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«Teaching How To Discriminate: Globalization, Prejudice, and Textbooks By Incho Lee ...»

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Incho Lee

Teacher Education Quarterly, Winter 2011

Teaching How To Discriminate:

Globalization, Prejudice, and Textbooks

By Incho Lee

Language education is a complex social practice that reaches beyond teach-

ing and learning phonology, morphology, and syntax. Language is not neutral; it

conveys ideas, cultures, and ideologies embedded in and related to the language,

so that language education needs to be examined not only on the purely linguistic

level, but also on the broader social and political level. One of the social and po- litical factors that influence language education is governmental policy. Language education is often subject to explicit policy decisions made by governmental bodies.

This study seeks to unveil the influence of South Korea’s globalization policy on the content of government-approved South Korean high school EFL (English as a Foreign Language) textbooks. I will examine the ways in which globalization is reflected and promoted in the textbooks. In doing so, I will investigate popular social perceptions about globalization in South Korea and interpret textbook contents within unique South Korean social and historical contexts. Then the implications Incho Lee is an of this study will be discussed with respect to the role assistant professor that all teacher educators need to play in encouraging in the Department of pre-service teachers to examine instructional materials Educational Studies of the College of Education through a critical lens.

Many researchers have examined the social and and Human Services political aspects of language education and the crucial at the University of roles that governments play in shaping the implemen- Wisconsin, Eau Claire, tation and practice of English as a Second Language Wisconsin.

47 Teaching How To Discriminate (ESL)/English as a Foreign Language (EFL) education (Recento, 2000; Recento & Burnaby, 1998; Tollefson, 1991, 1995, 2002; Tsui & Tollefson, 2007). For ex- ample, learning and using English tend to exacerbate the negative residual effects of colonialism in many Asian and African countries, including India, Hong Kong (Pennycook, 1994, 1998), Sri Lanka (Canagarajah, 1999), and Tanzania (Vavrus, 2002). The English language is also invariably related to the historical imperialism of two powerful countries—the United States and Britain (Pennycook, 1994, 1995, 1998; Phillipson, 1992). These two countries have used both implicit and explicit policies with regard to the promotion of English that were designed to promote national interests (Phillipson, 1992, 1994).

Globalization Discourse on globalization tends to center on new and internationalized consumption patterns, global markets, workers, and cross-national investments (Burbules & Torres, 2000; Short & Kim, 1999). Telecommunications such as the Internet and the World Wide Web, the rise and proliferation of supranational organizations such as the United Nations (UN), the International Monetary Funds (IMF), and the World Trade Organization (WTO), and blurred distinctions between international and domestic affairs (Short & Kim) also figure prominently.

However, this broad-spectrum sketch often fails to capture the complexity of globalization, and offers little information on the means by which globalization takes place within the boundaries of a given society. What is needed is an in-depth interpretation of cultural globalization that highlights the particular way that each society experiences globalization (Capella, 2000; Luke & Luke, 2000; Pike, 2000).

Cultural globalization cannot be fully understood without thorough discussions of the unique social, political, economic, and historical factors that interact within a given society. This approach is sometimes called glocal (Burbules & Torres, 2000), hybridization, creolization, or reterritorialization (Short & Kim, 1999). From this perspective, it is too simple to explain the complex mechanisms of globalization merely as, for example, Americanization/Westernization. For a thorough analysis of globalization, it is necessary to include situated and local uniqueness (Capella, 2000; Luke & Luke, 2000; Pike, 2000), since globalization is not itself a unified global phenomenon in any case (Burbules &Torres, 2000). This point of view serves as guidance for the present study, as I attempt to analyze situated meanings of the contents of South Korean high school EFL textbooks.

Globalization and EFL Education in Korea The South Korean government has implemented Segyehwa, the South Korean equivalent of globalization, since 1995 (Kang, 2000) in hopes of a national and international economic jump-start (Kang, 2000; Park, 1996; Shin, 2003). The globalization policy is strongly linked to EFL education because the English language

48 Incho Lee

is considered the quintessential tool for South Koreans to be globalized, and more generally, for economic advancement (Shin). Efforts to ensure that South Koreans become equipped with better English skills included heavy governmental funding for a national EFL program, including curriculum development, teacher training, and education technology (Jung & Norton, 2002). The mass media also support intensive EFL education (Hong, 2000; Yang, 2001; Yun, 2005). It is not difficult to find newspaper articles with titles such as “English-for-Survival Spread” (Hong, 2000), “More Colleges for English as a Medium of Instruction” (Yang, 2001);





“English Village at Kyung Sang University” (Yun, 2005).

Some Koreans even support the proposal that English be a second official language in South Korea, arguing that South Koreans’ ability to speak English will improve dramatically by speaking English every day. They relate South Koreans’ fluency in English to an increase in foreign funds by attracting more foreign businesses and tourists. The rationale for these efforts to be fluent in English is that South Koreans need to compete for more economic power through English in the era of globalization. Personal efforts to achieve English competency have even gone to the extreme of having children’s tongues snipped surgically for better English pronunciation (Demick, 2002), particularly among families with high socioeconomic status (Park, 2002). In such contexts, language is perceived as an uncomplicated and static tool that carries economic value just like other commodities.

Despite this overwhelmingly celebratory promotion of EFL education as a tool for success on both national and personal levels, a few South Korean analysts warn that English education is a pathway toward Americanization in South Korea (Choi, 1996; Kim, 2000). For example, Yim (2007) maintains that Korean middle school EFL textbook authors tend to embellish lifestyles of the people in the U.S. through various descriptions and illustrations, and globalization is presented as Americanization. More importantly, Yim points out that the textbooks highlight only images of upper-middle-class Whites of European decent, omitting the subcultures of the U.S. Coupled with South Koreans’ view of White middle-class U.S. English as the most desirable representation of contemporary English (Jeong, 2004; Grant & Lee, 2009), this caution becomes more alarming. These analysts condemn South Korean English educators and English linguists as “followers of American ways of thinking and living by arguing that English is the world language” (Kim, 2000, p. 21).

This argument, which represents the stance of a minor number of South Koreans, exemplifies the crucial point that the policymakers often fail to recognize: ESL or EFL education is not neutral (Auerbach, 1995; Pennycook, 1998; Phillipson, 1992;

Tollefson, 2002; Tsui & Tollefson, 2007; Valdes, 1998).

Recent History of South Korea and its Globalization Policy Since this study examines the content of EFL textbooks related to globalization in South Korea, a situated understanding of South Korean society is crucial. In this

49 Teaching How To Discriminate

study, the distinctiveness of South Korean society is investigated primarily from its recent history, especially after liberation from Japanese rule in 1945. As soon as Korea was liberated from Japan after 35 years of colonization, the government of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) was established under the auspices of the U.S.

government and the United Nations (UN) military governing commission (1945Consequently, in the first South Korean government, Americans and their South Korean appointees occupied many major government posts (Baik, 1994).

The Korean War lasted for three years (1950-1953), and when it ended U.S. aid played a central role in the ensuing period of economic rehabilitation and reconstruction. Unfortunately, U.S. aid resulted in economic dependence and discouraged South Korean industrial growth (Macdonald, 1996), since the ultimate goal of developmental aid was not primarily to encourage the economic development of South Korea but rather to generate and promote “potent and essential tools that advance our [the U.S.] interests” (Commission on Security and Economic Assistance, in Phillipson, 1992, p. 157).

After serious political turmoil in the early 1960s, several military governments ruled South Korea for almost 30 years (1961-1987). Among these military governments, the Park regime (1963-1979) extricated South Koreans from povertystricken lives after the period of colonization and the war (Kang, 2000) through its modernization policy. Utilizing the expertise of US-trained civilian economists, the government achieved extraordinary economic development, referred to as the “Miracle on the Han,” which fostered in South Koreans pride and self-confidence as a nation (Macdonald, 1996). The Kim Young-Sam government (1993-1998) undertook the second wave of modernization, globalization (Segyewha), which evolved from earlier concepts such as New Korea in 1993 and Internationalization in 1994 (Kang, 2000). These campaigns were actively developed by the government in the hope of giving the Korean economy a jump-start, nationally and internationally, and reinforcing an attitude of national economic competitiveness that would make South Korea “the central country in the management of the world” (Kang, 2000, p. 186). In other words, the South Korean government implemented globalization for the sake of economic advancement and global leadership (Kang, 1998; Kim, 1996; Park, 1996). If the first wave of modernization targeted the eradication of poverty, the second wave of modernization, Segyewha, aimed for higher political and economic status for South Korea on the global level. Segyewha was adopted as a goal in many fields, including education.

Methods Content analysis was performed through a close reading and rereading of the selected textbooks. I examined texts and identified textbook segments in which people and cultures of various countries were mentioned. The identified text passages were then compressed into summaries. In other words, I constructed summaries based

50 Incho Lee

on chosen passages. Then, I generated themes that emerged from the summaries.

Grounded theory provides relevant theoretical backgrounds for developing themes from data. Grounded theory is an emergent methodology developed by Glaser and Strauss (1967) to generate theory from data, making it possible to illustrate characteristic examples of data. This approach to data analysis allows researchers to consider contextual nuances (Piantanida, Tananis, & Grubs, 2004).

I analyzed the messages within and among themes, implicit and explicit, about society in other countries. I examined the situated meanings of embedded messages and cultural assumptions that seem to underlie these messages, particularly with respect to notions of globalization in South Korea. In doing so, I employed the core concepts of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) as a tool, which allowed me to interpret meanings of the emergent themes within Korean contexts and situations by connecting the passages to social context, rather than analyzing the linguistic characteristics of the passages. CDA “is a socially committed scientific paradigm” (Rogers, Malancharuvil-Berkes, Mosley, Hui, & Josesph, 2005, p. 370) that allows analysts to engage with the broad social meanings of discourse rather than language per se (Blackledge, 2003; Fairclough, 1989; Titscher, Meyer, Wodeak, & Vetter, 2002) by making explicit the connection between the content and its wider social context (Blackledge, 2003). This function of CDA is crucial in this analysis because meaning, in this analysis the meaning of textbook contents, is perceived as socially embedded (Hodder, 2003; Gee, 1999). Through this function, CDA allows text analysis to be situated in the particular historical location and position (Luke, 1995) of South Korea, and helps to unveil the unique social context of textbook contents and their ideological basis.

After investigating the situated meanings of textbook contents, I compared the situated meanings to cultural models that derived from popular social discourses in Korea on situated globalization. Cultural models illustrate “the simplified storylines, schema, or mental models that people use to make sense in the world” (Sluys, Lewison, & Flint, 2006). Different social and cultural groups have different “explanatory theories” about words that they use or situations that they are in because meaning rests in the shared understanding of words or situations in the social contexts, not in the words or situations themselves (Gee, 1999). The cultural group hardly realizes these theories because the theories tend to be “a totally or partially unconscious explanatory theory or ‘storyline’ connected to a word” (Gee, p. 44) or a situation. The unconscious character of cultural models implies that social and cultural assumptions, common sense, and ideologies constitute cultural models. Thus, in the present study, the situated meanings of textbook contents that reflect the dominant ideology of Korean society can be understood as examples of cultural models.

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