A Clash Between Cultures: An Approacn To Reducing Cultural Hostility In a Homogeneous Classroom

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Understanding cultures, ours and others, can make for better managers. Employees, customers, investors, suppliers, and other stakeholders are increasingly becoming members of other cultures. Therefore students as future managers need to learn how to understand their own and other cultures and learn about cross-cultural attitudes and relationships if they hope to get effective results out of mixed-culture stakeholders such as these. Improved ways of teaching an awareness of cultural differences are crucial to the development of effective managers and one such procedure begun by Hunt and Allen (1992) provided the basis for our study. Like Hunt and Allen (1992) we continue to focus on the reduction of student cultural hostility; however, we also include improvements to their design of a structured learning experience. A continued theme is one of how cultural awareness could be hampered where critical events between two nations have contributed to building mistrust and cultural hostility. Samuel Huntington's (1993) article in Foreign Affairs, published since Hunt and Allen, has triggered a plethora of debate about whether the next great clash of civilizations, post ‘cold war,’ will be between Islamic and Western cultures. Cultural misunderstandings and even cross-cultural hostility is often fueled by this type of bi-polar debate which pits two great civilizations against each other. Hunt and Allen (1992) described the use of the case of author Salman Rushdie's being placed under a “fatwa” or death threat, as a tool for reducing Western students hostility toward the Moslem culture of Iran. We updated the Rushdie case to include the socio-political changes that have occurred in since 1992, including the Huntington materials. We also went further than Hunt and Allen (1992) by adding another important element, the issue of being discouraged from teaching about culturl differences because of an apparently homogenous classroom, espicially in rural universities. When there appears to be very little cultural diversity to work with and build on in the classroom, classroom discussions suffer. One reason for this apparent lack of intereset may well lie in the homogenous nature of the students in the classroom itself. With the help of measures for determining the real level of classroom homogeneity, some elements of subcultural diversity are identified in our classroom which were not examined by Hunt and Allen (1992). We hope these feelings will reduce instructor reluctance to teach about ‘cultural differences’ in homogeneous classes. Some suggestions are also provided in our conclusions to assist in researching the issues of cultural hostility and classroom homogeneity further. © 2000 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Journal of Teaching in International Business





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