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Education - Social studies resources (Secondary): Perspectives and Cultural Authenticity

A guide to materials in the library and on the internet that would be useful to Alberta Social Studies teachers in Junior and Senior High Schools

Perspectives and Points of View

Throughout Alberta's Social Studies program, there is emphasis on helping students understand multiple perspectives and points of view. There is also recognition of the value and power of story, in outcomes phrased in terms of "..what do the stories of [different ethnic groups] tell us"...  

Watch the video Assessing Understanding of Multiple Perspectives, for a discussion of the concept of multiple perspectives (as distinct from points of view) within the Alberta Social Studies Program of Studies.  

 "Look at any of half a dozen YA novels set in South Asia and you might conclude that all the girls in the region are trying desperately to flee oppressive marriage or widowhood or sexual exploitation. You will feel pity for them and more, you will be grateful that you are not in their place. The thing is, you can't see people as fully human if all you can feel for them is pity. It's even more complicated when you are 8 or 10 or 14 years old and those "other" people instead of staying in their oppressive countries have somehow arrived in your neighborhood and your school....This is why we need more stories that don't define cultures as monolithic, impermeable and unchanging, that don't show the people within those cultures as trapped in unending cycles of victimhood." from Writing with a Broken Tusk

In the TED Talk video below, Nigerian Novelist Chimamanda Adichie eloquently talks about the negative consequences of our only knowing a single story about another person or country.

 

Cultural authenticity and Substantive Cultural Knowledge

Consider how language and images in newspapers, magazines, media and books (including textbooks, fiction and non-fiction) work to construct particular versions of the world - and whether they authentically reflect the reality of other cultures and of students' own experiences.

"To develop substantive cultural knowledge and skills, students must confront their stereotypes, acquire indepth knowledge of some cultures, examine other peoples' perspectives and experiences, identify the effects of cultural change and recognize ways in which European imperialism contiues to shape American society." Social Studies and the World, p 50

"The cumulative message inherent in years of schooling in which children seldom see anyone in a book who resembles themselves and who shares their cultural values, attitudes, and behaviors, or in which children see themselves portrayed as laughable stereotyypes, is that these children do not count and are not valued by society at large."  Kaleidoscope: A multicultural booklist for grades K-8, p xiv

"The reader's sense of truth in how a specific cultural experience has been represented within a book, particularly when the reader is an insider to the culture portrayed in that book, is probably the most common understanding of cultural authenticity."  Stories matter: the complexity of cultural authenticity in children's literature, p 5.