Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Comparisons to the West

Kota Samarahan (City of Knowledge) is the town thirty minutes southeast of Kuching where UNIMAS and several other educational institutions are located. Cruising around the town's website, I found a couple interesting comparisons being made to the West. One stereotypes Americans negatively, the other positively.

1) The first is a pretty cheap and cliche rip on the West's commercialization of Christmas:

The majority of Sarawak's people are Christians and Christmas is celebrated throughout the State. Unlike the West the festival has not become commercialized and there is no frenzied shopping. Rather it is a religious festival with the emphasis on church and carol services.

Seeing on a government website that the population of Sarawak, this largest (by area) of Malaysia's thirteen states, is majority Christian is remarkable when considering Malaysia's fairly recent (though it depends on who you ask) claim to Islamic statehood.

2) The second stereotype I found in a warning to undergraduate students at UNIMAS. There is a program through the university called 'Kor SUKSIS' that allows students to join the local police force, and in this brief online article its director is warning students not to let their extracurricular activities affect their studies. Certainly a familiar piece of advice.

Interesting, though that, "Comparing local Kor SUKSIS with similar organisations in America, he said members of these bodies in America were often very disciplined and were usually top students in their class. 'However, our students sometimes let their studies be affected by their outdoor activities,' he said."

Of course I have no way of knowing how fair or accurate this generalization is, but I suspect it's exaggerated. It's ironic, though, that here in America the stereotype goes the other way. American children are wasting their time with TV and video games while children in Asia are studying eight hours a day. The threat looms large that You better work hard in school because students in China and India are studying their butts off and - what with globalization and all – you're competing against them for the same good jobs!

It seems that using stereotypes to motivate students to work harder is a universal practice, both Eastern and Western.