ERIC Number: ED382985
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1995-Mar
Reference Count: N/A
Culture as Catalyst and Constraint.
Martin, Bruce K.
A disturbing gulf between the culture of the United States and that of Singapore, was noted by an American English professor after spending the 1986-87 academic year as a Fullbright lecturer in Singapore's Department of English and Literature and again after returning for the 1991-92 academic year as a visiting professor. Cultural differences were not as disturbing during the first visit as during the second, despite a number of reforms that brought the Singapore English department into closer alignment with the American academic culture. One reason for this change in perspective may be attributed to the instructor's own heightened awareness of the importance of writing in a literature program. In a culture that places emphasis on exam writing rather than process, analytical, or discovery writing, the instructor was frustrated by the attitude students took toward their writing assignments. The situation in the Singapore English curriculum increasingly represented not simply a disagreement over pedagogical methods but the force of what can only be described as culture. Any talk of injecting a composition element into literature courses was met by practical objections to its labor intensiveness. It was also met with something more peculiarly Singaporean: a defense of the logocentric authoritarianism, which was at the heart of the literature program. The ease of crossing, whether into another person's psyche or into another culture, belies the uncanny tendency of persons and cultures to revert to what they have been, even--perhaps especially--when in the zones of contact. If this seems a gloomy way of regarding cultural differences, it is more genuinely respectful than many of the more optimistic attitudes encountered lately, and one on which an authentic cultural reapproachement might begin to be established. (TB)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (46th, Washington, DC, March 23-25, 1995).