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<v Speaker 1>[music] The Asia Society Presents. <v Speaker 1>This is a series of interviews with experts on Asian affairs designed <v Speaker 1>to strengthen our understanding of Asian people and ideas. <v Speaker 1>Your host on this transcribed series is the noted author and award-winning broadcaster, <v Speaker 1>Lee Graham. Here now is Mrs. Graham. <v Lee Graham>I think it's a very good sign that we are studying Asia these days. <v Lee Graham>There was a time when Asia and Africa were never mentioned in textbooks. <v Lee Graham>But, why we are studying Asia? <v Lee Graham>What is the motivation? Are we doing it the right way? <v Lee Graham>Well, these are some of the questions we will discuss on this program, and I don't think <v Lee Graham>we can have um a qualified person with which to discuss it, than <v Lee Graham>our guest, who is Dr. Seymour Fersh, because he is the education director <v Lee Graham>of the Asia Society and this is his own bailiwick.
<v Lee Graham>Um he recently came back from a trip to the Far East, and I'm sure he'll tell us in the <v Lee Graham>course the program, we shouldn't say Far East. <v Lee Graham>And he knows the world well. <v Lee Graham>He's traveled it as much, I suppose, as most people do. <v Lee Graham>Uh now Dr. Fersh, <v Lee Graham>the fact that we're studying Asia more is good. <v Lee Graham>But you seem to imply that we're not doing it for the exactly right reasons. <v Lee Graham>What is the trouble with our approach? <v Seymour Fersh>Well, I'm delighted to have an opportunity to talk about it. <v Seymour Fersh>I remember in my own undergraduate studies, I was training to be a <v Seymour Fersh>social studies teacher, and the only course we had that included Asia and Africa <v Seymour Fersh>was a course called World History, which never really did include Asia and Africa. <v Seymour Fersh>It was more of a history of the American people and its past. <v Seymour Fersh>And I've noticed in the last 5 or 10 years that Asia and Africa and other <v Seymour Fersh>so-called non-Western studies are beginning to enter the curriculum. <v Seymour Fersh>But I think the reasons are not difficult to discern. <v Seymour Fersh>And the first reason is that Americans are involved in these areas.
<v Seymour Fersh>Troops are involved in these areas. <v Seymour Fersh>World War 2, the Korean War, the Vietnamese war, so that our interest has been carried <v Seymour Fersh>into Asia, and conversely, Asia has been carried into our own living <v Seymour Fersh>rooms through television. So that students today, instead of waiting <v Seymour Fersh>for teachers to bring information to them, students are beginning to get the information <v Seymour Fersh>first, and in the same places, incidentally, as the teachers. <v Seymour Fersh>And when the students go to class, they're beginning to ask questions. <v Seymour Fersh>And so in a sense, the students and the world itself is ahead of- has been ahead <v Seymour Fersh>of the schools. So that Asia and Africa and these other areas are now in the curriculum, <v Seymour Fersh>not so much because educators decided to put it in the curriculum, but because world <v Seymour Fersh>events and radio and television and world styles and so on have <v Seymour Fersh>have made the world more part of everyday American life. <v Lee Graham>Right. I think you would agree and so would most people that it's good <v Lee Graham>that we're studying Asia at all. But if the reasons aren't right, we're still better than <v Lee Graham>nothing. <v Seymour Fersh>Yeah [laughs].
<v Lee Graham>But there seem to be something wrong with the reasons. <v Lee Graham>I mean if we-. <v Seymour Fersh>Well, yes- <v Lee Graham>Political necessity is not the best reason, I take it. <v Seymour Fersh>No, that's right. I think political necessity really corrupts in a sense- interferes <v Seymour Fersh>with learning. <v Seymour Fersh>This is true in all countries, I think. And in general, all cultures teach their young <v Seymour Fersh>that they belong to the culture and not to a culture. <v Seymour Fersh>Each culture tends to think of itself as the center, of the Chinese, for example, <v Seymour Fersh>are the Middle Kingdom people. <v Seymour Fersh>The British are indeed the center. <v Seymour Fersh>They have the prime meridian going through their country, although they were the ones to <v Seymour Fersh>decide where the prime meridian went. <v Seymour Fersh>And in our own country, we we have our own Mercator map of the world with the US in the <v Seymour Fersh>center. And so each of us figuratively tend to think of ourselves <v Seymour Fersh>as being in the center. And psychologically, we tend to refer to ourselves <v Seymour Fersh>unconsciously as the natural people. <v Seymour Fersh>So that when we use terms in referring to these other countries, we- <v Seymour Fersh>as we start our study of them, the terms themselves interfere
<v Seymour Fersh>with what we're trying to learn. <v Seymour Fersh>For example, when we say even though India's backward, we mustn't feel superior, <v Seymour Fersh>or when we say that certain countries are emerging countries, underdeveloped countries, <v Seymour Fersh>backward countries, it's ironic that India was the country that Columbus was looking <v Seymour Fersh>for. And so whenever you say developed or underdeveloped or emerging <v Seymour Fersh>or overdeveloped, there must be inherent in the definition some <v Seymour Fersh>sense of of what standard you're using, and when you examine it, you find almost <v Seymour Fersh>invariably that the standard is your own standard. <v Lee Graham>But it would be difficult for many people to have standards <v Lee Graham>other than their own. <v Seymour Fersh>Exactly. <v Lee Graham>I mean what they're brought up with as children. <v Seymour Fersh>Right. <v Lee Graham>What they've always seen. <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. <v Lee Graham>And they- something exotic uh mystifies them. <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. Oh, well, I- <v Lee Graham>And is generally considered inferior by them. <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. No, that's a very good point. I think the point is not that we would <v Seymour Fersh>do away with our own standards, but become aware of the fact that they are a standard, <v Seymour Fersh>perhaps, rather than the standard.
<v Lee Graham>It should be more relativity and less absolutism. <v Seymour Fersh>More- yes, that's r- Yes, that's very good. <v Seymour Fersh>I think the key point here is awareness of how you're doing the measuring. <v Seymour Fersh>When we say that the Watusis are tall and the Japanese are short, we're suggesting <v Seymour Fersh>what luck that our heighth is somehow natural. <v Seymour Fersh>And so we need to- and in saying that we need to begin to smile about it, to be aware of <v Seymour Fersh>the fact that even in mud huts, Indian mothers love their children. <v Seymour Fersh>We sometimes see that in some of our textbooks, as if mud huts were somehow connected <v Seymour Fersh>to affection. Even in some tall apartment houses, American <v Seymour Fersh>mothers love their children. [laughs] <v Lee Graham>I don't know. I have a feeling that African mothers in mud huts love their children even <v Lee Graham>more. <v Seymour Fersh>Yes, I think so. But- <v Lee Graham>But how does one get rid of this almost built-in condescension which <v Lee Graham>our education gives us. <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. Well, you don't so much get rid of it. Almost like in psychoanalysis, perhaps, <v Seymour Fersh>studying other cultures may be like cultural analysis. <v Seymour Fersh>You don't get rid of it, but you learn how to live with it and you become aware of it.
<v Seymour Fersh>You bring it somewhat to the surface so that you begin to <v Seymour Fersh>catch yourself saying things, making judgments. <v Seymour Fersh>When we say that people are poverty-stricken, what is the measure? <v Seymour Fersh>How are we measuring them? <v Seymour Fersh>I was once thinking about writing an article and putting it in the terms of an Indian <v Seymour Fersh>talking about the US as an affluent-stricken society and then beginning to <v Seymour Fersh>cite all the evidence that would support his contention of affluence-strickency. <v Lee Graham>The fact that we may have a little more money, but we lack a number- <v Seymour Fersh>Right. <v Lee Graham>-of other things such as clear air to breathe. <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. Well, that's a related point, is that we in this country have tended to use gross <v Seymour Fersh>national product as a kind of a magical word. <v Seymour Fersh>And we think that it uh- we suggest that it measures standard of living. <v Lee Graham>Don't you think, though, Dr. Fersh, that a person has to, at some point in his life <v Lee Graham>develop what he thinks are standards, which are sound. <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. <v Lee Graham>So he has to have a guideline. <v Seymour Fersh>Right. But the uh-.
<v Lee Graham>So how would he do it without afterwhile seeming arrogant? <v Seymour Fersh>Well, I think- I think the standards that you develop come out of your own context. <v Seymour Fersh>In fact, I'd like to just mention this in relation to what we're- in looking at Asia, <v Seymour Fersh>that in trying to make an assessment of of a certain event or certain <v Seymour Fersh>fact, I don't think it's really possible to to make an assessment of unless you <v Seymour Fersh>understand the context. Let me give an example. <v Seymour Fersh>India today is one of the countries that's um concerned with birth control. <v Seymour Fersh>And many Americans find it difficult to understand why Indians are not moving <v Seymour Fersh>more quickly in the direction of birth control. <v Seymour Fersh>But all you need to do is to take a few minutes to see the different context <v Seymour Fersh>of the role that children play in our two cultures. <v Seymour Fersh>Now, in our culture, in the last 20 or 30 years, it's become, I think, quite <v Seymour Fersh>incontestable, that children are an economic liability. <v Seymour Fersh>I say it, not in any- with any malice, but to try to put the point
<v Seymour Fersh>clearly. That is, most Americans in deciding how many children to have <v Seymour Fersh>ask themselves the question, can we afford to have children, meaning <v Seymour Fersh>can we assume the responsibilities of parents: having the children's teeth straightened <v Seymour Fersh>and sent to school and through graduate school and so on. <v Seymour Fersh>And we don't expect anything from them. In fact, this is perhaps one of the problems, in <v Seymour Fersh>a sense. We make this clear to our children that we're willing to make these sacrifices, <v Seymour Fersh>and you might put that in quotation marks. <v Seymour Fersh>And in our own old age, we rely on unemployment insurance, <v Seymour Fersh>Social Security, pension plans and so on, so that children for us are something <v Seymour Fersh>we perhaps want to have, but they are not involved in our economics <v Seymour Fersh>except as a- as a liability. <v Seymour Fersh>But if you reverse this and you go to a country such as India, and if you examine <v Seymour Fersh>along with the birth rate, the death rate, the death rate, after all, is related to the <v Seymour Fersh>birth rate. And the death rate in India, until very recently, was something
<v Seymour Fersh>like 4 out of 10 would die in the first year, and <v Seymour Fersh>of the remaining 10, perhaps 3 would- uh the remaining 6, perhaps 3 would die before they <v Seymour Fersh>became adults. And of the remaining 3 who became adults, the key person <v Seymour Fersh>were male children, because the males would help support the family. <v Seymour Fersh>And so it- it's not difficult to see why in India, and of course, <v Seymour Fersh>this was true in our own country a hundred years ago, it isn't as if this were an <v Seymour Fersh>Oriental birth pattern, that is- <v Lee Graham>But aside from the fact, Dr. Fersh, that that many children or babies would die <v Lee Graham>so early in life, uh the population of India does explode. <v Seymour Fersh>Well, what has happened, what has happened in the last 15 or 20 years in India <v Seymour Fersh>is that the birth rates have remained pretty much the same. <v Lee Graham>It's the older people are living longer. <v Seymour Fersh>Well, and also the infancy rates are dropping. <v Seymour Fersh>It's easier to introduce death control through sanitation and through <v Seymour Fersh>different medical practices and so on.
<v Seymour Fersh>Now, in India, what is happening at the moment is that the- there's <v Seymour Fersh>a cultural lag, that is, most of the village people are still <v Seymour Fersh>following a pattern which made sense 25 or 30 years ago when the <v Seymour Fersh>number of children they had did not- the number surviving was not great <v Seymour Fersh>enough to offset cutting down on the number. <v Lee Graham>I think in all fairness, we should say that not only we as Americans are guilty <v Lee Graham>of this kind of cultural condescension- <v Seymour Fersh>Oh yes, no. <v Lee Graham>-but the people of various countries. The Chinese very much- <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. <v Lee Graham>-feel superior and- <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. <v Lee Graham>-no doubt think we are impossible. <v Lee Graham>And the French can- <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. <v Lee Graham>-care less than the British, poor souls, our American cousins. <v Lee Graham>I mean, everyone is doing it. <v Lee Graham>Is that something that is uh one can remedy? <v Lee Graham>Isn't it something so inherent in people? <v Seymour Fersh>Well, I think- I think well, what we're talking about here is variously called <v Seymour Fersh>ethnocentricity. <v Seymour Fersh>I think each culture needs to be ethnocentric. <v Seymour Fersh>Wherever babies are being born, babies are the most malleable of all
<v Seymour Fersh>the species, and wherever babies are born, there is a way of life which <v Seymour Fersh>precedes them, which is more or less the best way of life that people have been able to <v Seymour Fersh>evolve in that particular area. <v Seymour Fersh>And so when the mother says to the child that there is a proper way to do things, she <v Seymour Fersh>believes it, and indeed, for that context, it is perhaps the most proper way to do <v Seymour Fersh>it. Now, until recently, most people lived out their lives within their own cultural <v Seymour Fersh>region. And so it really didn't matter how they felt <v Seymour Fersh>about others. For example, if there's life in other parts of the universe, <v Seymour Fersh>it doesn't really matter so far, at least as far as we can tell, what the kind of life <v Seymour Fersh>is there, because it doesn't seem to touch on our condition. <v Lee Graham>Not as yet. <v Seymour Fersh>No. But what has happened, especially for Americans, is that now that we are moving <v Seymour Fersh>outside of our own cultural area, we are coming into contact with people <v Seymour Fersh>who are as ethnocentric as we are, not more so or less so. <v Seymour Fersh>But it's the it's the touching of these people from different cultures,
<v Seymour Fersh>and then each person tending to make a judgment of what seems sensible <v Seymour Fersh>on the basis of what seems sensible within his own context. <v Seymour Fersh>I just want to quickly add that I think in our own country, what <v Seymour Fersh>what we have been calling the generation gap between <v Seymour Fersh>one generation and their children is not really a generation gap, but a cultural gap. <v Seymour Fersh>That is, the kind of context in which we lived 20 years ago <v Seymour Fersh>is so significantly different from the context within which our own children and students <v Seymour Fersh>are living, if you just look at the technological differences. <v Lee Graham>The change has probably been more rapid than at any time- <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. Yes. <v Lee Graham>-that we could recall or read about in history. <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. <v Lee Graham>But Dr. Fersh, I know that you travel quite a bit throughout the United States, as well <v Lee Graham>as the world, in your activities as education director of the Asia Society, and <v Lee Graham>you come in contact with many teachers and students. <v Lee Graham>Do you have the impression that this is a- um a national
<v Lee Graham>malady? This looking at other cultures with a somewhat superior <v Lee Graham>air saying poor souls- <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. <v Lee Graham>They don't quite have it. But maybe someday they'll be as good as we are? <v Lee Graham>Is that something we all do in this country? <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. Well, I think- yes, I think we do, and and I'm not really upset about it, because <v Seymour Fersh>I think it's it's somewhat natural. <v Seymour Fersh>That is- and important- that is, people need to have a self image <v Seymour Fersh>of themselves. <v Lee Graham>But how- this ability, which I guess is quite rare, to combine a confidence <v Lee Graham>in your own style because that's what you were brought up with. <v Seymour Fersh>Right. <v Lee Graham>Combine it with the tolerance with the style of other people. <v Seymour Fersh>Well. <v Lee Graham>Is that hard to do for most people? <v Seymour Fersh>It's hard to do as long as you think of it as a chore. <v Seymour Fersh>But I- for me, it becomes an opportunity. <v Seymour Fersh>For example, I hear people calling this the problem. <v Seymour Fersh>They say one of the problems is how can we help- how can we understand people from other <v Seymour Fersh>cultures? The word problem itself is probably the most overused word in our own culture, <v Seymour Fersh>and as soon as I substitute the word opportunity, I think I get a much <v Seymour Fersh>different picture. That is, we now have an opportunity not- to live not only in our own
<v Seymour Fersh>culture, but to live in other cultures, and this opens up our options. <v Seymour Fersh>Now, in many ways, we in this country have already had those options and are so used to <v Seymour Fersh>them that we don't notice them. <v Seymour Fersh>We are, among all the nations, one with the richest <v Seymour Fersh>heritage from Europe, and we we don't even notice the amount <v Seymour Fersh>of different foods we have. I mean, pizza and kosher meals and Italian <v Seymour Fersh>restaurants and French restaurants and so on are almost considered American dishes for <v Seymour Fersh>us. And when you go to Europe and you go to each of the European countries, you're you're <v Seymour Fersh>aware of how homogeneous they are within their own country. <v Seymour Fersh>So that- studying other cultures is something um- well, <v Seymour Fersh>let me just try it one other way. <v Seymour Fersh>Mahatma Gandhi said something once that I think makes the point very clearly. <v Seymour Fersh>He said that he would like his house opened to <v Seymour Fersh>the cultures of all the world, and he would like them to blow through his house and swirl <v Seymour Fersh>around, but he would not want to be blown off his feet by any of them.
<v Lee Graham>He'd like to know about them ?inaudible? <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. <v Lee Graham>-belittle, but still be himself. <v Seymour Fersh>And in the process of studying other cultures, you also get an insight <v Seymour Fersh>into your own culture. <v Lee Graham>Well it is, as you say, not only an opportunity, but a most fascinating adventure. <v Lee Graham>Don't you think that with the opportunity that perhaps Americans have more than any other <v Lee Graham>people to travel? <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. Yes. <v Lee Graham>We should be better at this than some other groups. <v Lee Graham>I don't say that chauvinistically-. <v Seymour Fersh>Yes, no. <v Lee Graham>-I mean just economically. <v Seymour Fersh>Well, Americans have a special opportunity because we do have a chance to travel <v Seymour Fersh>more widely. And also we have a greater responsibility because of all <v Seymour Fersh>the peoples of the world, we have chosen to involve ourselves in the affairs of other <v Seymour Fersh>people. If someone in, I hesitate to even mention <v Seymour Fersh>any country, but if you say say in Nicaragua <v Seymour Fersh>is born in his town there and he goes to his grave knowing nothing of other cultures, <v Seymour Fersh>I would say that it was his personal loss. <v Seymour Fersh>But we in America are affecting the world in such great measure that
<v Seymour Fersh>what we don't know about the world affects not only ourselves, but others. <v Seymour Fersh>And therefore, you you have no right to go out into the world until you prepare yourself <v Seymour Fersh>to understand how the world functions. <v Lee Graham>Yes, it's- becomes a noblesse oblige situ- uh <v Lee Graham>situation which, if you have the wherewithal, you must do something about it. <v Lee Graham>But I was wondering, Dr. Fersh, if you were able to notice any differences <v Lee Graham>in the attitude of Asian people towards us at this point in the course of your travels <v Lee Graham>there. Do you have the feeling that they see in us an <v Lee Graham>increasing desire to understand them better and to appreciate them more? <v Lee Graham>What do they think? We're still pretty backward from their point of view. <v Seymour Fersh>Well, I don't- I'm not quite sure whether they think we're backward or not. <v Seymour Fersh>I almost feel like shifting. <v Lee Graham>Well, choose. [laughs]. <v Seymour Fersh>Well, I feel like shifting the ground a little bit and then perhaps we can come back to <v Seymour Fersh>it. But I do think that Asians and others <v Seymour Fersh>will be most impressed by what we have to offer to the world
<v Seymour Fersh>to the degree that we are able to function better at home. <v Seymour Fersh>I mean, it seems so elementary, but a country cannot offer itself <v Seymour Fersh>to the rest of the world as a model at the same time that it has not exhibited <v Seymour Fersh>an ability to to deal with its own national situation more <v Seymour Fersh>effectively. And I think this is reflected in many of our <v Seymour Fersh>younger people who I think a few years ago were interested in the Peace Corps <v Seymour Fersh>because they felt that the United States had a great deal to offer to the world. <v Seymour Fersh>I think many of these youngsters now are beginning to feel that their service should <v Seymour Fersh>start here and that in order to prepare yourself to live in the <v Seymour Fersh>world, we need to improve our own system. <v Lee Graham>How unable do you think we are to handle our difficulties <v Lee Graham>or how much do you think this is due to bad propaganda, if <v Lee Graham>I may say subversive elements who are envious of our success and <v Lee Graham>ability? How much of this is a genuine problem that the United States has-
<v Seymour Fersh>Oh, I think we- <v Lee Graham>-and how much of it is just bad broadcasting? <v Seymour Fersh>Oh, no, no. I think- well, I think it's both. <v Seymour Fersh>I think for some reason, new- bad news gets printed more quickly than good news. <v Seymour Fersh>There's been a lot of comment on that recently. <v Seymour Fersh>But I think the the point is that in studying other cultures and in <v Seymour Fersh>recognizing how other cultures have had culture lag, for example, <v Seymour Fersh>we see the the Indian population rates not taking notice of <v Seymour Fersh>the death rates that are changing, we say that's culture lag. <v Seymour Fersh>When we talk about the sacred cow in India, and if I had more time, I'd talk about good <v Seymour Fersh>reasons why they do treat the cow in a special way. <v Seymour Fersh>But as you see other cultures unable to respond to changing conditions, you come back to <v Seymour Fersh>your own culture and you very often recognize the same kind of stickiness. <v Seymour Fersh>Now, for example, the automobile in our culture, it's almost subversive to <v Seymour Fersh>raise the question of whether we shouldn't deal with the automobile in a different way <v Seymour Fersh>now that conditions have changed. <v Seymour Fersh>And I was discussing this once with an Indian friend and he said the solution is so
<v Seymour Fersh>simple. He said, why don't you practice birth control-. <v Lee Graham>For your automobiles? <v Seymour Fersh>For the automobile, because the arguments came very close to being the ones <v Seymour Fersh>that we give for his practicing birth control of people. <v Lee Graham>It's true. I mean, why should anyone, let's say, have more than one automobile? <v Seymour Fersh>Well, there's there's a- there's a lot of reasons in our culture why you don't have birth <v Seymour Fersh>control of the automobile in the sense that something like one out of every <v Seymour Fersh>six Americans makes a living from an automobile. <v Seymour Fersh>Automobiles raise taxes. <v Seymour Fersh>We've created- we've arranged our our culture in such a way now that you <v Seymour Fersh>need an automobile to go shopping, you need an automobile to go to to resorts <v Seymour Fersh>and so on. The point is that when the Indian says we should practice birth control <v Seymour Fersh>of the car, we say yes, but, and then we begin to mention <v Seymour Fersh>all the things that he usually is not aware of in terms of the context. <v Lee Graham>So that he- <v Seymour Fersh>That is, uh- <v Lee Graham>-might understand us better as we hope to understand him? <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. But you also in the process of explaining to him why his idea is not a good one,
<v Seymour Fersh>I think begin to realize that perhaps when you have an equally good idea, in <v Seymour Fersh>quotation marks, for his culture, there may be reasons that are unknown <v Seymour Fersh>to the outsider. <v Lee Graham>Do you see some improvement in this, let's say a new clarity <v Lee Graham>in the cultural looking glass? Are we looking more clearly then at other people as a <v Lee Graham>result of this new interest and increasing education? <v Seymour Fersh>Oh, yes. Yes, absolutely. <v Lee Graham>Less distortion? <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. Well, I think- I think you- I think we've begun to see it in our own country. <v Seymour Fersh>There is a new, I think, a growing sense of humility brought on <v Seymour Fersh>by many of our crises. Now, in many ways, some of the crises that <v Seymour Fersh>we're experiencing are probably necessary and good. <v Seymour Fersh>That is, we may have had false notions about some of our systems and <v Seymour Fersh>by seeing other cultures, how they deal with it and becoming <v Seymour Fersh>less parochial, literally. I mean, as you move outside of your own system, <v Seymour Fersh>you begin to see other options.
<v Lee Graham>Yes. Even with a small amount of travel- <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. <v Lee Graham>-you come home really shocked by your own ignorance. <v Lee Graham>I speak personally, not of yours. <v Seymour Fersh>Yes, now- I don't want to- I certainly don't want to get caught with with <v Seymour Fersh>people inferring that I'm I'm thinking that the United States is somehow deficient <v Seymour Fersh>in these ethnocentric ways and so on compared to other cultures. <v Lee Graham>No, this is a global attitude. <v Seymour Fersh>Yes, it's um- and uh- but those who will in a s- <v Seymour Fersh>see the study of other cultures as an enrichment will be able to harvest <v Seymour Fersh>all of these marvelous things that have been created by other cultures. <v Lee Graham>I would like to ask you a personal question, Dr. Fersh. <v Lee Graham>What has attracted you so much to Asian study? <v Seymour Fersh>Well, I think- <v Lee Graham>Was there something in your life which opened your eyes ?inaudible? <v Seymour Fersh>Yes, uh yes, it was exactly that. <v Seymour Fersh>I think my own enthusiasm for Asian studies is is accounted for by the fact <v Seymour Fersh>that I was not an Asian studies expert. <v Seymour Fersh>All of my schooling, including my doctoral work in American history and
<v Seymour Fersh>so on was not related to Asia at all. <v Seymour Fersh>And then I was invited to go to India for a year as a Fulbright professor, and <v Seymour Fersh>when I returned, I was furious that my own education had been so limiting. <v Seymour Fersh>I knew nothing about Hinduism, knew nothing about Buddhism, knew nothing about Indian <v Seymour Fersh>music and nothing about Chinese art and so on. <v Seymour Fersh>And so my own first reaction was not motivated <v Seymour Fersh>by the political events, but the realization that that all of us are <v Seymour Fersh>inheritors of all the cultures, and that to the degree <v Seymour Fersh>that we don't expose ourselves to other options, other cultures, we are really limiting <v Seymour Fersh>ourselves. <v Lee Graham>But there is a certain danger or let's say a conflict between the specialist and the <v Lee Graham>generalist. You try to know a little bit about everything- <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. <v Lee Graham>-then your society finds fault with you because you don't know a lot about some things. <v Seymour Fersh>Well, I think- uh well- <v Lee Graham>What do you do? <v Seymour Fersh>Well, I think it's a- I think each of us have different contributions <v Seymour Fersh>to make and the specialists are there. <v Seymour Fersh>In fact, I want to- I certainly don't want to close without saying a word about
<v Seymour Fersh>the publications that my own office has been issuing, because I think it- <v Lee Graham>Yes I was amazed at the range and the value of them. <v Seymour Fersh>Well, I want to mention them because I think the the opportunity now is one of great <v Seymour Fersh>choice. There has never been so many books, paperbacks, films, records, maps, <v Seymour Fersh>globes. There have never been so many good materials for studying other cultures. <v Seymour Fersh>Some people refer to this as the problem of materials, and I refer to it, as you could <v Seymour Fersh>suspect, as the opportunity of materials. <v Seymour Fersh>And so in my department, we are putting out guides, selected and annotated, <v Seymour Fersh>trying to identify outstanding materials. <v Seymour Fersh>And in each instance we identify a specialist, as you're suggesting, <v Seymour Fersh>who knows India, and he suggests the books on India. <v Seymour Fersh>We pick someone who knows something about film as a medium and also <v Seymour Fersh>something about Asia. <v Lee Graham>How are these made available to people? <v Seymour Fersh>Well, I think the quickest way to mention- <v Lee Graham>To write? <v Seymour Fersh>Yes, if they write to the Education Department at the Asia Society. <v Lee Graham>And they could see what is available- <v Seymour Fersh>Yes. <v Lee Graham>-on just one sheet of paper-
<v Seymour Fersh>Yes. That's right. <v Lee Graham>I think all the availabilities, and then they could see what they might like. <v Lee Graham>Well, I thank you very much, Dr. Fersh, not not only for being here, which <v Lee Graham>I appreciate, and the Asia Society appreciates, but all that you are doing <v Lee Graham>on such a broad scale and in such an interesting manner. <v Seymour Fersh>Well, it's it's embarrassing to be thanked for doing something that you enjoy doing. <v Lee Graham>That you enjoy- exactly, I always feel the same way about my work. <v Lee Graham>And I want you to know that our guest on this program has been Dr. Seymour Fersh, <v Lee Graham>who is the education director of the Asia Society. <v Lee Graham>And if you would like to know more about what we've been discussing, you simply <v Lee Graham>have to write to the Asia Society and ask for information about the material. <v Lee Graham>And this is Lee Graham saying goodbye, but always asking you to remember that although <v Lee Graham>east is east and west is west, we do think the time has come for the twain to meet. <v Speaker 1>That concludes tonight's edition of The Asia Society Presents with Lee Graham. <v Speaker 1>This series comes to you through the cooperation of the Asia Society.
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Asia Society Presents: Asia Through the Cultural Looking Glass
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WNYC (New York, New York)
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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Dr. Seymour Fersh - Director of Education for the Asia Society is interviewed by Lee Graham.
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: Fersh, Seymour
Host: Graham, Lee
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Identifier: 43965.1 (WNYC Media Archive MDB)
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Generation: Master
Duration: 00:00:00
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
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Chicago: “WNYC; Miscellaneous; Asia Society Presents: Asia Through the Cultural Looking Glass,” WNYC, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 28, 2022,
MLA: “WNYC; Miscellaneous; Asia Society Presents: Asia Through the Cultural Looking Glass.” WNYC, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 28, 2022. <>.
APA: WNYC; Miscellaneous; Asia Society Presents: Asia Through the Cultural Looking Glass. Boston, MA: WNYC, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from