Based on this reasoning, Schissler explains that, traditionally, textbook research was founded on the assumptions that by providing more accurate information about 'the other', and thus correcting 'wrong' stereotypes, children would move towards a more tolerant understanding of 'foreign' communities.
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See for example what Matsuura, who was Director-General of UNESCO , has to say about the role of revision and review of textbooks and learning materials: "we must learn to know ourselves and the 'other' who is different from us. This requires that the curriculum and textbooks must be jointly revised so that they are free of hate messages, prejudices and distortions. There is another perspective on this: according to Schissler, the assumption that a better knowledge of 'the other' will automatically lead to more peace and tolerance among pupils is unfounded: "Research shows that a clear correlation between direct experience in a foreign country, the acquisition of knowledge, and the dissolution of stereotypes and prejudices cannot be established" Schissler, For this reason it is important to study how prejudices and stereotypes come about, how the knowledge about them gets transmitted in the textbooks , and what one can assume children will learn from them.
To put it another way: in studying textbooks it is not so much about the what of stereotypes since an awareness of them does not necessarily help to overcome them but rather if and how stereotypes are perpetuated, and what the implication is thereof. This approach is supported by Marsden who advocates that in order to promote education for international understanding, textbooks writers and teachers need to comprehend how children's attitudes to other nationalities are formed.
Prejudices, like stereotypes, play a role in this understanding. As a rule, prejudices prove extraordinarily resistant to attempts to change: by guarding against 'cognitive chaos' and self-criticism; by strengthening the feelings of self-esteem of individuals and groups; and by guaranteeing a socially acceptable form of releasing aggression, prejudices fulfill a purpose Schissler, Although on the surface positive and negative images or stereotypes convey only 'information' about how one views one's neighbour, they in fact reveal more about one's own identity problems Schissler, For these reasons, textbooks are especially suitable for finding out not just what a society thinks of others, but also what it thinks about itself, since 'to perceive oneself is always to become aware of oneself in the eyes of others' Popitz, quoted in Schissler, Similarly, Marsden argues that "in everyone there lurks a stereotype.
The carrier of stereotypes is language and pictures in history textbooks. Language has the capacity to construct reality by directing and limiting our thoughts, observations and expressions Vitra, The way historical events are absorbed into our consciousness is decisive as to their influence on present and even future actions Fritzsche, The historical concepts that such texts signify carry heavy value-laden burdens, often ignored in textbooks, which instead reproduce the concepts as if they were neutral, unproblematic mirrors of the past Vitra, An example of this is Montgomery's weighty argument that by not problematising the concept of 'race' in a any critical way, Canadian textbooks, although on the surface appearing to be 'raceless' through their attitude of tolerance and inclusion, in fact promote the dependency on race thinking as a natural phenomenon.
Underlying assumptions leading to a picture of ourselves and others. Prejudices and stereotypes are built on certain perceptions that form an underlying assumption to how one sees and writes about the world. Examples of such assumptions include the notion that parliamentary democracy is something positive Bourdillion, , or that there is agreement in the US that capitalism is necessarily better than communism Council on Interracial Books for Children, Nash shows why the term 'democracy' should not automatically be associated with something positive for example : "American children grew up with the understanding that in a democracy the portioning out of unequal opportunities and rewards according to race was perfectly natural because nature had endowed Americans of different skin hues unequally.
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The point is that assumptions change over time and hence they need to be constantly identified and consciously upheld. The phrase 'underlying assumptions' needs not automatically be equated with something negative or threatening; it only serves to show intellectual honesty and a kind of humility about the limitations of our own ability to know and interpret history.
It comes from a preface of a Scandinavian social studies textbook for grade 5 pupils:. This textbook is not in itself history. Nor is it in itself geography. It is only one of millions of books written on these subjects. And the books are written by different people who in turn have read what others have read and written. Imagine a stage so deep that no one can see where it ends.
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That is history. And the stage is placed in a setting so vast that no one can see all of it. That is geography. In front of it all hangs a curtain that stretches all the way to heaven. No one can remove that curtain. But it is possible to pull it aside a wee bit and get a glimpse. This textbook is just such a glimpse Johnsen, ; the reference given in the text is to a Norwegian book by the same author: Johnsen, Egil Berre: Verden.
This textbook thus makes no pretentious claim that by reading it the world can be changed for the better. The underlying assumption is that the book is limited and that if a reader wishes to see more depth of the stage or to pull the curtains wider, he or she would have to exert some personal effort that goes beyond this particular textbook. What is important to establish is whether underlying assumptions are based on ignorance or whether they are in fact qualified Fritzsche, This is important since it is very possible to replace one set of values based on ignorance or insecurity with another.
Thus the question is whether textbooks themselves - consciously or not - do not present and promote prejudices and stereotypes and the answer to this will depend largely on the categories of analysis and the criteria on which the evaluations are based Fritzsche, Hence the method of text analysis and the theory that informs it must be a crucial part of such research. For forming themes in textbook research, Fritzsche recommends that such research should know whether a gap exists in the underlying assumptions of those 'producing' and those 'consuming' the texts.
For example, Kitson found, based on her classroom experience of teaching the Holocaust, that children have certain serious misconceptions and stereotypes about the topic; such as that all Germans were Nazis, that only Germans were anti-Semitic, and that the Nazis invented anti-Semitism. This problem is exacerbated in South Africa, where the world of schooling is characterised by a mismatch between the world of young peoples' identities and values, and those of their teachers' Fataar, cited in Weldon, Teachers and other educators who write textbooks are part of the apartheid generation and grew up with racism and abuse of human rights as fundamental organising principles of every aspect of their lives, whereas young peoples' identities are shaped by consumption choices about music, clothes and sexual activities.
This consumption culture is more powerful than race in influencing choice so that race as a crude form is not as visible or dominant as it used to be Weldon, although race continues to be an underlying influence in school culture. Whatever the case, knowledge production and representation in the form of textbooks should try to avoid substituting one set of simple solutions, one polemic, one propaganda, for another Gwiazda, in Stern-Strom, xxv.
Pratt argues that this kind of substituting is characteristic of educational research and although gross stereotyping in textbooks is not so much apparent anymore, the problems of balance and fairness have not disappeared; they have merely changed form. Moreover, perceptions of 'the other' and the relationship between 'the other' and 'the self' is at the heart of multi-perspectivity Stradling, , which the South African curriculum aspires to in the teaching of history.
Thus textbook research in history should pay attention to this problem by asking what the possibilities are of replacing one set of problems with another by examining how the relationship between 'us' and 'them' is portrayed. The uneasiness in the relationship between ourselves and others, in as much as it is coloured by prejudice and stereotype, stems from a simple principle and appears to have a simple cure:. In proportion as we love truth more and victory less, we shall become anxious to know what it is which leads our opponents to think as they do. We shall begin to suspect that the pertinacity of belief exhibited by them must result from a perception of something which we have not perceived.
And we shall aim to supplement the portion of truth we have found with the portion found by them. Herbert Spencer, First Principles, , quoted in Dance, The underlying assumption here is that we in fact want to perceive that which we have not perceived before, concerning the other.
In the next section I want to focus on this uneasy transition. Understanding "the other" as a liability? Stereotype and classifications based on differences can be understood as a necessary tool for making sense and being in control of the world, but they can also be understood as a rationale for building unjust societies.
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Most often 'unjust' from a sociological perspective is linked to anything external and collective like capitalism, socialism, Christianity, or colonialism 1 , as opposed to something intra-psychological, like individual selves. For example, Godrej asserts that our societies are built around competition rather than cooperation, which, accordingly, necessitates a continual reinvention of racism. This is an example of how 'injustice' is often linked to a Marxist type foundational principle that people's material or external conditions determine their consciousness, and not, as Eberhardt found in scientific, research, that it is people's thoughts about themselves that determine their behaviour and thus their reality.
While not denying the power of societal structures, I argue that understanding and identifying the perspective of another can only be achieved by having a critical look at one's own moral conceptions or positioning. Vygotsky noted that "the means of acting on oneself is initially a means of acting on others or a means of action of others on the individual.
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Therefore, by critically looking at oneself, one can narrow the conceptual gap between 'us' and 'them', but this is uncomfortable since it can show up characteristics in the self that are often rather not noted. Yet it is an essential feature of history's alleged ability to "change the world for the better. This points to a seemingly obvious fact that the gap between 'us' and 'them' is small since "the capacity for good and evil is distributed across human societies, among all racial and ethnic groups and across gender as well" Ravitch, Hence any externalisation of negative moral behaviour, such as infringing on human rights or treating people with hatred, to "society" or "the Americans" or "whites", or "the Colonialists" see Morgan, a and so forth excludes the self from any moral responsibility.
A study of teacher professional development programme by Weldon confirms that especially in South Africa, understanding the other as based on racial terms precludes any introspective processes that acknowledge personal responsibility for holding onto prejudices.
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For example, she quotes a black 2 teacher saying that "I was not always aware of my own prejudices prior to my participation in this project. I always saw myself as a victim of other people's prejudices and generalisations such as 'whites are racists' never bothered me. But when Denis Goldberg [a white antiracist activist imprisoned with Mandela] told us of his involvement in the struggle against Apartheid I decided to re-look at how I view others" Quoted in Weldon, ". Weldon also notes how a white participant in the programme had to search "[his] own heart" and be "confronted with [his] own inadequacies" in order to move to reconciliation.
This points to the need to face the troubling question of "is hate innately a part of human behaviour and experience? If so, how can we change that within ourselves? Understanding the self must thus be foundational for understanding the other and it need not be a liability, as Sullivan, notes.
He argues that there is fine line that can tilt the balance whereby being informed can become a liability rather than an asset. It assumes a kind of responsibility that comes with knowledge and awareness as we are forced to make choices that our state of ignorance did not have to confront. It means that we must face hatred head-on and this can best be done from a psychological perspective. I now turn to exploring this in some detail.
Perpetuating stereotypes: understanding the psychology of hatred. An example of how the "spreading of hatred" from individuals to nations and continents can be understood is offered here through a psychological framework: "hatred begins in the heart and not in the head.
In so many instances we do not hate people because of a particular deed, but rather do we find that deed ugly because we hate them" Historian George Mosse, quoted in Stern-Strom, Such an understanding immediately shifts the focus from the other to the self. For example, on the relationship between hatred and difference, Eve Shalen, a pupil from an American high school, remembers her school days and her need to belong: "differences between us did not cause hatred; hatred caused differences between us" in Stern-Strom, This is insightful for a grade 8 pupil, because, in her own words, "usually people are made outcasts because they are in some way different from the larger group" in Stern-Strom, Eve comprehended something that most other pupils did not.
To illustrate this in more depth, the resource text book of the educational programme, Facing History and Ourselves, Holocaust and Human Behaviour, narrates a story of how concentration camp inmates at Majdanek were treated and how the psychology behind it can be understood:.
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