Academic journal article Education

"Culture Dialogue" as a Way to Deal with New Immigrants

Academic journal article Education

"Culture Dialogue" as a Way to Deal with New Immigrants

Article excerpt

Theoretical Background

From its inception, the State of Israel was based on the idea of immigration. In recent years, the increasing number and diversity of immigrants coming to Israel have created a great many questions. The multicultural nature of Israeli society offers a microcosm of the problems that every immigration country faces when it absorbs different ethnic groups. The main questions are how to receive new immigrants and how to transform them into citizens of a democratic country as quickly as possible. Most solutions are based on education and the way it can help to instill a common view of citizenship in the new immigrants. This paper suggests that a dialogue be created as a solution to such problems. The idea of a dialogic school was generated by the Yozmot Project (a project developed at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev by the Pedagogical Secretary of the Ministry of Education to design schools that are not in consonance with the existing paradign).

The traditional ways to respond to questions of the absorption of differing immigrant groups are divided into two main basic approaches. The first, which might be called the assimilation or "melting pot" approach, is based on the concept of society as one organic and coherent group. It is expressed especially in the writings of Durkheim and Rorty (e.g.,: Fenton, 1984; Rorty, 1982; Arcilia, 1990; Fritzman, 1990). The assumption is made that culture is a known, accepted, understood, and defined ideological system which is shared by all members of a society (at least in its basic tenets). The cultural system is a framework for solving any ideological conflict in the society, while changes in it are consequences of this solution and evolve from consensus. The relation between culture and society is defined as one-dimensional; that is, every society has, according to this view, only one cultural frame.

The meaning of learning in the context of this system is connected to its basic assumptions. The goal of the system is to bring the newcomers to accept the values and concepts which are basic to a specific culture. Teachers might be described as conduits for passing on known, shared values. Newcomers are supposed to become tabula rasa, to rid themselves of their previous culture and to absorb the values of their new country as quickly as possible. The process of education is therefore aimed at bringing the newcomers to adapt themselves as quickly and as fully as possible to the dominant culture.

The second approach, which might be called "multicultural," is based on opposite assumptions concerning culture and society. This approach is expressed in the writings of Loytard and Foucault (see for example: Loytard, 1984; Foucault, 1980; White, 1979), in which society appears as a collection of different groups who live side-by-side. There are two points of view relating the relations between these groups. The conflictual view, influenced by Marxist theories, says that these groups may sometimes fight for their own interests to the detriment of other groups. The harmonic view, influenced by Habermas (1987), envisions different cultures which exist peacefully within the same societal framework, but which adhere to many aspects of their own individual cultures. Sometimes there are also imbedded features within these groups--or even in the dominant culture--which make the existence of any bridge of real communication between the groups impossible. Idealogical conflicts either arrive at a solution through procedural accommodations or are left unsolved, while the cultural groups continue to believe in their private ideologies. The unifying framework (if it exists at all) is very weak, formal, and sometimes partial and undefined. It deals mostly with procedures for making decisions in a peaceful way in situations of controversy. It is impossible to assume a shared cultural base.

It can be difficult to talk about learning the culture of the broader society in such a system, because the features of this culture are ambiguous, vague, and unclear. …

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