According to JULIE BOYD, we need to assist students to move to the next level of cultural literacy, in a country that is moving beyond multiculturalism to a more com plex transcu ltu ral ism. 'l have a girlwho is coming to my schoolwho has a French mother and a Danish father, neither of whom speak English. She uzas born in Japan and has lived there her entire life so her first language is actually Japanese.'This was the description given to me by a principal who was seeking some guidance in how to get a new student to contribute more to class discussions.
'. . . and Jo Fargus wins the 200 backstroke. She gets the gold medal for our best travelled athlete. She was born in Hong Kong, grew up to swim for England and win a gold medal for them at the last Olympics, went to university in America and now she's just won a medal for Australia at the Commonwealth Games. We're proud to claim her as our own but I wonder if she knows which country she 5 rn.'After relaying all this background information, the newscaster then forgot to congratulate Joanna on what she had actually won the gold medalfor. Then there was the politician who said to a young girl with East Asian features: '. . . and which country are you from?'She opened her mouth and, in the broadest Australian accent, replied 'Ballarat, mate'.lt's not often you see a pollie left speechless but, in this case, that's exactly what happened.
Assisting transcultural students Catering forthe learning needs of transculturalstudents is different to assisting students of multiple ethnicities to learn together in a multicultural setting. In Australia, I wonder whether we have actually made the distinction. Students from clear cultural backgrounds have a need
to retain varying degrees of their culture of origin. So
leadership in focus autumn 2007
we have celebration days to recognise important cultural events. We enjoy wonderful cuisine, which has brought so much diversity and richness to our culture. We enjoy dances and festivals and seek to celebrate wherever possible. We have female teachers who visit lndia and return as belly-dancing fanatics (for its healthgiving properties, of course). As Aussies, we're great at having a good time. As educators, we seek to learn as much as we can to help these students celebrate their cultures. The harder question is - what about students from mixed and multiple cultural backgrounds? How do we work with them? What we tend to avoid are those aspects of other cultures that are at odds with our own, or are just too hard. For example, attitudes toward women and children; views of right and wrong; how best to administer laws; and even what laws. We're not good at dealing with the 'too hard basket'and tend to shy away from conflict and confrontation. We tend to sublimate it, sometimes for too long, until it explodes, as it did with the Cronulla riots, in NSW. Or we are forced to watch as our politicians take a 'back to the future' approach.
To consider the position of Australian culture in the 'team formation' process, I would argue that we have moved beyond forming and norming and have now hit the 'storming'stage. How we get through this will determine how we, as a society, go forward into the future.
Defining an Australian The problem with living in such a multicultural society is that it is now really hard for anyone to put their finger on what it is to be Australian. We want to insist that our residents and citizens behave like Aussies, speak like
Aussies, and adopt our morals and behaviours. But which ones? I hear mutterings about what it means
The intricacies of mastering Australian English (Anglish?) is as complex as trying to understand what
that it's done. Maybe because the Queen has told us we've grown up and become a respected nation, we now have to behave ourselves. Maybe this is what the increasingly huge influxes of young people to ANZAC Cove each year, hungry to be part of the action, are
characterises our identitythese days. Learning to speak
to be an Australian. lf you are born here and have an Aussie accent, does that do it?
Australian, I think, epitomises the challenges faced by those wanting to become Aussies. We have an economical and colourful language which, much like our attitudes, embraces newness - sometimes at its own expense! Thanks to advertising and other influences, our lexicon is now peppered with Americanisms, and the slang that so endears us to the rest of the bemused world is at risk of being lost. Eskimos might have more
than 30 different words for the word 'snow'. Aussies, on the other hand, have multiple uses for single words like 'Block' (ice-block, block of flats, blockhead'..), not
to mention'love' and'assessment'! Learning to be an Aussie is a lot like going to a new school for the first time. You need to learn the current language (and acronyms) in order to even be a part of the conversation. lt's not just the written rules you need to learn - it's the unwritten ones. And you usually only learn those when you make a mistake or inadvertently break one of them. The dialogue about morals and rights seems to be overwhelming the dialogue needed about responsibilities (a
slightly old-fashioned concept, it seems). l've always taught (both kids and adults) that responsibility comes from two words, 'response'and 'ability'. lf people do not have the ability to respond to a situation, they cannot!
lf their cultural background has conditioned them to different responses that we consider anti-social, how do we, in schools, address that? Those of us who were born here and have lived here through several generations think we know what it is to be a 'local'. To be an Aussie is to cry when you get on a Qantas flight and hear an Aussie accent after you've been overseas for a while. To get a great lump in your throat every time you hear I Still Call Australia Home. To only know the first verse of Advance Australia Fair but be able to belt out the whole of Waltzing Matilda whenever we've had a few drinks at the cricket. To criticise our sporting heroes for their off-field antics, while at the same time elevating them to god-like status on the field (at least, while they're going well). lt's being able to pronounce the word 'mate' so that it sounds suspiciously like 'might'. Aussies are great at celebrating. We're terrific in a crisis and will pitch in with anyone who's in strife. We seem to be instinctively protective of 'otherAussies'when they're in difficulties that aren't of their own making.
Next level of cultural maturitY We have been living in a multicultural society since Europeans first entered Australia. While we are good at accepting other cultures (as long as they fit in with us), we are now being challenged to move to the next level of cultural maturity. The only way we will do that is by tackling the hard questions and the difficult challenges that face our transcultural students. I can't imagine what someone from a multiple-ethnic background must face in terms of a search for personal identity and cultural loyalty, but I'm haPPY to listen. The era of the global student and global citizen is well and truly here.
As educators, it is our role to help young people find their identity and become the very best they can be. How we do this, and the modelling and mentoring we provide, is shaping the world - and that's a very scary thought. @ Julie Boyd 2006
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Ms Julie Boyd's career encompasses a broad range of professional roles. ln addition to her time as a teacher (K-university), educational psychologist, principal, administrator, curriculum adviser and international consultant, she ls a/so e xp e ri e n ce d a s M a n a g i n g D i re cto r, Entre p re n e u r of the Year, Australian Busrnesswomen's Hall of Fame inductee, educator, publisher, author, and stock market trader, among many other roles. Julie is currently integrating her many years of learning, teaching, health challenges and experience across
multiple fields, to develop a new framework for life development called Wealth Literacy. Julie's current passlon is fhis evolution of her prior work with antisfress, resiliency, leadership and teaching/learning/ curriculum consultancy. /f ls based on the concept of wealth as wel/ness in all of its senses - personal, professional and financial and is the culmination of knowledge gained through her own education and commitment to continuous learning, and her many years of learning, Practice, experience and wisdom. Ms Boyd can be contacted at:
lwonderwhythe storres of our larrikin, entrepreneurial and fiercely loyal predecessors are not more a part of our cultural storytelling. After all, we pride ourselves
i nfo@ u
on mateship and tall stories. Maybe it's in the way
further information, see her website at:
leadership in focus autumn 2OO7