Child literature as emancipatory animation of managing 'otherness ---

By Nathan Berry,2014-08-20 19:36
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Child literature as emancipatory animation of managing 'otherness ---


    Paper presented at the International Conference Cooperative Learning in

    Multicultural Societies: Critical Reflections of the International Association for

    Intercultural Education (IAIE), the International Association for the Study of

    Cooperation in Education (IASCE), the University of Torino and Centro Servizi

    Didattici; Teaching Services Centre (CESEDI) - Torino 2008

    Educational interventions on ‘other-ness’: Co-operative learning within

    intercultural children’s literature teaching in the Muslim minority schools in

    ;‘Western Thrace (Greece)

    1GEORGIADIS FOKION, Primary school teacher, ΜΑ in Comparative

    Education, Institute of Education, University of London,

    Doctoral student, IOE, University of London

    KOUTSOURI ANNA, Primary school teacher, MA student, Demokrition

    University of Thrace

    ZISIMOS APOSTOLOS, Primary school teacher, ΜΑ in Primary Education,

    London Brunel University, Doctoral student,

    Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki


    Cultural diversity has always been a characteristic of most educational systems, Greek one included. As regards to the Greek educational context presence of minority school populations was purposively kept out of the official curriculum and superseded. The charged arena of minority education in Greece poses a challenge for pedagogy which demands rethinking the agency of the pupil and deconstructive practices of representation and collaboration. While there has never been an orthodoxy or consistency in tackling questions of cultural diversity and representation, post-structuralist theorisations of identity and diversity have been clearly influential in this arena. In this line of thoughts, everyday school life continuously offers chances for scrutiny often more unconventional than the traditional „subjects‟ of the official curriculum. Children‟s literature might be part of this process when approached through

    collaborative modes.

    This presentation focuses on the contemporary critical multicultural praxis of children‟s literature within the framework of principles of co-operative education as it is articulated in primary schools of the Muslim minority in Western Thrace (Greek Thrace). Differentiated collaborative pedagogies and particular instructive strategies regarding children‟s literature are highly recommended in those specific school contexts. Taking those pupils‟ cultural background into deeper consideration and using collaborative schemes of work creates more intrinsic motives to pupils while enhances representation, tolerance and empathy.


    Cultural diversity has become one of the biggest issues in international cultural policy of today and in the contemporary Greece multiculturalism appears lately as a dominant characteristic. Greece is facing big changes in its population and social structure. Societies like the Greek one that used to wrongly be considered fairly monocultural are appearing in the last two decades as more diverse due to the

     1 Postal address: 4, Kimis street - 104 46 Athens GREECE, E-mail address:


    increasing flow of re-emigrants of Hellenic origin from the former Soviet Union (Pontians) and Albania, financial migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Additionally, populations in the Hellenic territory, which were recognized by the Treaty of Lausanne as Muslim minority (of Turkish origin, Pomaks, Roma), were long neglected (Kanakidou, 1994; Tsitselikis & Christopoulos, 1997; Trubeta, 2001) and deprived of participation in education and even today the percentage of illiteracy and school failure among them is still high (Katsikas & Politou, 1999).

    These previously and newly established demographic changes are obviously reflected in the Greek schools of all levels where a great number of culturally diverse pupils study imposing changes in the educational system as well (Markou, 1996; Damanakis, 1997; Georgiadis and Zisimos, 2005). Besides, education may become the best vehicle for the transformation of a society, unless it is not bounded to its reproductive mechanisms. It has to follow the changes of the society and find ways to cope effectively with them.

    In this line of thoughts, intercultural education appears necessary and decisive condition for the smooth operation of a multicultural society. This diversity of society has also encouraged educators to examine new definitions of literacy and new teaching and learning methods and strategies. Co-operative teaching has been

    considered by many scholars and researchers as the most effective method for

     intercultural education (Johnson & Johnson, 1974; Slavin, 1979; Batelaan et al., 1993;

    Singh, 1995; Ben-Ari & Kedem-Friedrich, 1996; van Driel, 1999; Díaz-Aguado & Andrés, 2000; Verlot & Pinxten, 2000; Brettell, 2000; Batelaan & Gundare, 2000; Batelaan, 2000; van den Branden & van Koen, 2000; Kujansivu & Rosell, 2000; Gillies, 2007). Co-operative teaching and learning contribute to social integration of individuals of different origins or abilities while it blunts the competitive and rejective attitudes or practices. It is also indicative that this method is met more often in multicultural societies and classrooms. Unfortunately, in contemporary Greek school it is frontal teaching and „ex cathedra‟ pedagogy that dominates education. Applying

    co-operative teaching constitutes a difficult task either for teachers or for pupils.

Muslim minority education in Thrace

    Since there has been a significant population of Muslim citizens in the Greek region of Thrace (referred to as the Muslim minority), attention was given to the educational needs of this group. Ιn 1995, the Greek government has attempted to improve the


    educational opportunities of the members of the Muslim minority in Western Thrace and a bilingual programme was granted in special minority schools in terms of the Treaty of Lausanne (1923) and the relevant Greek laws (Baltsiotis & Tsitselikis 2001; Mavrommatis & Tsitselikis 2003). The optional study of the Turkish language into the Greek mainstream high schools of the region, for Muslim and Christian pupils, is under consideration and not yet implemented. This would be the first step towards a sustainable intercultural education based on the mutual exchange of cultural experience.

    Moreover, a large-scale, interdisciplinary Project for Reform in the Education of Muslim Children (PEM) in Western Thrace, Greece, was implemented during the years 19772004. PEM is a specifically educational project entailing teaching Greek as a second language, development of educational materials, teacher training and academic outcome (PEM, 2002; 2004; Dragonas & Frangoudaki, 2006). The aims of the project are to improve the educational provision for students from this Muslim minority and to promote the principles and philosophy of intercultural education

     This project expresses a new „radical‟ educational policy aiming at (Magos, 2007).

    equity for the minority children in Thrace but the changes achieved in the educational reality of the Muslim minority are not only the result of PEM alone. These changes reflect the overall transformation of the Greek society from tradition to modernity‟

    (Dragonas & Frangoudaki, 2006, p.36). During last years, participation in education of Muslim minority pupils in Thrace has significantly increased in fast rhythms (Table 1).

     Pupils in the primary minority schools in Thrace

    1991-92 7.248

    2002-03 6.887

    2006-07 6.647

    (Table 1 - Project for Reform in the Education of Muslim Children, PEM, 2007) In 2000, the drop-out rates of minority education in Thrace was 65%. Today that the first students have graduated throughout the new project, the rates have fallen in half. This is still enormous taken into consideration that the national rate is 7% (PEM, 2007). Additionally, gender issues were also elaboratively and effectively addressed and promoted through this project. Hence, girls‟ school attendance has remarkably



    In general, minority issues of education in Thrace are being constructed and move in within the dipolar discourse of „other-ness and same-ness‟.

The role of education in constructing identity and ‘other-ness’

    Today, we are invited to recognize that we live within the framework of a multicultural society whose members are bearers of diverse cultures and traditions.

     coins a term, „propriospect‟, to refer to the „private, subjective Goodenough (1981)

    view of the world and of its content‟, which includes the various standards for

    perceiving, evaluating, believing, and „doing that an individual attributes to other

    persons as a result of his or her experience of their actions and admonitions‟ (ibid, p.

    98). Wolcott (1991) elaborates on the meaning of the term „propriospect‟ to illustrate

    how individuals develop personal versions of a culture through personal contacts with others with different sets of standards. Through these contacts they acquire some of the new standards. As a result, they become increasingly multicultural. Instead of

    trying to entrench ourselves in the name of our difference so as to maintain our „national‟ identity unalterable (Frangoudaki & Dragonas, 1997), we should concede the „different‟ as bearer of new experiences and knowledge a positive dimension and admit that coexistence among people is social wealth. As to „nation‟ there appears a

    certain inherent ambiguity with reference to time. This ambiguity „haunts‟ the idea of

    „nation‟ (Bhabha, 1990) and is expressed through differentiated representations that invoke maintenance of tradition and at the same time modernization. The same ambiguity is observed when referring to „national‟ identity through a selective social

    memory. In this context, historic and social events are distorted and transformed, some are magnified and others silenced on the altar of „national‟ identity construction.

    Taking all the above into account, when it comes to culture and otherness the role of education stands extremely important. It is to promote the dominant culture or the interaction among different cultures on the basis of a democratic form of government, respect and equality before the law (Parekh, 2000). Every individual belongs to a range of different groups, and therefore has a range of different loyalties. Also, and partly in consequence, all individuals change and develop. Pupils need to know and feel confident in their own identity but also to be open to change and development, and to be able to engage positively with other identities (Richardson, 2004).


    Particularly in the first years the process of education is centred on the child and less on knowledge. It is in this phase where the individual receives and first senses the prevalent notions of our civilization. It is then that the first convictions about social relations and the individual‟s own position in the already familiar world are formed. Of course, family, neighbourhood and friends play a quite significant role. If we perceived civilization and culture as something static, without any dynamic whatsoever, then it would be easy to deal with the „other‟ as a closed system,

    controllable and countable concerning contact with the domestic pupil population. That is, apparently, the way in which everything has been considered to date, which has resulted in marginalization of minority groups and immigrants. However, as civilization is an open, ever-evolving system, osmosis and hybridity (Bakhtin, 1981; Bhabha, 1990; Hall, 1990; Gilroy, 1993; Spivak, 1994; Pieterse, 2004; Sen, 2006) among different cultures and civilizations are inevitable. These are the chief reasons why education has failed to meet its goals so far and is currently being oriented to the intercultural dimension of the state educational system.

    Up to now, the Greek syllabus aims at knowledge, adoption and reproduction of the „dominant‟ national culture and language (PEM, 2002) without taking into consideration the various cultures that emerge even within the Greek territory (Frangoudaki, 1990). These cultures are depreciated whereas dialects are presented as comical and special languages that different social groups develop are considered as almost transgressive. Nevertheless, this presentation also takes into consideration the parallel exploration of socio-political process of constructing minorities (minoritisation) (Trubeta, 2001; Gotovos, 2002; Papataxiarchis, 2006) and how they are the ideologically perceived and represented. A basic problem emerging when one deals with the minority of Thrace has to do with the name used for the overall minority as well as for particular groups inside it (of Turkish origin, Pomaks, Gypsies) (Trubeta, 2001; Demetriou, 2004). The treaty of Lausanne guarantees the right for the Muslim minority to be taught the Turkish language. But the Muslim minority does not include only people of Turkish origin but also other ethnotic groups such as Pomaks and Gypsies whose mother tongue is not officially recognized, it is oral and is not taught at school. Parallelly, ethnocentrism arises as the cardinal element of subjects such as History (Avdela, 2000) and „Modern Greek‟ literature (Greek Pedagogical

    Institute, 2005). The latter distort history and promote the Greek language and culture through selected authors whose works favour ethnocentrism. The ultimate objective is


    national cohesion as well as adoption and reproduction on pupils‟ part of the dominant ideology (faith in hierarchy and the stereotypical perceptions about the „other‟ sex, race or class). Nowadays, education in schools aims to teach obedience,

     (Chomsky, 2000). submission and marginalisation

    In this context, people of different cultural background are invited to be assimilated and subjugated as well as to embrace values within the Aristotelian framework that determines the goal of education until today. Nevertheless, we do concede that such a framework does not meet the real needs of young people nowadays, nor can it function in the new historic conditions. In an era that different civilizations come into daily contact and information is produced very rapidly and without intermediaries (internet) objectives of education change. Cultural and pupil identity cannot be constructed through monolithic school practice. On the contrary, it has to be produced within the contemporary cultural and social context. Unquestionable adoption of a historically distinctive and homogeneous yet fabricated culture cannot constitute an objective. Nor should such a culture be deemed as dominant and superior when absorbed by pupils, since it dooms them to passivity and submissiveness, let alone meaningless knowledge. What is more, it engenders inequalities in the education process thus resulting in social and cultural exclusions. Rosaldo (cited in Lugo, 1997, p. 51) critiqued the fallacy of cultural homogeneity, especially in the pluralistic setting:

    „[H]uman cultures are neither necessarily coherent nor always

    homogeneous. More often than we usually care to think, our everyday

    lives are crisscrossed by border zones, pockets and eruptions of all


    If we recognize civilization as a social scope for collective and individual production of meaning through social conflicts and political inequalities; if we concede that deviant thought and practice is creation and we acknowledge that the role of pedagogy is not a mere mechanism for conveying knowledge and information, then we may recognize education as a cultural practice whose goal is to render learning „part of the process of social change‟. Then we will recognize our pupils not as

    passive receptors of knowledge, perceptions and attitudes but as participants in and formers of the „social becoming‟. Taking all the above into consideration, objectives

    and contents along with tools and methods used in those school practices change or should further change. Children‟s literature may be an area of innovation within this



Children’s Literature and Ideology

    Children‟s Literature is an important tool subject in school practice. The art of speech is the „impractical‟ speech. By the word Literature we mean a sort of self-reporting language, that is a language which speaks of itself. Literature cannot be „defined

    objectively‟. Therefore, in the final analysis literature depends on the way we decide to read it and not on the nature of the written text (Eagleton, 1997). Even today, literary texts which are chosen in education as well as the way they are taught aim at national edification (Ikonomidou, 2000; Papachristos, 2000). In order that the „we‟-

    and-„the-others‟ dipole might be preserved, the attributes of „we‟ are permanently

    presented as positive and unique. Consequently, the comparison with the others‟ is

    bound to render the latter negative, even inimical (Faubion, 1993). This helps the familiar group to concentrate around a common imaginary, the national cohesion. Depending on the social, political and economic circumstances the imaginary distinction between the „we‟ and the „others‟ assumes considerable adaptivity and

    transformative power. What we usually observe is that this distinction is reinforced by state institutions in an attempt to face problems arising in the interior of the familiar group (Ampatzopoulou, 2001).

    It is through school, the state ideological mechanism par excellence, that

    ideology is produced and maintained as long as individuals keep on believing that they are actors with personal capacity to think and act. In the realm of literature texts are open through their language and narrative code, their title and plot and their author‟s stance so that readers may identify with the author‟s perspective and embrace his/her ideas. The anti-hero incarnated by „the other‟ presents a literary stereotypical

    image which is static and recurrent as it forms the basis for the work to win the favour and acclaim of the culturally dominant group that is a reading audience sharing the same ideological constructs as the author‟s. Hence, in the reading process it cooperates with him/her so that the fabricated image of „the other‟ will be interpreted

    as objective. There is no need for this image to converge with reality, yet, in order to be interpreted accordingly it is indispensable that the same cultural scheme should underlie both the author‟s and reader‟s culture (Ampatzopoulou, 1998; Kayialis,


    The author, who is also a member of the community, is influenced by the collective imaginary that develops in a particular time and place and may unhesitantly


    choose to consciously impart specific ideological messages or to indirectly promote a passive ideology sometimes consciously yet not always (Kanatsouli, 2000). An even stronger ideological influence can be exerted through child literature since young pupils have less reading experience. Everyday changes, such as elements of multiculturalism that gradually permeate contemporary social reality, call for a new approach to literature with new goals and new perspectives so that young readers may have the possibility to interact with texts and authors as real actors. Intercultural literature can definitely help in this direction.

Co-operative learning in multicultural educational contexts

    Cultural diversity among individuals creates an opportunity, but like all opportunities, there are potentially either positive or negative outcomes. Cultural diversity among pupils may result in increased achievement and productivity, creative problem solving, growth in cognitive and moral reasoning, increased perspective-taking ability, improved relationships, and general sophistication in interacting and working with peers from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds (Johnson & Johnson, 1989). However, it may bring negative outcomes as well, such as lower achievement, closed-minded rejection of new information, increased egocentrism, and negative relationships characterized by hostility, rejection, divisiveness, bullying, stereotyping, prejudice, and racism (Disa-Brandstaetter, 2004). Once culturally diverse students are brought together in the same school, whether the diversity results in positive or negative outcomes depends largely on whether learning situations are structured competitively, individualistically, or co-operatively.

    For the past half century Allport's (1954) „contact hypothesis‟ has served as

    the salient theoretical construct in the field of diversity and people‟s relations.

    Allport's hypothesis asserts that increased contact between members of different cultural groups will not necessarily reduce prejudice. For that to occur, four preconditions should be met: (1) equal group status within the situation, (2) common goals that require a measure of member interdependence to reach, (3) inter-group cooperation, and (4) authority support for cooperation (ibid). The translation of the contact hypothesis into school contexts has taken the form of co-operative learning (CL).

    The widespread use of cooperative learning is due to multiple factors. It is based solidly on a variety of theories in anthropology (Mead, 1936), sociology


    (Coleman, 1961), economics (von Mises, 1949), political science (Smith, 1759), psychology, and other social sciences. In psychology, where cooperation has received the most intense study, cooperative learning has its roots in social interdependence (Johnson & Johnson, 1989), cognitive-developmental (Piaget, 1950; Vygotsky, 1978), and behavioral learning theories (Bandura, 1977; Skinner, 1968). It is rare that an instructional procedure is central to such a wide range of social science theories. Second, the amount, generalizability, breath, and applicability of the research on cooperative, competitive, and individualistic efforts provides considerable validation of the use of cooperative learning, perhaps more than most other instructional methods (Slavin, 1977a; b; Sharan, 1980; Cotton, 1993; Cohen, 1994; Cohen & Lotan, 1997; Cohen et al., 1999; Johnson & Johnson, 1999a; b).

    Having said that, the use of cooperative learning as a means to improving intercultural relationships is supported by more well-designed research than any other single schooling practice. Organizing learners into culturally heterogeneous teams, giving them tasks requiring group cooperation and interdependence, and structuring the activity so that the teams can experience success, comprise an extremely powerful means of enhancing intergroup relations (DeVries et al., 1978; Rogers et al., 1981;

    Slavin & Oickle, 1981; Warring et al., 1985; Pate, 1988; Conard, 1988; Swadener,

    1988; Foster, 1989; Hart & Lumsden, 1989; Parrenas & Parrenas, 1990; Slavin, 1990; Johnson et al., 1998 and many others). Although the primary rationale for the initiation of cooperative learning arrangements is that they enhance student academic performance, several literature reviews have concluded that, when the conditions of the contact hypotheses are satisfied, the use of racially-heterogeneous student CL teams is associated with improved interracial relations (Khmelkov & Hallinan, 1999; Slavin & Cooper, 1999). The main pathway through which this occurs is believed to be the individual student's re-formulation of group membership criteria to include students previously consigned to an out-group into an expanded in-group (Gaertner et

    al., 1990).

    More concretely, Olsen & Kagan (1992) define co-operative learning as group learning activity organized so that learning is dependent on the socially structured exchange of information between learners in groups and in which each learner is held accountable for his or her own learning. Why does cooperative learning have such

    positive effects? One reason, according to Parrenas & Parrenas (1990), is that research


    demonstrates that people from many cultural minorities are relatively more cooperative in their basic social orientation than are members of the majority.

    „The essence of the idea‟ writes Pate (1988, p. 288) „is that when we

    share common problems, tasks, goals, and success with people of

    another ethnic group, we develop positive feelings toward them‟.

    Additionally, Coelho (1994) argues that cooperative learning is especially appropriate for multi-cultural classrooms. She draws on research showing that students from a variety of cultural backgrounds learn best through co-operative activities and such activities enhance the learning of all students. She recommends heterogeneous groups of about four students, and suggests management routines which will help make the groups cohesive and cooperative.

    ; language (demoticists) such In Greece, intellectuals supporting the demotiki

    as Michael Papamavros, Myrsini Kleanthous-Papadimitriou, Alexandros Delmouzos and Miltos Kountouras (Hondolidou, 2004), Theofrastos Gerou have strongly supported and also applied co-operative teaching. In contemporary Greek education, co-operative teaching is newly recommended as a way to replace frontal teaching. Nevertheless, this is an issue that finds a lot of resistence.

Co-operative approach to Children’s Literature in the Minority School

    Taking into account the special characteristics of pupil population (gender, ethnotic or national origin, socioeconomic level) (Zografaki, 2004) along with the various interests of groups and individuals in places of education, there appear special educational needs that depend on pupils‟ cultural background. Co-perative teaching

    functions as a micrograph of society and is based on two basic principles: the principle of social correlation and interaction and the principle of interdisciplinarity (Hondolidou, 2004). Although school has already started to recognize „other-ness‟

    and diversity as significant parameters of pupils‟ identity that should be allowed for, it

    does not yet seem to be capable of proper handling of such situations.

    As for the National Curriculum, which is common in all schools, it does not yet provide for every pupil‟s particular needs and characteristics therefore being

    incapable of exploiting the latter to the maximum. Frontal teaching does not attribute anything to the environment of bilinguals and trilingual children having a different level of Greek language attainment and lack of literature reading experience (ibid). Thus, the learning process ends up in a Sisyphean effort with pupils getting tired and

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