Thursday, April 8, 2010

dichotomies and generalizations: the lifeblood of stereotypes

Hi there!

This guy is a Black-throated Canary, or Crithagra atrogularis, isn't he beautiful?  We have tons of them and they make me deliciously happy.

Because I am a pea-brain and have had a lot of practice categorizing things according to differences, I'm afraid this bad habit has come with me from the States.  Some casual observations I have made, unfortunately, are categorized below:

In middle-class America, siblings usually don't help their younger siblings pay for their education; in rural South Africa, it is quite common to find older siblings financing their younger siblings' education.

In middle-class America, we leash, exercise and feed our dogs well; in rural South Africa, we starve our dogs, chain them to a tree, and have them as sentinels in our yards.

In middle-class America, we contain our domestic animals (cattle, donkeys, goats); in rural South Africa, we let domestic animals roam free.

In middle-class America, most documents are composed on a computer; in rural South Africa, most documents are hand-written.

In middle-class America, we have a cutting board for raw meat, one for garlic and onions, and one for everything else;  in rural South Africa, we use the table top.

In middle-class America, we dress for comfort rather than fashion.  In this way, we wear comfortable shoes and practical clothing.  In rural South Africa, we dress for fashion, which has us wading in 6 inches of dry dirt (or wet mud, depending the weather) in our stilettos and our cleavage busting out of our blouses.

(I do acknowledge here that fashion is indeed very important to many women in the US, and that style often trumps comfort in the US as it does in rural SA.)

In middle-class America, we have annual shopping trips to outfit our school with a wonderful variety of well-made, colorful clothes; in rural South Africa,  a school uniform is highly prized and often the most expensive cost a household assumes.

In middle-class America, these same annual shopping trips also procure a wonderful variety and abundance of all kinds of colorful and fun school supplies; in rural South Africa, a standard pencil (with no eraser) and the drabbest of cardboard covered "activity books" are supplied.

In middle-class America, we use a three-hole punch; in rural South Africa, we use a two-hole punch.

In middle-class America, we ask students questions to stimulate critical thinking; in rural South Africa, we tell learners what they should be thinking and believing.

In middle-class America, college students generally come to class as expected; in rural South Africa, college learners often do not come to class as expected, and any excuse seems honorable for an absence.

In middle-class America, we have periods at the ends of our sentences; in rural South Africa, we have end-stops at the end of our sentences.

In middle-class America, indoor plumbing is standard; in rural South Africa, indoor plumbing is exceptional.

In middle-class America, our greetings in English vary: Hello, how are you?  What's up? How have you been?; in rural South Africa, our greetings in English are standard and do not vary: "Hello.  How are you?  I'm fine, thank you. And how are you?"  (And any variety in greetings in English, we rural South Africans find hilarious.)

In middle-class America, we tend to write our dates in this manner: 04/08/2010; in rural South Africa, we tend to write the dates like this: 08/04/2010.  (Is it already April 8th?!!  Eish, my holiday was too brief!)

In middle-class America, most of our teaching course work has moved to computers and even on-line; in rural South Africa, most of our course work is done by hand.

In middle-class America, health hazards like raw sewage bubbling from the ground, or whole living areas being without water are considered health emergencies; in rural South Africa, these same health hazards are not regarded as urgent and barely become topics of conversation.

In middle-class America, we typically indent a paragraph; in rural South Africa, to find an indented paragraph in any of their learning materials is quite a find.

In middle-class America, teachers seem to have lost a once held, high regard of their community members; in rural South Africa, teachers are some of the most highly regarded by members of the community.

In middle-class America, passive voice is taught to be avoided; in rural South Africa, passive voice is taught painstakingly.

In middle-class America, our college kids are treated as adults; in rural South Africa, we treat our college kids as children, even locking them out of their dormitories so they are "forced" to attend class.

In middle-class America, we have discontinued the use of corporal punishment in schools; in rural South Africa, although corporal punishment is outlawed, we continue to use it.

In middle-class America, it is somewhat acceptable to make mistakes and be forgiven as a human being; in rural South Africa, to make mistakes publicly is the worst thing anyone can do.

In middle-class America, we typically value function over form; in rural South Africa, we typically value form over function.

Just some musings for a middle-class American pea-brain, and closing with another lovely sunset!  See the moon?

Soon, Karen

photo credit for black throated canary:

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