Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Excerpt and reflection from "Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven"

I recently finished reading the book, Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven, by Susan Jane Gilman.  I found it to be an extremely funny book, and I loved the author's insights on backpacking through China in the late '80s.  I'm so glad I live in China now; it was certainly much more difficult then!

One comment she made in the book that has resonated with me as I travel around the world was regarding the West's obsession to quantify and classify everything that is different from our culture; how we use our culture as the baseline for measurement against all cultures.


 
I also find this certain supremacy weird in the regard that Westerners expect to be able to travel to any country and make a living teaching English.  While I appreciate that I grew up in the States, and speak English as my native language, I think it's culturally insensitive for people to expect to have jobs teaching English anywhere, and everywhere--especially without teaching credentials!! That just kills me!

I wonder what the States could have resembled if all our immigrants came and insisted on teaching their language and culture, and ignored English and American culture.  It is a shame that many children are discouraged from developing their communication skills in their own mother tongue, for the sake of being "English-fied".  Of course the bigger irony is that employers seek adults who have multiple language abilities!  I wish Spanish was more commonly spoken in the States, given that the "minority" is fast becoming the majority.  Yet schools are racing to implement Mandarin language programs, just for the sake of possible economic prosperity (remember that when I was in high school, the random push was for all kids to learn Arabic in response to 9-11 and uncover the terrorists that were supposedly in our communities).  This economic crisis would have been a perfect opportunity for Hispanic businesses to flourish in the States, and prove their markets are important too, which in turn would encourage people to learn Spanish.  So far, that hasn't happened yet. Will it ever?

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