INSHALLAH:



A PRIVATE SCHOOL FOR PRIVILEGED KUWAITI
YOUTH ATTEMPTS TO STRADDLE A CULTURAL DIVIDE (continued)



Chapter 13: DISCUSSION

 

 

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XIII: DISCUSSION




A. Data Triangulation

This section will attempt to link the three instruments of analysis, the KATWII, the AWSIT, and the AGS.



(1) the KATWII

Generally, the KATWII offers some initial indications as whether Al-Dharra Madressor students show a secondary Western cultural proficiency. Relatively few students fall into the category of bicultural even when including those in the category of Low Biculturals. Adding in the additional, mainly Arab-oriented, marginal students only yields a total of about half of the students, 46.3%.

As asserted previously, the KATWII results indicate that the student body tilts towards a stronger Arab cultural affinity. Basically, the KATWII suggests the student body as an Arab population with a significant amount of secondary American influence. In terms of the goal of the school in preserving or enhancing Kuwaiti cultural identity, then one can clearly describe the school as a success. The high average ASOC (70) score supports this conclusion as does the relatively small number of students in categories indicating low levels of Arab cultural adhesion, such as "USd," "American," or even "Low Bicultural." In distinct contrast, a third of the student body classifies as archetypal Arab.

As to whether students or the student body as a whole merits the term Western "culturally proficient," remains more problematic. As explored in the previous chapter, the "average" rating of students as "Ma," fitting into the culturally proficient category, somewhat clouds the issue. Students show varying amounts of secondary cultural adherence to the West, placing them in categories of "Arab," "Ma," or "High Bicultural." However, even the most "Arab" students show significant amounts of secondary Western cultural orientation with the lowest scores hovering near an average of "2" on a scale of "5," as in "occasionally reading English," "occasionally speaking in English," etc..

Further, one can make some assumptions as to whether students falling into these categories would meet the terms of the definition of culturally proficient previously offered. One can probably assume that those individuals categorized as "High Bicultural" would experience few difficulties in Western situations. However, those grouped as "Ma" and "Ard," while familiar with many Western beliefs and practices, as shown by USOC scores averaging in the fifties, would experience progressively greater difficulties in adjusting to these situations. Those in the Arab archetype group would find, at best, an uneasy peace with experiences they might encounter in the West, and their experience might parallel those chronicled in the literature as involving Arab college students or individuals forced to endure Americanization, such as children from Arab families finding refuge in the West. Presumably, though, all three groups would take comfort and draw strength from their well-grounded primary Arab identity as shown on the high ASOC scores of the KATWII.

Notably, as indicated in the previous chapter, the linear question of the AGS largely yielded the same results in terms of categories as the KATWII. This indicates that, though one may dispute the merits of the one-axes versus the two-axes model of cultural acquisition, at ADM they seem to largely offer the same description of students in terms of categories and amounts of cultural adherence. Further, the fact that these two measures of identification use different processes, i.e., self-identification on the AGS versus the more opaque circling of items on the AWSIT, suggests not only the strength of the result, but also that students holds a reasonably accurate view of their own level of Americanization, which suggests their ability to distinguish between American and Kuwaiti situations. Still, it takes a fair amount of conjecture to move from these pre-assigned categories to assumptions about behaviors in life situations.



(2) the AWSIT.

The AWSIT uses three different types of situations that require somewhat separate treatment.

a. Do the students behave as Arabs, as expected, in Kuwaiti situations?

The students’ behavior shows some divergence from the Arab staff in the way of liberalism, possibly "Americanization." Thus the average group response differed from the Western staff by 33% and the Arab staff by 21.2%. However, this variation probably falls within the parameters of Arab cultural variation within Kuwait, which includes the Bedouin, more liberal Asil, and foreign Arabs. Hence, one might describe the students as relatively liberal Arabs, but still Arabs. Further, though one might argue a pattern of "American" resistance to some acceptance of Kuwaiti norms, this resistance may result as much from the relatively liberal beliefs of the Asil group and their home environment as to their ADM experience.


b. Do the students behave like Americans in American situations?

This depends a bit on how one describes American behavior. America holds a vast array of subcultures, some of them holding quite conservative social beliefs. As measured by the AWSIT, the behavior of the students seems far closer to that of the Arab teachers in these American situations than to the Western teachers. In fact, when averaging the groups together, this analysis found no average variation between the Arab teachers and students (0%) as opposed to the relatively large distance from the Western staff (44%).

However, these averages mask variety in the student group and some important secondary factors. As related previously, students, particularly older ones, readily identified American situations even if their behavior rejected "American patterns" of behavior. Thus, one might describe them possessing Western cultural proficiency in their understanding Western situations and preparing responses to such situations. Further, accepted Kuwait social behaviors would not necessarily differentiate the students from more conservative American subcultural groups. Again, this could arguably result from other factors than their ADM experiences, such as trips to the United States. To some Americans, then, these ADM students might classify as "American," but possibly not to others, though the same statement probably describes certain American subcultures which other Americans might not identify as "American."


c. How might one categorize student responses in borderline situations?

Students more typically follow Kuwaiti norms, which correspond largely to Arab norms, shown by the Arab teachers. However, the two border situations provided difficulties in interpretation. As stated in the last chapter, the question on prejudice defied characterization in numerical terms. Similarly, the question about lying for the benefit of another, while it placed the students closer to the American teachers, made for difficult categorization. Basically, the reasoning of all three groups as to lying to help another seemed to completely differ, but this may result as much from age differentiation as from cultural differentiation.



(3) The AGS

Besides the questions allowing for arranging students into categories, noted above, the AGS offered a chance to try to determine to what extent students seemed to follow the Arab Asil pattern developed in chapters three, four, and five. The table below summarizes the results.

This generalization of group responses on the right values largely corresponds to that offered in the earlier part of this dissertation as describing Kuwaiti Asil society. One can characterize this group as more group-oriented, hierarchical, tribal than "average" Americans. The values of the tribe seem, as described before, socially conservative, like their parents but not to the same extremes degree as the Bedouin. Exposure to the West through Al-Dharra Madressor apparently did relatively little to alter if it did not actually enhance the students' affinity for values which they share, to a great extent, with the Arab staff and, of course, their parents.

One can question, therefore, to what extent those values would allow for success in American (Western) society. This question will return for further consideration in chapter fourteen.

Again, also, the question recurs as to what extent these characteristics would fall within the pattern of subcultural variation within the United States, particularly since, again, the results largely entail voluntarily giving up of freedoms perceived as "American" rather than demanding those considered unusual in a Western environment.

In this respect, the lack of the comparison Western and Arab teacher groups weakens the ability to draw conclusions. After all, the results of giving this similar survey to Arab teachers might reveal an almost identical pattern to that of the students, and it might differ.

Generally, though, all three instruments paint a similar picture. Students remain Arabs with an understanding, sympathy, possibly a "working knowledge" of a second American (Western) culture. One can certainly describe this as a population well grounded in its Arab cultural identity, with a medium to occasionally high secondary cultural orientation towards American (Western) culture. Again, for a small number of students from very Westernized households, the school may actually create, if not enhance, that Kuwaiti Asil cultural identity, but they do not form the main focus of this study.



B. Interpretation of Each Result

The results of all three of the sources of data and interpretation in the previous chapter paint a similar picture. Al-Dharra students display a basic, surface level of Americanization. This fits the more restricted purpose of the school (ADM 3, 1998) as a college preparation institution charged with maintaining, even enhancing, students’ main Kuwaiti identity (ADM 2, 1998), with American cultural proficiency perceived as having secondary, but high, importance.

The KATWII serves as a summary, static description of this conclusion. The instrument’s format of questions allows for the possibility that an individual may, for example, read and listen to Arab music at one time and listen to American music at another. In other words, it indicates situations that do not envision a possible clash of cultural expectations. According to that standard, only 26% of the students at ADM truly merit the term "High Bicultural." Adding in the additional percentages for the more marginal categories still leaves more than half of the school unaccounted for. However, most students display robust Arab cultural adhesion, expressed as high ASOC scores with moderately strong, though almost always lesser, USOC scores.

In this context, however, it bears mentioning that the standard chosen, i.e., the category boundaries, remains extremely important in categorizing students. Lowering the standard even a point, say from 51 to 50, would have resulted in increasing the number of students considered "Low Bicultural" and "High Bicultural." Many students cluster relatively closely to these boundary lines, likely much closer to these lines than a comparison population of Arabs or Americans would on the KATWII, a point that having more teachers fill out the survey probably would have further displayed. In this instance, the scatterplot shown in chapter thirteen, probably best shows this phenomenon as does the original Excel spreadsheet shown in Appendix II.

As a supplementary point, it deserves mention that none of the students fall into the category of "anomie." Of course, the entrance examination does serve to "weed out" weaker students, but it does so on an academic, not a cultural basis. Hence, while at Al-Dharra relatively few students achieve full biculturality, the results of the KATWII suggest that the ADM experience probably "does no harm" in terms of turning out culturally confused, disoriented students.

The results of the structured interviews, the AWSIT, further supports this same picture. If, indeed, students achieved true biculturality, one would expect that in American, Western situations, they would choose more Western norms, Arab norms in Kuwaiti situations, and either in situations in which either might apply.

In the interview contexts, student choices underlined their much greater adherence to Arab cultural norms than Western. Thus, the responses to the Arab situations remained reasonably well aligned with those of the Arab staff. In the American situations on the AWSIT also students more typically chose Kuwaiti, not American, responses. In this respect, again, one needs to recall the variation of cultural norms in America that allows a great variety of cultural responses, and the students’ answers do not totally lie outside the rather loose boundaries for "acceptable" behavior. Hence, many immigrant parents in the US would express the same reservations about children leaving the family, girls going on dates, etc. as would the students studied. The students could probably live "American" with the same degree of ease as Bosnian-Americans, Ethiopian-Americans, or Mormon subcultural groups. Personal observations by this author of Kuwaitis’ behavior in other social contexts heavily support the conclusions reached here and appear in chapter fourteen.

None of the AWSIT American situations particularly shocked the older students. In this, their Al-Dharra Madressor experience perhaps made them more aware of differing cultural choices available in the West even if it did encourage them to choose differently than they might choose without an ADM education.

In contrast, this author's and others (Longva, 1997) experiences show that a Westerner in Kuwait could easily make a social blunder in Kuwait’s more tightly rule-bound world, and, as indicated in chapter five and seven, Kuwait imposes stricter social standards on Kuwaitis than on foreigners. Thus, it makes sense in designing a school for Asil Kuwaiti children whose life will alternate between situations in a multi-cultural work and an all-Kuwaiti social environment to place the greater emphasis on the latter. In this respect, it also follows to more emphasize students’ ability to deal with those "who count" rather than those who only sometimes count.

The ADM education thus did no harm, as measured by the instruments in this dissertation, and probably created considerable advantage. The students’ experiences did not teach them, for example, to behave in a way of which their parents would later disapprove, or that Kuwait society would condemn, such as might happen to a KAS student or to a Kuwaiti schooled in the West. Also, their ADM experiences probably prepared students not to do the sort of wild things that some Arabs do in college by acquainting them with the freer cultural choices offered by the West and placing that exposure in the much more controlled environment of the school as opposed to the college dorm. Thus, for example, ADM students may learn through their teachers that American children do not always speak to their parents with the same amount of respect as Kuwaiti children would, even if, as the AWSIT indicates, the Kuwait students do not approve or adopt that manner of speaking.

The AGS, in general, supports the same conclusions. The earlier chapters of this work put forth a general description of Kuwaiti culture, depicting it as very different from American culture. The surveys supported both the suppositions of the earlier part of this work and the commitment by the students to these values. In this respect, it remains particularly unfortunate that the test group of teachers did not take the survey to provide a point of comparison.

In short, all three forms of data support the same conclusion: most students do not become bicultural in the most forceful meanings of the word. They become aware of another culture, American (Western), and of its expectations. They acquire useful skills needed in dealing with that culture, especially the ability to read, write, and speak in English. However, their values and behaviors remain heavily rooted in Asil Kuwaiti culture. If anything, the ADM education exposes students early to another culture freer than their own, free enough, in fact, that they can function within that culture without acting particularly differently than they do in Kuwait except in the most obvious ways, i.e., speaking English and wearing Western clothes. Thus, it seems fair to describe the majority, perhaps 60%, as "culturally proficient."

The special conditions of this school, while highly conducive to obtaining this Western cultural proficiency, may in some ways inhibit the acquisition of biculturality. For example, while the heavy domination of the school by Kuwaitis certainly guarantees that Kuwaiti culture stands a good chance of reinforcement, it may have the opposite effect on Western culture. Further, the uniqueness of the school in terms of its inter-relatedness may serve to reinforce the values and language of Kuwait at the expense of those of America, as Kuwaitiness becomes a key element of group coherence and self-definition.

Therefore, this study concludes that ADM produces cultural proficiency to about the 60% level, with students expressing varying amounts of Westernization, ranging from full biculturality down to just sufficient to survive four years at an American university.

Further, this study suggests, in support of Blanc and Hameers (1973), that the strength of the two respective cultures may profoundly influence the amount of secondary cultural adhesion instilled among students. The relative strength and well-defined nature of the two cultures in question in this case, American and Arab, seem to support a reasonably high level of secondary cultural adhesion. This suggests that in situations lacking these conditions, one culture may well emerge dominant largely to the exclusion of the other.

However, this study also suggests that oppositional arrangement and relationship of the two cultures in this school may have as much to do with the relative cultures themselves as the respect accorded them. Arab culture, as indicated previously, bears so little in common with the West that it often presents a well-defined, distinct set of alternative behaviors. Further, in this case, one could argue, given the wide diversity of American cultural norms, that simply understanding the limits of social toleration, i.e., the idea of the melting pot, would allow almost any cultural group to register as culturally proficient in America without much altering its norms and beliefs. In Kuwait, though not the primary focus of this chapter, it seems that students with a strong American cultural identity find it harder to obtain a secondary Asil cultural proficiency as becoming "Kuwaiti" entails abandoning many cherished freedoms.



C. Limitations of the Study

A number of limitations inhibit the effectiveness of this study. First, as mentioned before, each of the design instruments suffers from a number of weaknesses. While these deficits, to some degree, offset one another, they do not totally cancel one another out.

The KATWII never endured a rigorous testing process. Further, it stems from a test, the ARSMA-II, which draws its validity from its ability to correlate acculturation levels with generational equivalents, not the use employed in this study. Second, in adapting the ARSMA-II the author needed to make some changes in questions that those observing the results may or may not consider fundamental. The author proposes the KATWII as a test of biculturality to any other subject group in Kuwait, or other Arab country that wishes to use it, as it would require only slight modification for use throughout the Arab world. This study does not propose, however, that the KATWII offers the final word on cultural acquisition.

The AWSIT, used to correct the defects of the KATWII, itself suffers from a number of design flaws. First, it draws its fundamental "Kuwaiti" and "American" situations from the author’s own observations of Kuwaitis and Americans. While undoubtedly many Western readers of this study would question the choice of "American situation" questions, probably many Arabs would question the choice of "Kuwaiti situations." The fact that two questions, also, turned out without clear cultural answers argues against the choice of questions. Further, while this researcher solicited the active help of the Arab staff in translating the AWSIT interviews, the analysis results from his own Westernized interpretation of the answers.

The third, longer survey, the AGS, suffers from limitations as well. Again, the author attempted to test attributes of his own model of Asil Arab society, and one can question the origins of that model despite is logical derivation in earlier chapters. While in this case the observing teacher did not come into the classroom to administer the survey, most students did know that he, in fact, wrote the survey. This may have influenced students’ answers.

Last, one turns to the whole question of generalizability. Several factors argue against making any larger conclusions based on this study. First, the earlier sections of this work served to show the real uniqueness of the site as Kuwaiti, Asil, family-oriented, and representative of the merchant class. Second, the presence of basically one ethnic group does not equal the situation in most of the schools most concerned with this entire issue of biculturality, i.e., those with either a subcultural minority or with their population to some degree under the conditions of disempowerment. Thus, the truths here may only hold limited relevance for designing new programs.



D. Implications for Future Research

The entire concept of cultural acquisition and biculturality remains very complex and not easily measured. The following suggest some possible directions for future study.

A study of some of the other institutions mentioned in the research review might reveal that Al-Dharra Madressor actually achieves more Western cultural adhesion than some and less than others. Students taking all three of these tests repeatedly recommended that students at the Kuwait public schools and other schools in Kuwait take the same tests. They suggest, and this research largely concurs, that such studies might reveal a wide range of Western and Arab cultural adhesion even within Kuwait.

Second, undertake a similar study of the Arab-Israeli schools in Israel. Since they employ a similar methodology, albeit with some differences, this would serve as an evaluation study as well. Probably more than even Al-Dharra, these schools attempt biculturality. Such a study may suggest how Palestinian students who hold their culture in high esteem, and yet suffer from disempowerment from the political situation, compare with those studied here.

Third, conduct a study in a school specifically designed to create biculturality with Anglo and Latino culture. As America becomes increasingly bilingual, if not bicultural, many see the advantages of having knowledge of another language and culture, i.e., the basic level of cultural proficiency achieved by the majority of student in Al-Dharra. Since attendance at Al-Dharra does not seem to markedly affect students’ college admissions, then enrollment’s "cost" seems more than equal to its benefit. Thus, a charter school or a California "magnet school" might follow the path of Al-Dharra Madressor and feel perfectly satisfied if, for example, students turn out USd, but with a working knowledge of Mexican-American culture or USd but with a working knowledge of Chinese culture. Further, a second use of some of the design instruments employed in this study might serve to determine to what extent the instruments’ alteration from their subcultural origin affects their results.

Fourth, conduct a study in a Detroit suburb, such as Ann Arbor. Very little appears in print regarding the Arab student population whether abroad or in the US. A quite logical step in increasing knowledge lies in going to somewhere such as Dearborn and administering the same kinds of tests as used in this study. After all, this study implies that Arab-Americans can "pass" as American and remain essentially Arabs. This brings into question the very possibility of the "melting pot" as an obtainable goal regardless of its status as a desirable goal.

Fifth, do a study in an international school with a substantial host-country element. As suggested in the introduction, many international schools see their student populations changing in composition. Yet none of them seem to have measured the interplay between the dominant, American or British, culture with that of the host culture. Further, casual conversations of this author with directors from these schools reveal that some consider this issue, at most, as a passing, not important, consideration in school design, a view disputed here.




E. Conclusion

The general conclusion appears after the additional analysis offered in chapter fourteen.





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