by Robert Gettings (Hokusei Gakuen Womens' Junior College, Sapporo, Japan)
Recently, content-based approaches to teaching English as aForeign Language (EFL) have gained popularity (Brinton, Snow, & Wesche, 1989). How can we design culturally-relevant materials that increase English ability, consider the students' culture and addresssocial studies "target" cultures?
Culturally-relevant curriculum design necessitates a different pedagogical approach to each classroom. Even for the same language and content goals, culturalrelevance depends on the social relationships of class members. The same lesson can't be repeated in a class with a different cultural mix and still remain relevant. Each individual in the classroom has aunique identity, history of learning and experience. In every class, there can be differences of gender, age, race, ethnicity, culture or experience among students or between teacher and students. Theteacher must take all this into account.
As a first step, the teacher must critically reflect on the cultural schemata / background knowledge that influence both teacher and student understandings ofthemselves, their world, and the content and pedagogical conduct of the lesson (Freire, 1970, hooks, 1994). With this as a base, the teacher can begin to design activities that facilitate deeperstudent understanding. This is especially important in teaching social studies themes.
Government approved social studies curricula and textbooks have a great influence on our students. In Japan, onestrong image in popular culture and in government texts is the image that Japan is a peaceful country that was the victim of a terrible atomic bomb. How accurate is this image? One of the biggestdebates in Japan over social studies texts in the last fifty years has been on the information included about World War II. One example of this is the debate over the inclusion of the story of the...