aware of his duties and rights. On the other hand, as much as the media have an effective and large impact it should present some citizenship lessons.

    Finally, we don't have to overlook the important of the family, because it's the core of the society. The parents have to inculcate to their children how to respect the other, however he is different.They may give their kids a good example to follow by being good citizens.

  3. Increasing heterogeneity in a population does seem to increase the stress - particularly in populations that have been culturally insular.

    I agree that education is the key - but not just in the classroom. Personally knowing people from other countries and different cultures. Years ago, you had to be able to afford to travel to do that. Now we can do it online.

    When the "other" has a real face, then that other stops being a stranger. Of course, people have to be willing to take this step and leave stereotypes and preconceptions to the side.

    It's easier for childrem. Just think if every child in school had a friend in another country. They would want to learn about how their friend lives, would care what happened that friend's country, etc.

    Yes, that sounds too easy and over simplified. And maybe it is. But I am talking about large scale learning about other places and cultures - large scale exchanges - EVERY child having at least one friend in another country. Most adults I know are too set in their ways to change.

  4. Hi Ms. Vanessa & other friends,

    I think the most important cause responsible for this case is faulty education system. Like in India, even after 60 years of independence and having a robust democracy, still we are taught about the atrocities committed by the Britishers while ruling over India.

    I think some vested interests twist the history to suit their own interests. In India we have so many diversities. If I am not in the wrong no other country has so much dissimilarities among different cultures that live here. as in India.

    I think teachers and educators together with politicians can play a lead role in changing the society's mind-set. However, I agree that it is not easy.



  5. Rajeev

    Didn't I ask you to comment on the readings in the original post?

    I am not sure I would agree about India having more dissimilariites among its population than any other country. I would think that various factors contribute to dissimilarities: size (the larger the country the more likely it will include diverse groups); massive immigrationl topography that prevented diverse groups from interacting (thus keeping them hostile strangers); outside factors forcing artificial boundaries on the country; religious differences. Durely there are more, but these are the first that come to mind.

    It's to too easy and I suspect a cop-out to lay all solutions on "education" and the government. We do that in this country too - and never with the hoped for outcome. The everybody gets mad at the school system, mad at the politicians. This is happening right now with NCLB(No child Left Behind), advanced as the cure and now recognized and reviled as a failure.

    The deepest education takes place in the home and the community.

  6. We can see discrimination everywhere. This event was a small part of a whole mountain. Superiority is the main key for those racists acting like that.

    I agree with you that education can have a significant impact on people. Respect can be developed into our nature if we know how and why. The more people understand the other's culture, the more people embrace the diversity.

    Teacher Vanessa has a good point as well. In my daughter's school, about 60% of the population is minority. My daughter told me that almost every kids can spesk at least two different languanges; she is proud of herself. She has learned some holidays in another countries. She also knows the other cultures and languanges are equal important. When I volunteeres in her school, I met a lot of perents. They tried their best to create racist-free environment. I saw families, communities, and school make the affort to let kids learn to respect and toerate the people from defferent contried. So there's still a hope for us. As long as we are in the right track, thing will not be getting worse.

  7. Hello Teacher Vanessa and hello to all students, from norway to india and all around the world.

    It´s a pleasure to me say something about the intolerance item.
    just for participate only, I have no experience about intolerance, here in El Salvador, we don´t suffer much about this in particular topic, not for me at least, we in the majority are something like natives and there is no much difference about "race", Indians called us the spanish 5 hundred years ago. They thought, they have arrived India!! Oh! Oh! Ja! Ja! from them and on people know us as indians "the indians".

    About problems we have a lot as any body in this every day smaller world, but they are others.
    I agree with teacher Vanessa that in the school there is an opportunity for children to know about foreing classmates, their cultures and their history, they have the chance with their innocense to demonstrate interest, smart interest, lovely interest in others.

    BUT this would be the IDEAL; we do not live in this world, this utopic world AN IDEAL WORLD, so finally we must accept us just like we are and do our best for living condescendengly with other even in our proper family.

    Just a comment for participation, Thank you for your attention. bye
    Jorge Hdez.

  8. Hi Jorge, How are you?

    Sometimes I get confused when people say Indian people. I don't know which people they are referring about. Jorge, can you explain little a bit which community you are talking about - Asian Indians like me or native Indians of America?

    Ms. Vanessa, can you put some light on the fact that why people call "native Indian" people. I shall be very grateful to you.

    As regards the peple of India like me who belong to South Asia, the story goes that when Greek people attacked Indian sub-continent, it was divided into many different small states. The main obstacle in attacking Indian sub-continent was Indus river. During those times it was very difficult, rather impossible, to cross it. They mistook it to be an ocean and gave the name to people who inhabited here as Indie people and which in course of time changed to India. The other name of India is Bharat or Hindustan.



  9. Rajeev

    You've asked this before. I did not answer then because I expect you to find the answer for yourself. I won't now and hope Jorge does not either

    This is something even the youngest schoolchild in this hemispere and Europe already knows.

  10. Hello
    Ms. Vanessa,

    The intolerance is a pretty complicated issue to discuss. We often realize the diversity in our every day life but either we try to overlook or adjust with that. When it happen with any celebrity then it come up to the news. Most of the big problems occur because of this discrimination. Even a very educated people when they put off with somebody they do not forget to blame the whole community or race. We inherited lot of good as well as bad from our ancestors. There is no country culture or society where we will not find discrimination. There is no short cut solution for this problem it will take time to saturate.
    We have been able to demolish several awful social customs and system like (slavery) from our society.
    Now when we all believe in globalization the world is becoming very small to us so the good thing is that people will get opportunity to know the others culture. This year in my daughter’s class arrange an international lunch so kids got chance to try different dishes and parents knew each others kids performed dance, music of their own culture. The more we respect about others culture less these things will ensue.
    We need to present proper education from the root. We should not wait when school will do , from home to every organization at least pay a little concern about it we will feel more comfortable to each other .


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