Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why is our home schooling program so Western? Part IV

(Final installment!)

What about English-language texts that incorporate elements of the non-Western cannon, or expose children to non-Western cultures? Shouldn't I be including more of these in our homeschooling curriculum?

Unfortunately, the more recent introduction of writing systems into many languages, and the dearth of good translations of non-Indoeuropean, non-Semitic texts into English, mean that there simply isn't that much high-quality literature from the non-Western canon that is accessible to English-speaking students--especially the younger ones. 

Meanwhile, too much of what passes for instances of non-Western cultural heritage turn out to be unmemorable settings of "traditional" folk tales vapidly retold by North American outsiders, and books of multicultural trivia that reduce languages to alphabets and simple phrases, and cultures to highly formulaic, summary accounts of food, dress, and ceremonies--all of it flowing seemlessly into one ear and out the other.

4 comments:

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

There are lots of good translations of "non-Western" books, though not necessarily in the children's section of the library. Lack of availability is not really a good excuse here, though lack of familiarity with what is available could well be.

Katharine Beals said...

"There are lots of good translations of "non-Western" books"
Examples?
"though not necessarily in the children's section of the library"
Written at a 5th to 6th grade level?

FedUpMom said...

When I was a kid, I liked the "Tales of a [insert nationality here] Grandmother."

Like this:

Tales of a Chinese Grandmother

Katharine Beals said...

Thanks for the link, Fedupmom. I took a look, and these look much more substantive and better written than the stuff you get today. I don't know how much of a "North American outsider" author Frances Carpenter is, but it looks like she has done some real research.

I'm still wondering what the "many" good translations of "non-Western" books gwp is referring to include--unless this "many" includes translations of middle eastern literature. When I say there's s "dearth of good translations of non-Indoeuropean, non-Semitic texts into English", I'm specifically excluding the middle east and, say, Russia.