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Say "No" to Cultures!

(slightly edited)

Peter Zohrab 2020

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(Open Letter to the International School of Geneva)


Dear Managers and Governors of the International School of Geneva (Ecolint),


I am writing in reaction to having read and completed your accreditation survey.



I was a student at Ecolint for 3 1/2 years, from 1961 to 1964 and before that for 2 1/2 years at St.Mary's International School in Tokyo from 1959 to 1961, making a total of 6 years (from ages 9 to 14) of international schooling. And I do not mean foreign schooling (although "international" is now used as a euphemism for "foreign"). This was schooling in which I revelled in the mixture of nationalities (and sexes) which was present. I am (and always have been) a New Zealander, but all of my kindergarten, primary and high school education was in foreign countries, apart from 4 1/2 years. After that, I spent a lot of time living overseas as well. I was born overseas (because of my father's occupation) and did not even see my country of nationality until the age of 6 1/2. In my first 14 years of life, I lived in a total of 6 countries -- i.e. in an average of a different country every 2.3 years! From about the age of two I was bilingual, until I was forced to forget my French (which I later relearned) when I came to New Zealand at the age of 6 1/2. I know several languages to various extents, so I am able to understand some of what various linguistic groups actually think about other groups (as opposed to what their public relations people say). I am used to being an expat and experiencing the frequently negative views of expats about local people and local customs. I am of mixed ancestry and my two wives have been from totally different ethnicities and countries from my own. No doubt because of having to adapt to so many countries at an early age, I was described by one kind book reviewer as having a "knack for fresh re-examination" (contents.html#Excerpts). I was on the Headmaster's List For Academic Achievement every year that I was at Ecolint. Therefore I am, I think, more qualified than almost anyone on Earth to say what I am about to say.



The standards of accreditation of the Council of International Schools (CIS) have no credibility. Unless the people who drafted those standards have a background similar to mine, they are not competent to dictate what the culture of Ecolint should be like. I strenuously object to the notion that Ecolint should pay any attention whatsover to the so-called "cultures" of the students, staff or local area. When I was at Ecolint, we were just individuals, as far as I was concerned -- devoid of barriers between us which derived from our "cultural" backgrounds, although there were slight barriers between those who were being taught in French and those who were taught in English, and to a lesser extent) between those who were being taught the US curriculum and those who were being taught the UK curriculum. Having said that, I do recall having seen in a yearbook that there was at least one New Zealander who felt compelled to assert her New Zealand-ness, because of the large numbers of Americans around her.

These so-called "cultures" are thoroughly evil -- whether they are based on ethnicity or religion -- and are the root of most or all of the conflicts which the World has experienced and is still experiencing. I do not need to list them, because you know about them. This adherence to groups springs from the same urges that have (for example) led football supporters to fight each each other -- even if their two clubs were based in the very same city! If I were a student at Ecolint now, I would no doubt be induced to identify as an Armenian, because I have a small amount of Armenian ancestry (not "heritage", which is another euphemism) which causes me to have the surname which I have. Then there would be barriers between me and Turkish classmates -- barriers that did not exist when we interacted as individuals.

Please remove me from your mailing-lists and carry on in your inevitable fashion!


Peter Zohrab


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Peter Douglas Zohrab

Latest Update

25 August 2021