Archive for April, 2011

Middle Eastern Teenagers React to the British Royal Wedding

April 29, 2011
British Royal Wedding

Kate and William at the Altar

I watched the wedding at home this morning with a Middle Eastern teenager I’m homeschooling for a term.

The Royal Wedding Recession On the Red-Carpeted Aisle of Westminster Abbey

His reaction was, “Wow, it’s so serious.  We have a lot of fun at Middle Eastern weddings!”

Prince William and Kate Middleton pledging their wedding vows

I told him that the wedding part was equivalent to the “signing of the act” in the Middle Eastern ceremony, and that there is a party afterward called a reception, which is usually held at another location.

Interior of Decorated Westminster Abbey during the Royal Wedding

My student enjoyed seeing the beautiful construction of the church, and really enjoyed seeing the cars and carriages the royals arrived and left in.

Prince William and Kate Middleton in the Royal Carriage

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip ride in Royal Carriage leaving the Royal Wedding

During the ceremony, my student asked, “Don’t they say, ‘Now you may kiss the bride?’ ”  I didn’t have an answer for him right then as to why this had been left out.  Later I found out they had saved it for later on the balcony of the Palace, in front of all the people.  I was able to call my student on the telephone just in time, and he turned his home TV.

William and Kate sharing their first public kiss on the Buckingham Palace Balcony

Some Middle Eastern teenage girls I talked to were extremely surprised at the fact that British people in general would be so interested in the marriage of a prince.  The British children and teenagers at school were extremely excited about the royal wedding, and some of them even jumped up and down.  A few Middle Eastern students watched some of the wedding at school with some of the British students.

Two million people packed the streets of London to catch a glimpse of Prince William and Kate as they went by.

Teenagers I know told me that in their own country, no one would camp out in the streets overnight, much less for days, to catch a glimpse of a prince, or spend their time “waiting” to see royalty.  They said they just couldn’t believe how popular the British royalty is.

Prince William is as popular as a rock star

When I asked why not, I was told that it’s a way of thinking, that waiting for someone means that you debase yourself and elevate someone else as more important by waiting for them.  When I explained that the British princes are as popular as rock stars, the teenage girls replied that in the Middle East, no one would camp out waiting for rock stars, either!

–Lynne Diligent

Children’s Opinions on Mobile Etiquette and Mobile Technology

April 22, 2011

Children in the Middle East and North Africa are having the same mobile-device issues as their counterparts in America.

A new article details the results of a survey of children between the ages of eight and twelve on mobile etiquette, and on the use of their own mobile devices.

Since these same problems are becoming common throughout the Middle East and North Africa, I thought I’d just survey a few children  I know personally to see if the results here agree with the American survey.

A third-grader I know tells me that one child in her class has his own Blackberry, and that all the other children are jealous.

She agreed with the one-third of American children who said they would rather go without their entire summer vacation than give up their mobile device (s) for one month.

She disagreed with the 50 percent who felt it was okay to use a mobile device at the dinner table.  I was pleasantly surprised when she told me she prefers talking to people in person over sending a receiving messages from them on a mobile device.

Some fifth-graders I know (ages 10-11) tell me that EVERYONE (except one person) in their class has either two, three, or four mobile devices per person.   The one person who doesn’t have any feels very left out.  They said they spend between two and three hours a day on their mobile devices, right in line with the American survey.  They also agreed that ALL of the children, themselves included, would FAR rather do without their summer vacation than give up mobile devices for one month.

They told me that everyone thinks it’s okay to use the devices at the dinner table if just the family is present, and that parents would not object–in fact, some would use devices themselves.

However, if guests were present, using mobile devices at the dinner table would be rude.

Eighty percent of the upper-middle class high school students in my region now have their Blackberries, according to high school students I know (not compared on the American survey).

See the first comment below for the text of survey of American children.

–Lynne Diligent

Government “Corruption” Actually Starts in Preschool

April 9, 2011

North Africa and the Middle East

In the Middle East and North Africa today, there is a lot of talk about “stamping out” corruption.  Yet what no one seems to be talking about is where that “corruption” actually begins.  It starts before children are even five years old.

bribes, baksheesh


Recently a fellow middle-aged  teacher told me about a five-year-old preschooler who threatened her.  When she told him he had to follow the school rules on the playground or sit in “time out,” he told her that if she didn’t let him do what he wanted, that he would bring his father and get her fired!  (She told him, “Go ahead and bring him today, I’m waiting right now to speak to him!”  Then he didn’t know how to react.)  One can only presume that the child is copying his own father’s behavior with others.

One of the causes of corruption is that Middle Eastern and North African cultures are “in-group” societies.

Members of  in-groups are treated preferentially  to those in out-groups.  From the age of three, in nursery schools, children make the friends they will keep throughout their school years, and often, throughout their lives.

Making new friends tends to be difficult and a slow              process in societies which have in-groups (similar to “cliques” in the West).  Friendship groups tend to be closed, and others often sabotage budding friendships.   Over-and-over I have seen a new child begin to make a friend, only to have the other friends of that person become jealous and proprietary.

Adults in Middle Eastern Societies generally continue with the same behavior.  What this means for the larger society is that a person feels obligated to do everything to help their family members and close friends (the in-group) while ignoring and/or excluding those in the out-groups.  So, in these societies people are NEVER treated equally–their treatment depends, instead, on their relationship to the individual in question.

Fast-forwarding into upper elementary school and beyond, cheating is rampant.  No matter how much schools and teachers talk about cheating as being wrong, it is rampant because it’s more important to “help'”your in-group members than it is to be honest.

By rampant cheating I mean somewhere in excess of 80%.  People who do not cheat when everyone else is are generally NOT admired by other students; they are often distrusted.

Fast-forward again to adult life.  To get anything done in terms of obtaining necessary documents for business or life, often “wheels need to be greased.”  Those people who are dishonest and irresponsible never hold themselves accountable for their behavior; instead, their idea is to find a more powerful friend who can intercede on their behalf and “undo” whatever problem they have gotten themselves into.

Paying small bribes to get documents

Now that democratic fever is sweeping the Middle Eastern and North African regions, I hear all the adults talking about stamping out corruption.  But the question remains HOW to do it  when it is so entrenched in the culture with the expectations that one is obligated to help other in-group members however one can, and when those cultural obligations supercede any considerations of honesty?

Saudi Arabia

We, as foreign teachers, try to reach the kids, through classroom discussions and penalties for dishonest behavior.  But that work and classroom discussion is often undone by people at home, friends in society, relatives, and anyone else who has a vested interest in the system as it is.  It’s all about “not getting caught” and NOT about “it’s morally wrong.”


–Lynne Diligent