Laura B. Chodos, James T. Fleming

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USA

Second Language Learning

 

and Teaching in the 21st Century

To assess the prospects of 2nd language learning and teaching in the 21st century, there is an urgent need to take into account a num­ber of related variables – some long familiar and some of very recent origin and development. A first consideration is the historical context of acquiring and teaching L2, wherein a brief consideration of 20th cen­tury attitudes and practices in the Uninted States may be instructive. Beyond the content, of which little will be said, aspects of pedagogy of course must be considered, all of which are situated in the varied contexts of politics. Recent developments in technology have led to a global interconnectness that was unimagined barely a decade ago. Moreover, the fast-drowing partnerships between the academy (colle­ges, universities and polytechnical institutes) and national and mul­tina­tional corporations further motivate both individuals and collective en­terprises to enhance their multilingual abilities.

Alexander Agafonov

USA

Is Tolerance an Important Concept

 

for Russian Teachers:

 

A Cross-National Perspective

Tolerance is a familiar word in our contemporary world, yet meanings and definitions of tolerance differ greatly in various contexts. This study examines and compares attitudes toward social, political, and moral diversity expressed by the future educators from Russia and the United States of America. It explores future teachers' attitudes and beliefs regarding several potentially controversial areas, such as in­ter­racial and inter-ethnic dating, homosexuality, censorship, and dress codes, which directly or indirectly relate to issues of political, social, and moral tolerance.

The results of this study show that Russian future educators have less tolerant attitudes on issues of diversity in society in general and in schools in particular compared to the attitudes toward diversity of American future educators. Taking into account the history of Russian society, especially the years of forced «equality» and uniformity for all under the Soviet regime, such a finding makes much sense. One can easily imagine the kind of attitudes that teachers, who were charged with supporting and promoting Communist ideology for the future generations of «Soviet citizens», would have toward diversity in general and censorship, homosexuality, and dress codes in particular in the country where there was no freedom of speech; all the articles in newspapers and magazines were censored by the Communist officials; homosexuality was against the law and could result in up to ten years in prison; and uniforms were mandatory for all the school children.

The differences in the attitudes of future educators from Russia and the United States appear to follow the same pattern as the differen­ces between the attitudes of the general populations of the two co­un­tries toward the issues involving political, social, and moral tolerance. Inglehart, Basanez, and Moreno (1998), who report on the data from the 1990–1993 Worlh Values Survey, indicate that Russians have consistently less tolerant attitudes and norms in political, social, and moral spheres of life than do Americans (e.g., 81 percent of Russians would not want to have homosexuals as their neighbors, as opposed to 39 percent of Americans not wanting to have homosexual neighbors).

The findings of this study, which seem to correspond with other relevant research in this field, indicate that although the way of life and the ideology of Russian people changed in the last several years, their attitudes toward political, social, and moral diversity still remain largely intolerant compared to the attitudes of people from democratic and pluralistic societies, such as the United States of America. Importance and peculiarity of studying trie attitudes toward diversity of future teachers are emphasized by the fact that these people will have a great impact on the tolerance of the future generations. Research substan­tia­tes the claim that teacher attitudes and beliefs influence students' at­ti­tudes and behaviors, as well as affect their achievement (Braun, 1976; Pajares, 1992). Since Russian teachers to be have less tolerant atti­tudes toward issues of political, social, and moral diversity than their American counterparts, the future generations of Russian people are likely to have less tolerant attitudes toward diversity as well. Indeed, it might take several generations to build a truly democratic and plu­ralistic society with respect for diversity and tolerance in Russia.

Both Russian and American samples used in this study art the so-called «convenience» samples. These samples cannot be considered as representative of any population, but they are quite appropriate for such an exploratory study. This study provides a basic comparison of the attitudes toward diversity between future educators from two very different countries; attempts to explore the connection between the culture and history of a society and the attitudes toward issues of political, social, and moral tolerance of its people; and indicates the directions for further research and exploration of the subject of tolerance.