07 SES 13 B, Citizenship, Environmental and Intercultural Education
Globally, societies suffer from environmental crises, which have increasingly become a major concern during the twentieth century (A. Tal, 2002). Climate change, inequitable resource allocation, limited public voice, and water, air, and land pollution are only some of the urgent problems pressing the world for action (Orr, 1991; Saylan & Blumstein, 2011). Environmental justice, a subset of social justice, characterizes asymmetric power relations and usually occurs in disadvantaged populations of low socio-economic status, which are disproportionately affected by environmental issues. For example, disadvantaged populations tend to suffer more from unwanted land uses, such as landfills for hazardous materials (Bumpass et al., 2011). While in the United States the underprivileged are often African Americans (Osofsky, 2005), in Israel Arabs often suffer more from environmental injustices (Omer & Or, 2005). For example, many environmental problems are concentrated in the south of Israel, where it is inhabited mainly by Bedouin-Arabs, a minority group without rights. This community suffers from a hazardous waste landfill because they do not have the political power to change their environment (Fritz, 1999).
Environmental education was developed as a way to deal with the environmental crisis (Tilbury, Stevenson, Fien, & Schreuder, 2002), however the environmental education curriculum seemed to avoid social issues related to environmental justice (Chapman, 2011). This may reflect system-level inequities, since the avoidance of social issues—especially the Jewish-Arab conflict—is prevalent in Israeli society. Programs that engage with the Jewish-Arab conflict are rare, and the attempt to understand Arab culture is not emphasized in Israeli Jewish society (Bekerman, 2005). Environmental education may be an inroad to deal with this complex issue (T. Tal & Alkaher, 2010).
Political Background: The Arab students, which are minorities in the college (6%) and in Israel (20%), face a number of obstacles (Dagan-Buzaglo, 2007). First, like most colleges in Israel, the official language is Hebrew; for most Arabs, Hebrew is a second language (Hager, 2015). Additionally, the socioeconomic status of Arab students, on average, is lower than that of Jewish students (Dagan-Buzaglo, 2007). Finally, the hidden curriculum, which promotes the values and beliefs of the Jewish majority, is a constant and unseen struggle. Likewise, any security incident in and out of Israel between Jews and Arabs (e.g. outbreak of violence between Israel and Lebanon) directly affects the relationship between Jewish and Arab students.
Course context: During the Master's degree course in environmental education, we visited three different forms of settlements representing the relationship between the margin and the center (geographically and socioeconomically): cities, rural communities, and private properties. In each place, we visited a Jewish and an Arab settlement nearby, which were often different from each other. For example, the socio-economic status of Jews was higher than that of Arabs. One Jewish settlement was considered one of the richest locations in Israel, abundant with open spaces and parks, whereas one Arab settlement was considered the poorest with massive overcrowding.
Using the course context, political background, and social and environmental justice, this study answers the following: Following a social justice field trip course, how would Jewish and Arab students practice inclusion and exclusion of members of the other culture?
This case study examined the attitudes of Arab and Jewish students regarding the process of exclusion and inclusion in a four-field-trip course taken by twenty M.Ed. students (four Arab and sixteen Jewish). The course was designed to acquaint students with the differences between Jewish and Arab communities in diverse geographical areas in Israel. The field trips utilized mixed groupings of Jewish and Arab students. While the overarching study included all the students, this paper addressed only eight students (four Arab and four Jewish), in order to gain a representative cross-section. These students were of different ages, reflected diverse political views, and worked in a variety of educational settings. They all expressed a desire to contribute to the research and agreed to be interviewed. The study was based on three sources of information: (1) an interpretive qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews; (2) twenty-four written reflections, comprised of three written reflections from each of the eight participants; and (3) reflections and observations from the course instructors. The analysis was based on First and Second Cycle Coding: for the first cycle coding, we used initial coding which is a “coding process for the beginning stages of data analysis that split the data into individual coded segments” (Saldaña, 2009. p. 42).For the second cycle coding, we used axial coding which enabled the creation of categories emerging from the interpretive analysis of the data (Saldaña, 2009).
Our findings indicate two interconnected attributes: (a) Personal level - Inclusion: Most participants, both Jewish and Arab, noted the opportunity to get to know each other. One student remarked, "We are the same, there are not many gaps between us." This example illustrates inclusion at the personal level between the diverse cultures. Exclusion: Working through social differences and language difficulties created a tense atmosphere. One Arab student described, "One of the [Jewish] girls [...] gave me a feeling because I was an Arab as if she is ... better than me." This example demonstrates that language difficulties and tacit beliefs caused a feeling of disrespect for the Arab students. (b) Arab-Jewish conflict - Exclusion: During the course, the Arab-Jewish conflict was present and absent. It was present because the students witnessed the social gaps and environmental injustice between the Arab and Jewish populations. It was absent because the students refrained from speaking about the political issues and especially avoided the Arab-Jewish conflict. For example, an Arab student described, “It is not easy to say my political opinion.” The students deliberately avoided the Arab-Jewish conflict to stay out unpleasant situations in their delicate relationship that was formed on a personal level. In conclusion, the course succeeded in bringing some of the Arab and Jewish students closer on a personal level but not on a national one, as the ideological gaps between Arabs and Jews were not diminished. With that said, despite the students' avoidance of the Arab-Jewish conflict, the course led to an interpersonal effect on the Jewish-Arab relationship in bringing about a conceptual openness for dialogue. In practice, the insights from this research can be applied to other courses and studies, inspiring changes in emphases as well as potential action.
Bekerman, Z. (2005). Complex contexts and ideologies: Bilingual education in conflict-ridden areas. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 4(1), 1-20. Bumpass, N., Cooper, J., Heaney, C., Snipes, M., Wilson, O., & Wilson, S. (2011). Use of community-owned and -managed research to assess the vulnerability of water and sewer services in marginalized and underserved environmental justice communities. Journal of Environmental Health, 74, 8-16. Chapman, D. J. (2011). Environmental education and the politics of curriculum: A national case study. The Journal of Environmental Education, 42(3), 193-202. Dagan-Buzaglo, N. (2007). The right to higher education in Israel: A Legal and Fiscal Perspective. Tel Aviv: The Adva Center (in Hebrew). Fritz, J. M. (1999). Searching for environmental justice: national stories, global possibilities. Social Justice San Francisco 26, 174-189. Hager, T. (2015). Seeing and hearing the other: A Jewish Israeli teacher grapples with Arab students' underachievement and the exclusion of their voices. Radical Teacher(101), 46. Omer, I., & Or, U. (2005). Distributive environmental justice in the city: Differential access in two mixed Israeli cities. Journal of Economic and Social Geography, 96(4), 433-443. Orr, D. (1991). What is education for. Context, 27, 52-55. Osofsky, H. M. (2005). Learning from environmental justice: A new model for international environmental rights. Stanford Environmental Law Journal 24, 1-74. Saldaña, J. (2009). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage. Saylan, C., & Blumstein, D. T. (2011). The failure of environmental education: And how we can fix it. Univ of California Press. Tal, A. (2002). Pollution in a promised land: An environmental history of Israel. Berkeley: University of California Press. Tal, T., & Alkaher, I. (2010). Collaborative environmental projects in a multicultural society: Working from within separate or mutual landscapes? Cultural Studies of Science Education, 5(2), 325-349. Tilbury, D., Stevenson, R. B., Fien, J., & Schreuder, D. (2002). Education and sustainability: Responding to the global challenge. Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK: Commission on Education and Communication, IUCN.
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