A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Values and Gender among University Students

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ABSTRACT

The values of Navajo and Anglo university students were compared using the List of Values (LOV) scale and the Marketing Lens Model. The results showed that significant cultural differences existed between Navajo and Anglos with respect to four of the eight LOV items. On a cross-gender basis, the results revealed significant differences between Anglo men and women with respect to six of the eight LOV items. In contrast, no significant differences were found between Navajo men and women. The findings offer strategies for university administrators and educators regarding educational offerings, promotion of the university, and the retention of students.

INTRODUCTION

A few years ago, a group of enterprising university officials dreamed of creating an academic program designed to meet the educational and career needs of Navajo Indian students. The dream became a reality--property was purchased, instructional personnel were hired, new buildings were erected, and equipment and supplies were acquired--and the new school was opened. Unfortunately, despite the preparations and planning of the school officials, one important element was missing: virtually no Navajo students were enrolled at the school.

After extensive research, the reason for the lack of Navajo students at the school became apparent--an element of the Navajo culture called a "skinwalker." In the traditional Navajo culture, a skinwalker is a small demon that burrows beneath a tribal member's skin and bedevils that person. Tribal members prior to occupying a new home--or school--the tribal holy man must bless the building and drive out the skinwalkers. Violation of this traditional cultural belief results in the Navajo's belief that the demons will inhabit the dwelling and torment anyone who enters that building. In short, because an important cultural difference between the Navajo students and students from other cultural backgrounds had been overlooked, a multimillion dollar educational product was virtually unused by the targeted students.

The skinwalker is just one of many major differences that exist between the value systems of the American Indian and Anglo cultures. Specifically, the Anglo culture has traditionally been more male-oriented, patriarchal than the egalitarian-oriented American Indian culture (Johnston, 1999; Lujan, 1995; Seggerman, 1986). For example, the Anglo culture has historically valued the role of males within the family, and land or other inheritance was passed from fathers to sons. In contrast, the Navajo American Indian culture passes property down through the mother to the daughter (Seggerman, 1986).

Such cultural differences are reflected in the changing makeup of the student population on university campuses across the United States. Statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Education (2002) show that the percentage of minority college students (Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander or American Indian) has increased from approximately 15% in 1976 to 28% in 2000. Government documents also reveal that university student enrollment in the United States is predicted to increase to some 16 million by the year 2015 and that minority students will make up some 80% of that increase. Further, the American Council of Education (2003) reported that during the twenty year period between 1981 and 2001, the number of American Indian college students increased by 80%.

Realizing that such cultural differences exist, educators need to be sensitive to cultural diversity and strive for a more thorough understanding of the unique values and beliefs held by increasingly diverse student populations. Only through a better understanding of students can educators and administrators provide a student-oriented, quality education and a better learning environment. One way in which university officials can gain such understanding is through the implementation of the marketing concept. …