Philosophical/Social/Political Issues in Education Multicultural AnalysisEmphasisWilliam Allan Kritsonis, PhDExamine the effects that culture may have on the learning process andEducational Leadership.Definition of CultureCulture is a way of seeing, perceiving, and believing. In 1871, Tylorillustrated the type of definition that listed the individual components ofculture: “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, moral,law, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as amember of society” (Noel, 2000,p.3).Functions of CultureCulture is a historically developed and developing way for a group of peopleto deal with the natural and social world. It develops out of a specific historyof a specific group, who lives within a set of social and political factors.Culture included practices within families, communities, and societies thathave been developed within this sociohistorical context. The functions ofculture can be seen in terms of why cultures are developed. Maslow (1943),especially, has structured the discussion of the needs of people that are metby culture. These are needs that must be met in order for the person to
develop completely as a person, and these needs can be seen here as thosethat are developed within a culture as a way to meet those needs.1. At the basic level, culture provides a means by which the mostbasic human survival needs can be met. This is the lowest levelof Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: the physiological needs andsafety needs of the person. Culture plays a crucial role in lifeby creating ways to meet these needs, ways that have developedwithin a specific social and historically developing context.2. Culture also plays an important role in giving us a sense ofbelonging. Maslow lists these needs as love and belongingneeds and esteem needs. Being part of a culture helps us realizethat there are others who will share our beliefs, views, andperspectives. By sharing a sense of identity with others, thesense of self can be turned into a sense of we.3. Additionally, culture sets for us what would be regarded asimportant in becoming the best person we can be. At the top orupper level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is the need for self-actualization. A culture that has been shaped by its memberswill provide for us our sense of what is important in society, orwhat we can aim for in our lives to make us feel complete.
Culture defines what we do and what we value in situations.We develop a sense for what is acceptable and unacceptable,appropriate and inappropriate, in different situations.Culture has many functions in our lives. It is created by groups ofpeople in response to the world around them. It helps us survive, feela sense of belonging, and pattern our behaviors and beliefs so that wecan locate our roles and expectations within society (Noel, 2000 p.5).Cautions About CultureAlthough an important role of culture is providing a sense ofbelonging for its members, there is a danger of creating an “us” and“them.” Young (1990) describes this concern:Identification as a member of such a community often occursas oppositional differentiation from other groups, who arefeared or at best devalued. Persons identify only with someother persons, feel in community only with those, and fear thedifference others confront them with because they identifywith a difference culture, history, and point of the world(p.311).Another caution about culture is one that is often overlooked. Asdescribed earlier, culture provides ways for our basic needs to be met.Finally, culture is not static. A group of people does not have aculture, an unchanging and unalterable view of the world. Norms ofacceptability, morality, beauty, and so on change. Since perspective is
formed on the basic of culture and social aspects of life results invariations and alterations of the perceptual filter through which weview life (Noel, 2000, p. 6).Components of CultureThe way people understand their world is shaped by their culture’shistory, traditions and ways of thinking. Each culture provides its ownparticular styles of communication, patterns of interaction, and ways ofknowing.Communication StyleCommunications, at its basic level, is the sending and receiving ofmessages. But within the system of communication, there are many subtlevariations in how different cultures actually, communications, differences inwhat is expected and accepted by different cultures. Studies have found thatseveral clearly distinguishable communication patterns are shaped byculture. In one style of communication patterns that participation inreading, for instance involved engaging in reading and discussing ideas. Asecond communication pattern involves listening rather than reading, withencouragement to imitate, repeat, and recall information. A third patternincludes much more of a taking the lead in verbal communication. Andfinally, cultural style of reflecting as prior to speaking. All these
communication patterns may be exemplified by students in single classroomor school. Thus the idea that there is a single preferred communicationpattern in the school denies the culturally influenced pattern of manystudents (Noel, 2000 p. 10).Intellectual StyleIntellectual style refers to “typical or preferred modes of perceivingand assimilating information” (Educational Research Services, 1991, p. 14).Two of the key indicators of intellectual style are knowledge most valuedwithin a culture and way that learning takes place most prominently for theindividual. A key distinction here is between written and oral cultures. Thephrase “seeing is believing” illustrates one type of intellectual style, inwhich people believe and trust information more or only if it is in writtenform. This style leads to and develops form a more legalistic culture.In other cultures, however, societies are continued through an oraltradition. When agreements are made, these are done through the “giving ofone’s word” or through a handshake. This oral intellectual style lends itselfto using intuition and feelings in decision making. The person in this culturewill be interested in knowing the global implications of a topic, includingcognitive, physical, and emotional aspects involved (Noel, 2000, p.13).
Intellectual style refers to a community’s style of thinking anddecision making that is based more clearly on the written word or oraltradition. Some communities are based more clearly on the written style oron the oral style, but many may endorse and use both ways of thinking.Connected to these intellectual styles, different cultures vary on howdecisions are made, with some emphasizing logical and analytic thinking,and others operating more closely on the use of intuition and feelings (Noel,2000, p. 13).Styles That Are Privilege in SchoolsWhen reflecting upon these different components of culture, itbecomes clear that some styles are more often accepted and expected withinschools. Students who display these styles are often treated with highesteem in the school. One way to describe this practice is to say that certainstyles are “privileged” within the schools. On the other hand, consider howthose students who do not have these styles as part of their culture willstruggle within the school environment.In thinking about how schools are structured, it can be seen that somecultures and communities have similar styles to the schools’, whereas othershave styles that function in ways different from the schools’. The outcomeof these culturally influences styles is a different set of patterns of
participation in schools by students who have developed these differentcommunication styles, organizational styles, and intellectual styles (Noel,2000, p. 15).Characterizations of CultureA number of researchers have interpreted the actions of differentcultures by providing characterizations of cultures, pointing outcommunication, organizational, and intellectual styles. Some distinguishcultures based on race, others distinguish them based on culture alone, andothers distinguish between rural and urban cultures. Although we may thinkthat the way we act is “normal,” clearly a wide variety of cultural differencesresult in a variety of ways of acting.Edward T. Hall has provided a different type of characterization ofcultures. The characterization is environment, social surrounding, and theorganizational networks with their setting. High context cultures tend toorganize themselves in a group orientation, whereas low context culturesplace the organizational focus on individual achievements. The highcontext cultures are characterized as reasoning and decision making throughintuition and feeling, whereas low context cultures are described as usinganalytic and word oriented reasoning (Noel, 2000, p. 17).
People who live in rural and in urban places live a very differentgeographic, economics, and social contexts. Any analysis of rural andurban cultural characteristics must include a historical and sociologicalexamination of the lived experiences of groups and individuals. The ruralculture emphasis is on family or group oriented work and traditions that arenecessary for the continued survival of the community. Because thechildren are participating in work that has been handed down through manygenerations, “their sense of place within the historical continuity of theirpeople was also reinforced (Noel, 2000, p. 18).In urban settings, there are new and diverse types of jobs andoccupations. Identity is based on responsibility for the group to continue. Inthis type of culture, learning cannot proceed through observing and imitatingadults who work in the job that the child will certainly have. Instead,“education in the future-oriented, achievement-oriented era… tended toinstill a systematic, convergent, goal-directed, future-directed style ofthought, with a problem-solving emphasis (Noel, 2000, p. 18).One additional way to identify the differences in rural and urbancultural characteristics is through the German concepts of gemeinschaft andgesellschaft. Defined by Tonnies, a culture based on gemeinschft is one thatis personal and sharing oriented. The gemeinschaft type of culture is most
often identified as rural. A gesellschaft culture is one that is based ondeliberately chosen association is most often identified as existing in urbansocieties.Social Foundations of EducationThroughout the history of American education, one of the mainfunctions of education has been the socialization of students into thedominant culture. Although schools have the important purpose of teaching“reading, writing, and arithmetic,” they also serve the role of reproducingand perpetuating the established social, cultural, political, and economicstructures and norms of society.In reflecting on the different components and characterization ofcultures, it should be clear that there are certain patterns of thinking,believing, and valuing that our schools encourage in students, and that otherpatterns are discouraged within schools. The main idea of discontinuitiesbetween home and school cultures is that many children, the culture of theirhome and their community is very different from the culture of the schoolsystem. Children are socialized to believe, think, and act in specific ways bytheir families and their communities. Their styles of communicating,organizing, and thinking at home are considered natural and are encourageand accepted. However, for many children, these same behaviors are
improper and unacceptable at school. Sometimes the school’s culturecontradicts the home culture. Often the languages of children aredisregarded and devalued. The result may be such harmful effects asmisinterpretations of students’ actions, inconsistencies in expectations andtreatment of students, and possible failure in the school (Noel, 2000, p. 21).ConclusionCulture is defined as a way of perceiving the world. Our perspectiveson life are shaped by our experiences within our particular society andcommunities. Even though it is important for our understanding of ouridentities to understand the culture that helped shape them, it is equallyimportant to recognize that a culture is not perfect and it is not static. Thus abalance in understanding our own cultural perspective and the value of othercultural perspectives is important in our world (Noel, 2000, p 6).There is always a concern with assuming that a culture can becharacterized by a few characteristics. The danger is that stereotypes aboutentire groups of people will be formed. It is important to recognize that thedominant culture’s way of being, which is also stressed within the school, isbut one of the myriads of cultures and perspectives represented in the UnitedStates and in the world. In reality cultures have developed ways of life that
may share some characteristics with other cultures but may also have anumber of specific ways of living (Noel, 2000, pp. 19-20).Each cultural way of life has developed within a culturally influencedset of histories, traditions, and patterns that help shape the identities ofpeople today (Noel, 2000, p. 20).School is the setting in which children will spend countless days andhours of their lives; schools have a key role in shaping children. In effect,schools are the key sources of the development of each next generation ofsociety. As such, school- the teachers, administrators, curriculum, physicalstructure-tend to socialize students into the dominant view of society thatlargely determines the structure of society. The schools help reproduce thedominant society by socializing students into the value, beliefs. There areseveral perspectives on why cultural socialization is practiced within theschool and on who benefits from these practices. One way to look at it isthat when students gain the knowledge, values, and beliefs of the dominantculture, then as they become adults, society will function more smoothly. Amajor role for schools, including the teachers who work in them, is torecognize their parts in the cultural socialization of students, to understandthe effects on student’s identities, and to determine the steps to take to
provide an educational and social experience for students that does not doharm to students socially constructed identities (Noel, 2000, pp. 25-26).Internet links:Cross-Cultural Cognitive Psychology - General - Ohio State UniversitySchool of Music Cross-Cultural Cognitive Pscyhology - General Altarriba,Jeanette, editor. 1993. Cognition and culture: A cross-cultural approach tocognitive psychology. xiii, 405 pp. Advances in psychology, 103.Amsterdamhttp://www.music-cog.ohio-state.edu/Musi...UW Press - : The Cultural Dialectics of Knowledge and Desire - SouthAsia / Religion / Anthropology / Philosophy The Cultural Dialectics ofKnowledge and Desire Charles W. Nuckolls With a Foreword by Stephen A.Tyler "Strikingly original and engaging."—V. Narayana Rao, University ofWisconsin–Madhttp://www.wisc.edu/wisconsinpress/books...Research Knowledge and Policy Issues in Cultural Diversity andEducation - Systemic Reform: Perspectives on Personalizing Education--Sept. 1994 Research Knowledge and Policy Issues in Cultural Diversity andEducation Roland G. Tharp The increasing diversity of cultural and ethnicgroups in American schools has led to a pahttp://www.ed.gov/pubs/EdReformStudies/S...Influence of Evaluators Prior Academic Knowledge - Discusses theeffects of the preconceptions of educators of bilingual Hispanic children onlanguage learning.http://www.ncbe.gwu.edu/miscpubs/nysabe/...Cross-Cultural "Specialized Knowledge" - For professionals and studentsin the cross-cultural field and for people in all walks of life who wish tobetter understand this field.http://www.olemiss.edu/courses/psy561/at...Cross-Cultural Science Education: - Cross-Cultural Science Education: ACognitive Explanation of a Cultural Phenomenon Published in Journal of
Research in Science Teaching, Vol. 36, pp. 269-287. Glen S. AikenheadCollege of Education University of Saskatchewan 28 Campus Drive Saskatohttp://www.usask.ca/education/people/aik...Key terms:Culture – the way of seeing, perceiving, and believingIntellectual style – typical or preferred modes of perceiving and assimilatinginformationGeminschaft – a culture that is personal and sharing oriented. This culture ismost often rural.Gesellschft – a culture that is based on deliberately chosen association ratherthan natural birth into a community. This culture is most often urban.