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sarah weldon

Teacher of English and Geography, British Connection International School

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Is it acceptable to 'pollute' another country's culture with external values and scientific theory?

I came to Georgia from the Uk to teach English language in public schools, but found that actually, most of my job is really about social change and bringing my western values and beliefs to the future generations of Georgian children. There are many things I love about Georgian culture, many things I hate, but how do I encourage change in the places where I as an individual want change, but keep the values that I love? Where does my job as an English teacher start and end? I have to equip children to work with foreigners in the future, which means they need a whole new set of social rules on what is acceptable outside of Georgia. I feel powerful to bring about change in such vulnerable people, but how do I know that I am not doing harm or damaging their society, where is the line? Is it even my job to educate them in this way? Is it good to shake up their beliefs and systems or am I just setting out to make them miserable in the long run?

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    Aug 22 2011: Paula, this is exactly what I have been thinking myself since I came here. Although there have been so many times where children have asked me questions that I would not have had an issue with in any other country, but which terrified me in answering here. They had a right to know, since they asked the question, and to fob them off would be a diservice. But boy, would the answers shake up their whole values and concepts, and would I have parents banging on my door angry at what they might see as 'corrupting' their children? And then I realised, that at the end of the day, the children were already exposed to these topics through new music and tv, and if they didn't learn how to handle this stiff now, then the big world outside of Georgia would be a massive shock and they were going to get themselves in terrible trouble. Then I would be wishing I had give them the tools to deal with whatever they faced. Probably, the most comforting thing was when discussing this with the Minister of Education, and seeing that he too felt this way and was behind us in shaping this new generation of children, even if eyebrows of elders were raised.

    I would love to know if others have had similar experiences whilst teaching or working abroad. Have you ever had your own cultures and values shaken up??
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      Aug 24 2011: curious about what some of these questions would be?
    • Aug 26 2011: Sarah
      I do believe people in most countries are willing at least to dialogue about cultural differences. There are always people who dig their heals in however.

      Living in Mexico I had my values shaken hard and often sometimes. Many of the times for me it had to do with misjudging the importance of relationships even over "principles." I remember returning from a meeting once that had devolved into a shouting match, and one of my best friends, (a gringo too) looked at me and said "What have we missed? Why did we allow things to go so wrong?" We both realized after looking at the situation it did have to do with culture first and foremost, and then with the "principles" we thought we were defending.

      Learning another culture and living there is hard work. I believe though that yes even teaching English is going to involve "cross-cultural" problems.

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