Three Different Perspectives on Culture
“Culture is everything about an individual. It is what you believe, where you come from, how you do things, the traditions you keep and practice and how you treat others. Diversity is accepting who others are despite their differences and learning how they are similar and unique from you.” Kai Curtis- Freshman at Montclair University
“Culture is your ethnic and religious background. It is also the beliefs and customs that you choose to carry on from your elders or family. Culture is the way you choose to engage with others in our society. Diversity is when you are surrounded by different cultures and respecting them regardless of your cultural beliefs. It is coexisting in an environment where everyone feels accepted, respected and included.” Barry Curtis-Middle School Teacher, NYC
“Culture is the food, music, customs, beliefs, traditions, and different perspectives a group of people shares. Diversity is being able to live in a community where all cultures are different, but they can cohabitate in a way that enhances their understanding of one another while learning to be accepting and compassionate on a human level. Diversity is a rich enhancement of how we can live and share as human beings.” Ms. Maria Montana- Early Childhood Teacher
Aspects of Diversity and Culture within the Quotes Collected
As I review these unique perspectives, I am quickly reminded of early childhood professionals Julie Benavides and Nadiya Taylor who during a discussion on culture and diversity shared their perspectives on culture. Both discussed culture as being culmination of race, ethnicity, language varied abilities, class, and religion. They also stated that culture can be very broad for example, how individuals do things, their gestures, and their perceptions of the world. (Laureate Education, 2011). Many of the perspectives on culture and diversity by my friends and colleagues have various similarities; they mention that culture is all of the broad terms described by early childhood professionals Julie Benavides and Nadiya Taylor. They mention religion, traditions, and ethnic backgrounds which I have learned is a type of surface culture which is really everything we can see, taste or define according to Derman-Sparks & Edwards (2010).
Similarly, they also briefly mention a deeper understanding about culture which are things we cannot see on the surface. For example, deeper culture requires us to look below the surface and understand different perspectives on the world, how people do things, their values, and beliefs. These types of elements of culture go deeper than that of surface culture because these are elements that are unique to individuals regardless of their culture. According to Derman-Sparks & Edwards (2010), many times individuals within a culture change or “reject specific elements of their cultural socialization” because they have “matured, established an adult life and family.” This results in an individual identifying with a specific cultural group but “not embracing all aspects” of that culture (p.56).
Aspects of Culture Missing from the Perspectives Given
What I find interesting about all three definitions of diversity, is their focus on accepting differences among cultures and their willingness to learn from these differences, honor, respect, and practice inclusion toward different cultures in order to live together and enrich the knowledge of all involved. Personally, this is an honorable way of attempting to be culturally competent. What has not been stated or mentioned, is how to address the stereotypes being conveyed about different cultural groups and the impact they can have on a nation. Ngo (2008) states that individuals in society need to stop highlighting the “culture clashes” and stop conveying discourses that promote politically charged perspectives of the dominant culture. The discourse that is portrayed in the media is focusing upon the differences of cultures creating negative images, ideas, and perceptions that over time create a type of reality about a specific culture (Ngo, 2008). Ngo’s solution is to address and know the stereotypes being conveyed about a particular cultural group, debunk them, and understand where they are coming from and why they are being communicated. According to Ngo (2008), these stereotypes and types of discourse are politically fueled to benefit or convey the beliefs of the dominant culture.
How the Definition of Culture by Others Influences My Own
Thinking about other people’s definitions about culture and comparing them with mine, puts into perspective how uniquely different people see culture. However, it also illustrates how desperately, people want to accept, learn from, and connect to one another. As I think about the topics of culture and diversity, I believe that people here and around the world innately have the ability to feel compassion and acceptance for different cultures, but the discourse of the dominant culture prevents us from understanding and learning from one another. Personally, as I read the definitions above regarding culture and the definitions of the resources provided, it has influenced my belief that it is important that as early childhood professionals we must move beyond stereotypical discourse. As childhood professionals, we must push to change the discourse by learning about current cultural beliefs, perspectives, values, and practices. Once we can understand different cultural perspectives we must be willing to accept, respect, understand, and teach them to our classroom families, children, and communities. Hopefully, we can affect change one discourse at a time.
Laureate Education. (2011). Family cultures: dynamic interactions. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Ngo, B. (2008). Immigrant families and U.S. schools. Theory Into Practice, 4-11.