«A Comparative Case Study of North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany) and Ireland by Melanie Liese B.A. School of Applied Languages and Intercultural Studies ...»
As described in Chapter 7, the overt reference made to the ethnic and cultural „other‟ can be positive or negative. For example, a positive reference is made, when the „other‟ is presented as successful as in the case of Katharina (Lollipop Lesebuch 3, pp.72-74, Appendix B, p.XVIII) or Uwe (Lollipop Lesebuch 3, pp.22-23, see book).
Negative references include for example the presentation of Kenan from the (former Yugoslavia) in “Christina – Freunde gibt es überall” [Christina – Friends are everywhere] (Tintenklecks 4. Klasse, p.14, Appendix B, p.XXVIII), where people from the (former) Yugoslavia are portrayed as thieves: “Kenan klaut nicht.
Jedenfalls ist noch keinem etwas weggekommen, seit er da ist. Über drei Monate schon. Christina versteckt schon längst nichts mehr vor ihm in ihrer Schultasche.” [Kenan does not steal. At least no one is missing anything, since he is here. More than three months already. Christina no longer hides anything from him in her school bag] (ibid, p.14).
While the positive representation of the ethnic and cultural „other‟ is welcomed, the negative and explicit representation creates a division between minorities and the majority. In many cases, this explicit representation in textbooks perhaps is intended to make students aware of problems that exist in multicultural societies as often the negative is stated first and then is followed by a positive. For example, in “Tante Wilma riecht nach Knoblauch” [Aunt Wilma smells of Garlic] (Überall ist Lesezeit 4, pp.58-60, see book) prejudice towards the Turkish family is stated early in the text. The Turkish family is referred to as having many children, smelling of garlic and being unclean (ibid, pp. 58-59). However, the text closes with the counteraction of this prejudice as Aunt Wilma says: “Immer diese dummen Vorurteile!” [Always these stupid prejudices!] (ibid, p.60). Therefore the texts sometimes deal with the problems of prejudice and xenophobia and then show some kind of remedy.
While some negatives are dealt with, the above-mentioned example of Kenan shows, that others are left unchallenged. Thus, it is questionable whether the explicit address of xenophobia and prejudice is productive in tackling these issues or whether this just reinforces them. Because most texts associated with such statements (see especially subcategories on hostility and stereotypes in Chapter 5), do not challenge or discuss these through, for example, exercises or questions after the text, the potential to reinforce prejudice may exist.
Considering that the textbook is a medium of transferring “the political and social norms of a society “(Schissler 1989-90, in Pingel 2009, p.7), the explicit and often negative approach to represent ethnic and cultural minorities in the textbooks examined for North Rhine-Westphalia reflects certain norms that exist in German society. It therefore could be argued that this reflects certain realities and is done “to maintain and reproduce the status quo” (Wodak, de Cillia, Reisigl and Liebhart 1999, p.8) of German society. There is a danger that students learn this kind of approach of dealing with the ethnic and cultural „other‟ as „truth‟ (Foucault 1980, in Plant 2001, p.103) and therefore do not see it in any way as negative.
With regard to the social reality, as explained in Chapter 1, the ethnic and cultural „other‟ in the textbooks examined are mainly from Turkey, which confirms, “daß die türkische Minderheit als die prototypischen Fremden zur Darstellung kommen” (Höhne, Kunz and Radke 2005, p.601). However, the Turkish community is the biggest minority in North Rhine-Westphalia (see Chapter 1) and therefore the representation reflects the social reality in that sense. Other countries that are represented in textbooks include Italy, Greece, Egypt, Poland, Rumania and the (former) Yugoslavia. Although many people from western-European countries, such as the Dutch community reside in North Rhine-Westphalia (see Graph 3), the question arises as to why they might not be represented. Perhaps this suggests a bias towards groups that are perceived “foreign”.
The explicit approach to the presentation of ethnic and cultural diversity has not been identified in the case of Ireland. Here the approach is implicit, whereby the „other‟ is presented as a “normal” part of society, by including, for example, names that are not usually used in Ireland in texts and images that portray diversity without a reference point in the text. As a result, the ethnic and cultural „other‟ is not set apart from the majority. This approach portrays the „other‟ as an integrated part of Irish society and therefore avoids labels and stereotypes. Futhermore, there is a suggestion that textbook publishers in Ireland consciously seek to represent the ethnic and cultural „other‟ (see Chapter 6.9, p.147) in textbooks. However, this approach does not necessarily allow for engagement with the challenges of interculturalism in society, such as prejudice, which under the aspects of intercultural education need to be addressed.
Furthermore, it has to be said that the representation of the ethnic and cultural „other‟ in an Irish context is rather sparse and results in an under-representation of the ethnic and cultural reality. The lack of representation could therefore also imply a shying away from the issues faced in an intercultural Ireland. Or it could simply be the case that publishers of schoolbooks in Ireland are not yet ready to fully implement the intercultural education policies and it is therefore a matter of catching up.
The question arises as to what approach is the „right one‟. While under the explicit approach, seen in North Rhine-Westphalia, challenges of interculturalism can be addressed there is also a danger that prejudice is reinforced. In contrast, although the implicit approach, which was seen in the Irish context, presents ethnic and cultural diversity as a “normal” part of society, it does not address the real challenges that exist.
In this regard Höhne, Kunz and Radke (2005, pp.22-23) point to the dilemma and limitations of the textbook as an educational medium representing the challenges of
ethnic and cultural diversity:
Die Darstellung des “Fremden”, des kulturell anderen, muss die Unterscheidung nach Haut- oder Haarfarbe, Physiognomie oder Mentalität erst aufrufen, um dann vor ihrem Gebrauch zu warnen. Oder: Nationale oder ethnische Stereotype müssen wiederholt werden, bevor man sie als solche kennzeichnen und moralisch ablehnen kann. Damit aber werden sie aktualisiert und bleiben im Umlauf.
[For the representation of the “foreigner”, the cultural other, the distinction in skin and hair colour, physiognomy or mentality has to be described first, in order to then caution about its use afterwards. Or: National or ethnic stereotypes have to be repeated, before they can be identified as such and morally rejected. However, in so doing they are updated and remain in use.] Therefore the representation of the ethnic and cultural „other‟ in textbooks is complex and has its limitations. Perhaps addressing prejudice and stereotypes didactically in every case through critical questions and discussions in the textbook could help raise awareness as well as offer solutions.
As this study has identified two different approaches of representing the ethnic and cultural „other‟ in primary school textbooks from North Rhine-Westphalia and Ireland, the question arises as to why both contexts reveal such different approaches.
Are the cultural norms with regard to dealing with ethnic and cultural minorities different in North Rhine-Westphalia to those in Ireland? Does the explicit approach identified in the case of North Rhine-Westphalia, which often includes negative representations of the ethnic and cultural „other‟, imply German society in general resists ethnic and cultural diversity? Does it suggest that German society deals in a “eher ablehnenden als umarmenden” [rather rejecting than embracing] (Flam 2007, p.7) way with ethnic and cultural diversity? Does the implicit representation of the ethnic and cultural „other‟ that exists alongside the explicit approach in the textbooks for North Rhine-Westphalia suggest, that they are two opposing views on ethnic and cultural diversity in German society, i.e., one fraction sees the ethnic and cultural „other‟ as part of German society while the other fraction resists this view?
On the other hand, does the implicit approach, detected in the case of Ireland, suggests that Irish society prefers to ignore problems that exist in an ethnically and culturally diverse society? Or is ethnic and cultural diversity simply seen as “normal”?
How do we account for these different approaches in North Rhine-Westphalia and Ireland? Do these representations relate to wider macro structures in society?
In order to answer these questions it would be interesting to compare the representations identified in this study to other media discourses in both countries. In so doing it is perhaps possible to establish whether similar approaches with regard to the representation of the ethnic and cultural „other‟ were used.
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