Teaching Global Cultural Consciousness through Authentic Materials

May 10, 2009

2009351138globe_children_illustrationThe vision for 21st century language teachers should be to develop global cultural consciousness in our students.  We are at a crucial state in education where we have the potential to transform our understanding of culture through globalization.  We must move away from cultural information which only provides us with superficial snippets of cultural beliefs and practices that can often lead towards cultural stereotypes.  Our goal should be cultural transformation which takes us on a long journey of rediscovery that ultimately should lead us to reconstruct our own identities.  This process allows us to see our own culture with a different, more critical eye that opens us up to a new direction and brings about new meaning to our world experience.

To develop cultural consciousness in our students, we must be critical with the types of teaching materials we choose to use in our teachings and these materials must be authentic.  Kumaravadivelu (2008) explains that there are three reasons for educators to pay close attention to the designing of teaching materials.  First, “textbooks have a ubiquitous presence in the language classroom, but they seem to have a magical hold over teachers and students” (Kumaravadivelu, 2008, p. 186).  Second, teachers seem to automatically pass on the cultural information included in the textbook without critically analyzing the contents.  Third, textbooks are not neutral, they include a particular worldview that is directly or indirectly enforced on the teachers and students and they carry hidden cultural values within their contents.

In the era of globalization, textbooks offer only a limited view of culture and should be redesigned to include information that can challenge the learners in a deeper and critical way thereby moving them towards cultural realism.  The Internet is one good source that can provide teachers with unlimited resources to use in the classroom.  This media is ideal because it is rich in resources and the students are very familiar with it.  Currently, our students are more culturally aware than ever before because they are not limited to geographic boundaries and through technology they are able to explore other cultures around the world.  Due to this cultural awareness, “there are very few students today who will unhesitatingly and unquestioningly accept whatever is presented in interested textbooks or by interested teachers” (Kumaravadivelu , 2008, p. 189).

Kumaravadivelu, B. (2008). Cultural globalization and language education. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

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