Monday, 18 March 2013

What is the cost of hosting a tiger for tea?

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There are many great lessons to be learned from children’s literature. ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ by Judith Kerr is one such book. Published over 40 years ago, the story illustrates some uncomfortable truths about the cost of integration.

Integration can be viewed as an uninvited guest

In the story, Sophie and her mum had their usual dinner routine unexpectedly interrupted by an uninvited guest. Many people can relate to this on a larger scale. Regeneration of an area once written off, leading to people of a higher income bracket moving in. The unexpected influx of a different ethnic group to a previously homogenous neighbourhood.

Integration is costly

Sophie and her mum went out of their way to be accommodating and hospitable to their surprise visitor. There was a cost associated with the tiger eating all their food, drinking every beverage in the house and leaving them without a drop of water in the taps.

Integration is costly. It will require us spend time with people that we wouldn’t usually choose to. It will require us to do things that may be out of our comfort zone. It may also require us to be welcoming and accommodating to people who are different to us.

Integration is a project

Sophie and her mum decide to treat the tiger’s return as a project. They plan to be prepared by buying extra provisions. They do a cost-benefit analysis and decide that the benefits outweigh the costs. Integration can also be viewed as a project which requires a clear plan and cost-benefit analysis.

What then, are some of the benefits of integration?

Local communities where people know and trust each other and are not fearful of people who are different to them. A society of mutual learning, where wisdom, skills and experience are shared between the generations. An education system that does not separate children according to their ethnicity or their parents’ income bracket.

Integration is a costly project. But I hope you agree that the benefits outweigh the costs. 

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