April 10, 2011

TV Shines a Light on Issues in Our Diverse Society

Filed under: Blog — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 3:26 pm

I don’t have a TV, and haven’t since high school. I’m not a big fan of it and I don’t feel like I need TV in my life. But I also know that this choice comes with a sacrifice: a huge gap in my familiarity with current events and pop culture. TV catch-phrases seep naturally into our lingo and people are always quoting TV moments, expecting you to understand the context. TV is also often the medium that educates and enlightens. I’m not just talking about Discovery Channel or PBS. TV often takes on the difficult or fringe topics that face or that divide our society. For example, take gay marriage in “Modern Family” or obesity on “Huge”. TV is a “non-threatening” medium through which we can be exposed to the individuals behind the labels, and become familiar with the topic from another perspective. It shows us the other side of the coin, and leads, subtley, to understanding and acceptance. At the same time, it exposes our taboos and our prejudices. Yes, TV exaggerates, but it also is a mirror of society and a window into how the other side lives. So, as someone who believes in respect for cultural diversity, I was very happy to learn about “Little Mosque on the Prairie“, a show that portrays a Muslim community in a small town in Canada. Because with so much uncertainty and prejudice surrounding Islam, this show can be one of the channels educating the rest of us by showing us the other side of the coin. In the Los Angeles Times article
‘Cultural Exchange: The world cottons to ‘Little Mosque on the Prairie’, Marcia Adair points out the disappointing fact that the subject is clearly so taboo for US audiences, that it is not yet shown in the US. But that doesn’t exclude people in 83 other countries from watching it. If I had a TV, I’d be one of the first to watch this show in order to counter my ignorance and begin to understand. Luckily these days, you don’t need a TV. It’s enough to have a computer, and I will be watching all the YouTube clips of the show that I can find.

May 15, 2010

Higher ed and a hijab

Filed under: Blog — Tags: , , , , , , — admin @ 3:02 pm

An article in Aftenposten from May 12 highlights a subject that gets a lot of press in Europe in general, and Norway specifically: immigrants and education. But instead of taking a negative stance, it focuses on a positive and probably surprising fact for many – that half of 2nd generation immigrants to Norway go straight from high school to higher learning.

There is a growing trend that 2nd generation immigrants are doing well in school and see education as a better alternative to working straight out of high school. Too often there is the impression that Muslim women are kept out of school and pushed toward marriage and family. According to the girls interviewed for this article, neither the hijab nor strict mores (no alcohol) are stopping them from pursuing a university degree. This is a look at a positive trend and how these young men and women can be role models for other immigrant children and also be the catalyst to help overcome prejudice toward minority cultures in Norway.

Read more here.

May 3, 2010

Telling them apart – cultural differences in Asia

If you haven’t been to various countries in a region, you may be forgiven for thinking that they are all the same. Some “westerners” have the impression that Asians can be lumped together because they can’t tell them apart. This is due to lack of exposure. But that is fast changing.

The truth is, there are huge differences from one Asian country to another, and even more differences between provinces, cities, internal ethnic groups… and the list goes on.

The Los Angeles Times ran an article last week called “Without Words, Speaking Several Languages”. Min Byoung-chul, a professor at Konkuk University in South Korea is researching the differences among Asian social customs.

An excerpt: “He has made an avocation out of cataloging [social] differences. He’s a cross-cultural interpreter whose terrain is the delicate, often undefined line where cultural mannerisms clash.

Min has written three guides that, country by country, highlight the differences between American culture and the social customs in South Korea, China and Japan.

The time has come for such a book, he says, because the improved political and economic climate throughout northeast Asia has translated into more regional tourism and business travel.

“South Korea is becoming more diverse with more interracial marriages,” he said. “All cultures have their differences. And if Koreans can’t grasp those differences, they’re going to be in a lot of trouble.”

His research, … led Min to conclude that the language barrier is but one hurdle between cultures.

The 2002 World Cup and the influx of English-language teachers here have brought more Westerners to South Korea, introducing additional opportunities for tension.”

So with more and more “westerners” becoming exposed to various Asian cultures, and with more and more Asian cultures becoming exposed to each other, it’s no surprise that there is a need for more cross-cultural awareness and information.