posted on August 11, 2015 13:09
Book by: Katherine Grace Hendrix & Aparna Hebbani
Review by: Ragh Singh
Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Department
University of Missouri
Even though the higher education sector in the United States is often praised for its multicultural aspect, both in terms of demographics as well as the information that is covered, there still remain several challenges, including the state of nonnative English speaking faculty in American classrooms who are severely criticized for their foreignness in accent and lack of pedagogical skills. The hypocrisy of American higher education is palpable; where on one side there is talk about internationalization of academic campuses, and yet on the other, international teaching assistants are subjugated to accent modification treatment. The compiled articles by editors Katherine Grace Hendrix and Aparna Hebbani are a set of autoethnographic observations made by nonnative English speaking faculty with experiences in the American higher education system.
With the gradual increase in international students, faculty, and immigrants, the American higher education system is witnessing the fastest growing population of nonnative English speaking demographic. Even though this means the emergence of multicultural classrooms and cultural wealth that will be spread around, it has led to serious identity challenges for nonnative English speakers, who are not solely being judged on the quality of their teaching unlike native English speakers, but also on their ability to build rapport and intercultural bridges for the pacification of their students. Thus emphasizing the commodification and industrialization of higher education in the United States, which often is a culture shock for the nonnative English speaking international faculty.
The autoethnographic observations made by several nonnative English speaking faculty provides an opportunity for academic advisors a glimpse in the negative perceptions that surround international faculty and the challenges they have to constantly withstand in order to prove in the eyes of their students as well as their colleagues their credentials as a resourceful scholar and a good teacher. The lack of tolerance and understanding emphasizes the very nature of American higher education ethnocentrism. For academic advisors working with different demographics of student population, the observations provide an opportunity to understand a sensitive cultural issue through the perspective of the marginalized population.
The best part of the book is the narrative shared by the nonnative English speaking authors and their cultural struggles that impede their progress in the American higher education industry. It is hard not to empathize with the authors personally, for even after being shamed on account of their foreignness, they are constantly engaged in building an intercultural understanding and rapport with their students and colleagues. For advisors who are constantly challenged working in a multicultural setting, it portrays some of the misunderstandings and intolerance around issues of accents, race, and gender prevalent in higher education.
The part of the book that perhaps could have been appropriately cut short was the general thought that nonnative English speaking faculty have to justly put in more efforts than native English speaking faculty to bond with their students. The constant push of responsibility on nonnative English speaking faculty or immigrants in general to integrate into the greater American society is rather unfair, for those individuals have a great cultural wealth of knowledge to share and that needs to be encouraged, rather than just asking them to adapt to the needs of American higher education or society in general.
Hidden Roads: Nonnative English-Speaking International Professors in the Classroom. (2014). Book by Katherine Grace Hendrix & Aparna Hebbani. Review by Ragh Singh. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. 104pp., $29.00, (Paperback) ISBN 978-1-118-92309-2