Fleming (2003). Building Personal and Nation-State Identities: Research and Practice.

Fleming, D. (2003). Building Personal and Nation-State Identities: Research and Practice. TESL Canada Journal, 20(2), 65–79. https://doi.org/10.18806/tesl.v20i2.949

“Although they differ greatly in terms of time and orientation, they share the common belief that second-language teachers have an important role in the cultural integration of newcomers to Canada.” (p 65)

“How should ESL teachers help newcomers in their classes conceive of themselves as ‘Canadians’? … Like many in our profession, I have been disturbed by the stereotypical descriptions and definitions of Canadian identity and culture found in many curricula and teaching guidelines. … It seems that teachers are often encouraged in these documents to conceive of their students as passive objects to be molded [page break] into a monolithic version of Canadian national identity. … definitions of Canadian identity are changeable, multifaceted, and, most important, contested. The evolving links between personal and nation-state identity construction are important for both teachers and learners to understand, especially in an age of globalization.” (p 65-66)

[“The Problem” (p 66) …]

“… _The Sourcebook_ (Government of Canada, 1991b) … defined a static version of Canadian culture and recommended that teachers instruct their learners in things like proper hygiene and morals.” (p 66)

“… most ESL curriculum documents and teaching guidelines still tend to exhibit the same orientation toward Canadian culture and learners. … [page break] … our teacher training and curricula pay scant attention to how immigrants to Canada contribute to the construction of our national identity. We are often advised to teach culture as if it were a set of immutable facts.” (p 66-67)

“… Cummins (1988) has raised about learner identity construction and larger social contexts. He succinctly expresses these concerns in a recent question he asked educators on line: ‘Are we preparing students to accept the societal status quo (and in many cases their own inferior status therein) or are we preparing them to participate actively and critically in their society as equal partners with those who come from dominant group backgrounds?’ (2002).” (p 67)

[“Identity” (p 67) …]

“In her influential study, Norton (2000) used the term _identity_ ‘to reference how a person understands his or her relationship to the world, how that relationship is constructed over time and space, and how the person understands possibilities for the future’ (p. 5). She notes that poststructuralist theory depicts individual subjectivity as non-unitary, ‘diverse, contradictory, dynamic and changing over historical time and social space’ (p. 125).” (p 67)

[“Multiculturalism and Changing Visions of Canadian Culture” (p 68) …]

“As a number of theorists have pointed out (Hall, 1992; White & Hunt, 2000), personal identity is closely interconnected with collective or national identities. National identity and culture often appear to be unchanging and unidimensional, systems of symbols, behaviors, and values that are somehow immutable or even ethereal (Fulford, 1993). Every nation-state must ‘create a coherent national identity and … subordinate sub-regional or diverse ethnic identities in order to complement ideologically the economic union’ (Teeple, 2000, p. 164).” (p 68)

“_Critical multiculturalism_, a term first coined by the Chicago Cultural Studies Group (1992), is a way of critiquing how multiculturalism has been dominated by Anglo-American discourses, shorn of its critical content by corporate interests, and filled with western-orientated identity politics.” (p 69)

[“Changing Expectations of the ESL Teacher” (p 70) …]

“… definition of citizenship and culture … Courchêne (1996), the director of a language institute in Ontario, uses one that is dynamic and inclusive. He draws on Damen (1986) to emphasize that culture is learned, changeable, a universal fact of human life, a network of relationships and values, transmitted through language, and a filtering device. … [page break] … He recommends that teachers provide a balanced and critically aware view of Canadian culture so that they can ‘internalize it, transform it and return it to us in a new form that incorporates the content of their first culture’ (p. 25).” (p 70-71)

[“Four Research Studies” (p 71) …]

“Morgan took this stance toward research in the interests of establishing a more equitable relationship with his learners. He pointed out that many of his learners would view ‘traditional’ research techniques as forms of surveillance similar to the police activity they had experienced in their first countries.” (p 73)

“… a teacher’s identity is also not unidimentional [sic] or static. In the classroom, this concretely means that teachers must be aware that they are not simple conduits for the transmission of cultural content. Their task is to interpret critically and negotiate cultural meanings with their learners. Teachers must then avoid attempts to provide ‘objective’ truths in their presentations of culture and acknowledge their own subjectivity in the classroom.” (p 74)

[“Globalization and Future Directions” (p 76) …]

Selected References

  • Chicago Cultural Studies Group. (1992). Critical multiculturalism. Critical Inquiry, 18, 531- 555.
  • Courchêne, R. (1996). Teaching Canadian culture: Teacher preparation. TESL Canada Journal, 13(2), 1-16.
  • Cummins, J. (1988). From multicultural to anti-racist education: An analysis of programmes and policies in Ontario. In T. Skutnabb Kangas & J. Cummins (Eds.), Minority education: From shame to struggle. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.
  • Cummins, J. (2002). This place nurtures my spirit: Creating contexts of empowerment in linguistically-diverse schools. Retrieved October 22, 2002, from http://www.iteachilearn.com/cummins/spirit.html
  • Damen, L. (1986). Culture learning: The fifth dimension in the language classroom. New York: Addison-Wesley.
  • Fulford, R (1993). A post-modem dominion: The changing nature of Canadian citizenship. In W. Kaplan (Ed.), Belonging: Essays on the meaning and future of Canadian citizenship. Montreal, QC: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
  • Government of Canada. (1991b). Canada: A sourcebook for orientation, language and settlement workers. Ottawa: Employment and Immigration Canada.
  • Hall, S. (1992) The question of cultural identity. In S. Hall, D. Held, & T. McGrew (Eds.), Modernity and its futures. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
  • Morgan, B. (1997). Identity and intonation: Linking dynamic processes in an ESL classroom. TESOL Quarterly, 31, 431-450.
  • Norton, B. (2000). Identity and language learning. Harlow, UK: Pearson.
  • Teeple, G. (2000). Globalization and the decline of social reform. Aurora: Garamond.
  • White, M., & Hunt, A. (2000). Citizenship: Care of the self, character and personality. Citizenship Studies, 4, 93-115.


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