Our perception of the world around us and our personal relationships with objects, people, and nature, can be highly affected by our culture. Sadly there is a percentage of Americans who believe they have no culture (myself formerly included). On the contrary, we all have a culture, and an identity that defines who we are and the choices we make as human beings. Ones culture can also be intersected with the cultures of race, gender, disability, occupational groups, and social-class. As you can see the word culture is rather complicated, making the average person less likely to recognize its influence.
There are two levels of function when it comes to culture, the explicit, and the implicit. Explicit culture refers to cultural expressions, such as Holidays, food, clothing, artifacts, objects, rituals, music and symbols. While implicit culture refers to the values, philosophies and the underlying meaning of these symbols within the cultural context. Although these levels of culture are set in terms they are not limited or frozen in time, they are actually ever changing and evolving as time goes on. Cultural context is an inherited aspect of our lives, that reminds us of our past and represents a model for us to live by. Yet as times change and societies evolve, it is acceptable to adapt your cultural rituals and values to the everchanging social and economical needs you encounter.
Americans tend to take their culture for granted, as we have with the environment. Looking past the need to create an ecologically sustainable world, and onto the day to day grind of our busy lives, Americans have thrown in the towel for the environment and now rely on convenience. The constant push for globalization has us all stuck like a deer in headlights, waiting for the impact of the next big thing. It is sometimes difficult to decipher where we stand when pulled between the need for environmental changes and technology. Unfortunately, this is the society most of us have survived in thus far, and it is now up to us to return to our cultural beliefs, and begin to create our ecological sustainability as a society. Let’s get back to the natural enjoyment of the seasons and the days, and away from society’s concerns about Microsoft’s newest program for your Laptop. The future of our world relies on our ability to take the environment into perspective.
How does culture influence our future generations? Our choices as Teacher’s and Parents are affected by the culture in which we exist. Some of these areas that are affected include child-rearing goals such as: discipline technique, level of independence, sleeping patterns, family responsibility, and emotional development. Our expectations for our children stem from the underlying expectations of our culture. As a teacher it is important to consider learning about the different cultural blends in the classroom, yet at the same time it is important not make assumptions based on this knowledge.
What is Cultural and Linguistic Discontinuity? This is when children and their families feel alienated from school, for one reason or another. It could be that they just moved from one school to the next, from one state to another, recently immigrated, or possibly gained a disability that affects their daily routines at school. Leaving a familiar place and starting anew in an unfamiliar place can be overwhelming. Confusion, cultural disconnection, and displacement are common feelings when it comes to Cultural and Linguistic Discontinuity. Not knowing the language you are being taught in, the school routines and regulations, and having separate cultural views than your peers and elders, makes transition very difficult. Children who are suffering from this may be misinterpreted by their peers and educators who don’t identify with their culture, causing further disconnect.
As a child my family moved us all over the place, from state to state, house to house, I was even born in Germany. Thanks to the United States Army and my Fathers will to serve, we moved at least every year. Although it was difficult for me to adjust I would’nt say I suffered from Linguistic Discontinuity but culturally I was a mess. The culture shock set in within a few days no matter where we moved to. The shock of needing to adjust and make new friends again truly began to wear on me. Although I never recognized these differences as cultural, I noticed them none the less. By the time we moved to Santa Rosa when I was 9 yrs old, I was ready to settle down and stay here. I wanted to find a place where we could just be a family, differences or not. Aware of my cultural differences or not I wanted to be accepted and find diversity all in one town. Santa Rosa was my place. Needless to say, I am still here.
Most children are unaware of their own or others’ cultures, due to the obscure descriptions and abstract view. Most cultural differences go unnoticed and are labeled by young children as simple differences, non-cultural, although culture shapes a child’s expectations of the world at a very young age. Children fortunately can adapt to the demands of cultural differences to allow for their ability to grow socially. A child’s perception of culture differs severely from an adults perception of culture. Children often develop healthier play routines with those children from the same cultural norms. All too often children of the same culture will bind together forming a clique, not allowing children of other cultures to play in their clique. This is a coping mechanism for those children whose culture is not the average or majority in the classroom. Although this is an acceptable way to handle the potential alienation caused by being different, it can also hurt other children and pull away the stitching of a diverse and accepting classroom.
Due to the possibility that most children are unaware of their cultural differences, finding out how children learn, think and feel about these differences has proven to be difficult. There are many ways to elicit information from children, one in particular I appreciated was showing photographs of different daily routines performed by people of various cultures. Showing differences in tools, objects, food, clothing, and relationship, yet at the same time helping the children to see that people of other cultures do the same things we do just in different ways. Using this type of hands on curriculum is very important to me, first because I personally learn more efficiently in this manner and secondly, because I also love Photography. Asking questions, posing different thought schemas for children and allowing them to explore these new cultural aspects will help them open up, feeling more attuned and understanding to the differences.
How can we as educators learn more about our children and their reactions to culture? The absolute sure bet way to gain knowledge about their reactions to culture is observation. We can observe their play, their art, their reactions to other children and new experiences. We can ask questions that open up a range of thinking for the child that may not have been available till now. We can set up events, such as dances, musical arrangements or even just an opportunity to dress up and hold some of the objects associated with the culture in question, may help bridge the gap. Just know that keeping our children focused on the cultural influences we have embedded in our own homes and history, can be an enriching subject for young minds to comprehend. It all relies on the approach of Parents and Teacher’s and the persistence of our pursuit to cultural clarity in the classroom and at home.
My son has been attending a Head Start campus since he was two years old. The campus is located in a diverse area of town and nearly all of his class mates are from a different cultural background, and race as my son, Mikey. This has made him a minority in his class, at the same time enabling him to be emerged in the culture and language of the other children. As a result Mikey, who is now four years old and enrolled in a Kindergarten classroom next year, is partially bi-lingual. He loves to play with the children who appear different from him. Exploring new ideas, values and beliefs with these children keeps his mind expanding. I have just recently enrolled him in a school where 50% of the children are English learners and the other half are non English learners. Mikey will no longer be the minority yet he will still be immersed in a variety of cultures. I think this choice was difficult but worth while. Now from reading about culture I can see how important it is that we have influenced Mikey to become intrigued with others who may be different, culturally. I feel as though I need a good pat on the back. Our family has bridged a gap from one culture to another for our son, and we plan to continue this constant pursuit to cultural clarity at our home and in Mikey’s new school as well.