A Clash of Cultures
David Chutney was not a stranger to overseas assignments. He had worked
for several years as a private consultant to foreign companies and governments
and had several major design projects to his credit. His work did not
go unnoticed and he was eventually retained by a major firm specializing
in television transmission systems. He was able to negotiate an arrangement
whereby he enjoyed all the benefits of a company employee while maintaining
the independent status of a private contractor.
He was soon asked to head up an overseas project for a foreign government.
The main purpose of this assignment was the installation of an educational
television network to support the client government's distance-learning
independent study programs and on-site college instruction. He found the
assignment to be doubly exciting. Not only did he see the opportunity
to apply technology to make a significant contribution to education in
a developing region but it also provided him with his first professional
experience outside of Western Europe and North America.
During the initial business meetings, the agents of the client government
described in detail the intended end users of the television network and
the government's purposes in providing an additional medium for instruction.
To them, the most appealing characteristic of the televised courses was
that they would preserve the prohibition against the intermingling of
men and women in the classroom. Although the televised instruction would
be developed in such a way as to be consistent with the male-dominated
society of the country, it would be viewed by female students who would
receive the instruction apart from the men. Furthermore, through the use
of the television network, some women could receive an education while
maintaining the custom of remaining at home.
In spite of his sensitivity to cultural differences and his successful
tours overseas, David became keenly aware of the ramifications of this
television network. It would support a social system that was in conflict
with his values and beliefs.
The AECT Code of Ethics—Section 1, Principle 8
In fulfilling obligations to the individual, the member shall in the design
and selection of any educational program or media seek to avoid content
that reinforces or promotes gender, ethnic, racial, or religious stereotypes;
and shall seek to encourage the development of programs and media that
emphasize the diversity of our society as a multicultural community.
David was faced with a difficult dilemma. His beliefs were derived from
the culture and society in which he grew up and to which he belongs. Should
he forsake the project because of a philosophical conflict of cultures?
Besides, if he truly wants equality for women, what would do the greatest
good in the long run? If the project is successfully completed, a level
of education would be available to women that they do not now enjoy. Perhaps
increasing that level of education for women would contribute to hastening
the day when their contribution to the society will be better appreciated,
thus raising their status in that society. If he decides, based on his
own personal values, not to participate in the project, should he then
resign his affiliation from the firm for which he is working that considers
the project appropriate? David must distinguish between his personal views
and those of the organization for which he works. Feeling strongly about
the principles involved in this decision, David should examine the situation
further and carefully think through his personal convictions. When his
deliberations are completed, David will have a clearer perception of his
own feelings and beliefs. He will also have a better understanding of
the nature of ethical decision making. There just aren't any clear, easy,
Director, Center for Teaching, Learning & Faculty Development
Ferris State University