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Adventure education and the acculturation of Chinese Canadians in Vancouver, Canada

Lo, Hing Y. S.
Fields of Research
Modern Adventure Education programmes which aim to develop participants‟ self- esteem and self-effectiveness have increased in popularity among Chinese communities worldwide. Chinese Canadian parents send their children to these programmes aiming to develop their self-confidence because they think that this is an essential element for residing in Western countries. However, since Western culture upholds individualism and traditional Chinese culture embraces collectivism, the two philosophies have distinctive differences in their definitions of self and therefore the outcomes of the programmes may not be as desirable to Chinese Canadian parents as expected. The expectations of an ideal child in a Chinese family are obedience, listening and following the instructions of their parents and seniors; however adventure education programmes are conducted in an egalitarian setting and encourage critical thinking and developing resilience and confidence to stand against challenge and inequality. The expectations of parents face the challenge of a cultural clash after their children participate in adventure education programmes. The acculturation gap between the two generations is likely to be enlarged and the outcome of adventure education programmes may not be as positive as expected. This research consisted of thirty interviews with Chinese Canadian parents, their children and the adventure education programme instructors and found that the families balanced the two philosophies in a pragmatic and effective way. Findings of this research show that Chinese families who migrated to Canada are not fully assimilated to Canadian society even after long periods of residing in Canada. These families integrate into the Canadian society in selective ways. They send their children to participate in adventure education programme such as the Scouts, Air Cadets and Enoch Leadership Camp with the aim of developing children‟s self-esteem and self-confidence so that they can perform well in Canadian society. However, families still retain traditional Chinese collective culture and encourage the development of their “social-selves” through their family education. This acculturation format concurs with the findings of Carr & Williams (1993) and Keefe and Padilla (1987), which suggest that acculturation may be different in the public and private domains. The value which Chinese Canadian parents place on formal education and learning leads them to participate in outdoor adventure education programmes through recognised institutions such as the Scouts, Air Cadets or church groups. This is considered as a public domain and it is acceptable to the parents that their children behave in “Western ways” in this domain. However, the parents also expect that in the private domain, such as in the family or their own social circles, their children will behave in a “traditional Chinese way” such as speaking Chinese and being respectful and obedient to their seniors. Parents have confidence that through family education, their children can maintain a balance between the two cultures. The empirical evidence in this thesis shows that adventure education programmes provide an opportunity for young participants to develop a selective acculturation and integrate into the Canadian society, but whether this will continue as the participants move into late teenage and early adulthood remains unclear.