Wednesday, June 4, 2008

My Culture Project

Culture is defined as a group of people’s shared way of life. Race, class, gender, sexuality, language, and religion influence, and are influenced by culture. The two are ever coevolving. The underlying theme is the classic dichotomy of nature vs. nurture. One’s race, gender, and sexuality (possibly) are all biologically determined, while class, language, and religion are socially determined factors. The two categories are in a constant interplay of such great complexity that it is very difficult to determine what exactly make someone “who they are”, so to speak. For example, one might consider a supermodel to be in a high social class because they are beautiful, famous, and are very wealthy. One could attribute the model’s beauty to their genetic makeup, but beauty differs across culture, making the model’s beauty a social construct. Other factors play into the fate of the hypothetical supermodel. For example, the model might never have pursued the high-status career in modeling if she was of a particular religion that instilled into the model a moral opposition to modeling. Let’s get back to the point.
One’s class, language, religion, race, sexuality, and gender are one’s culture (not exclusively). These factors are what shape how one views the world around them relative to themselves, and these are important factors that allow individuals to share a way of life, to connect with others like themselves, and to recognize differences among themselves and other. These factors make up one’s culture. If race, class, gender, sexuality, language, and religion form one’s culture, then they certainly affect how one views race, class, gender, sexuality, language, and religion.
I consider myself to a member of the American, upper-middle class culture. This culture has afforded me a college/post-college education, and freedom of ideas. The political system of a society can significantly affect one’s culture. I take for granted how the political system of American society can affect one’s culture. A free society allows its members to practice any religion, have any sexual preference, and move up the socioeconomic latter. As an individual who has grown up in an upper-middle class environment, I strongly believe in the notion that one can be as successful as they want to be in our society. I also believe in the strength of an individual. In an article we’ve read, Bulman describes the focus on individualism as a middle class value. Bulman would describe me as the product of the middle class. Individuals have made incredible contributions to our society. Our society allows individuals like Bill Gates and Howard Hughes. These are individuals who had ideas, and believed in them to the extent of transforming all of society, and the world. Because my socioeconomic class has afforded me the opportunity to achieve a higher education, I view myself as intelligent, educated, hopeful, and confident, but also sheltered in some ways. As an upper-middle class strait, white male, I have never had a very challenging life. I have not had to overcome poverty, racial discrimination, religious oppression, or violence in my neighborhood. I have not had to adapt to a new culture, or learn a new language as many immigrants do. I have never had to work a job in order to help my family make ends meet. For these reasons, I am sheltered from what are the harsh realities of life for so many people in the world.
My culture has positively affected my experiences and attitudes as a learner. I attended a safe, healthy, high school that was very conducive to learning. I attended a private college where I received a thorough education. I did not have to worry too much about the debt that I would incur because my parents helped me pay for school. Perhaps the most important contribution that my culture has given to me as a learner is my attitude toward learning and succeeding. I believe in myself, and my abilities to learn and adapt to new situations, and without the sense of hope and pride in my abilities, I would never had arrived at my current state.
It is imperative that I am conscious of culture in the classroom. Culture shapes the way each student understands the world, and it is my job to convey ideas in a way that resonate with their understand of the world.
My conception of culture is in large part the result of my education. Culture has been a theme in many courses I have taken in high school and college, and these courses have showed me that differences in people and cultures should be embraced, and used to gain different perspectives on issues and ideas. Some of those who have not been afforded the quality of education that I have may be closed minded, and place little value on beliefs and values that differ from their own.
Culture can play an important role in the classroom. Culture affects people in different ways, and different cultures can lead to greater understanding of a concept in a classroom. Different perspectives on a subject can generate various questions and conceptions of a topic, and dissecting a concept from many perspectives can lead to greater understanding.
Aside from this, culture can affect a classroom in many ways. In impoverished communities, where students are deprived of the opportunities of other communities, students might not believe in their ability to succeed. Students might view teachers as disciplinarians in this setting. They might be victims of the pedagogy of poverty. Teachers may feel as though they are not making a difference in this setting. In very wealthy communities, students might not value education because they don’t feel the need to make something of themselves. Students may view teachers as wasters of their time in this situation. Teachers may believe that they are wasting their own time, as well.
The best culture for learning occurs when the students believe in their ability to succeed, and have a genuine eager for learning, and teachers appreciate cultural differences in the classroom, and utilize differences to enrich the students’ learning experience.

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