Knowing Valuing and Shaping One's Culture: A PRECURSOR TO ACKNOWLEDGING ACCEPTING AND RESPECTING THE CULTURE OF OTHERS

By Brown, Elinor L. | Multicultural Education, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

Knowing Valuing and Shaping One's Culture: A PRECURSOR TO ACKNOWLEDGING ACCEPTING AND RESPECTING THE CULTURE OF OTHERS


Brown, Elinor L., Multicultural Education


As children we are naturally curious, yet suspicious and apprehensive when placed in different or unfamiliar environments. As we encounter cultural differences, we generally rely on our subconscious frames of reference to analyze, compare, and make judgments about the value and validity of other cultures and endeavor to continuously reinforce our embedded beliefs and perceptions about self and others (Allport, 1979; Erickson, 1997; Goodenough, 1987). That's what makes us as humans resourceful, creative, and adaptable but at the same time fearful and intolerant of others.

However, with our growing global economic and political interdependence, we must prepare our teacher candidates and future workforce to be morally cognizant of, genuinely respectful toward, and effectively prepared to appropriately interact with the diverse cultures they will encounter in a global society.

Brown (2004a), Haberman (1996), Ladson-Billings (1994), and Pang (2001) indicate that, to be effective, educators must possess the multicultural knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors that appropriately respond to issues of student diversity and cross-cultural acceptance and validation. Further, Banks (1997/2001), Brown (2005a), and Gay (2000) espouse that classroom teachers must be prepared to recognize both hidden and overt biases within the educational system and advocate for equitable access to educational opportunity for all students.

Anderson (1990), Cushner et al. (2004), Howard (2002), and Zeichner and Hoeft (1996) state that equally important imperatives are that future teachers develop the skills and sensitivity to: become cultural brokers in their classrooms, embed global social justice paradigms in their curriculums, and facilitate the integration of equity and cross-cultural civility into the cognitive structures of their students' current and future selves.

However, studies conducted by Brown (2004b), Sleeter (2001), and Richardson (1996) found that most teacher candidates lack sufficient cross-cultural competence and sensitivity to appropriately address the complex needs of diverse student groups, and are less likely to be aware of the hidden biases within their school community or to acknowledge and build on the cultural capital that non-majority students bring to the classroom.

Brown (2005b), Gollnick and Chinn (2005), Howard (1999), and Sleeter (1995) indicate that to raise the cross-cultural cognizance and cultural diversity sensitivity of future teachers they must first be afforded the opportunity to objectively examine, reflectively clarify, and openly share the foundations of their own cultural frames of reference (e.g., class, ethnicity, gender, race, and religion). Further, this scrutiny should include the implicit and explicit shared beliefs, values, and behaviors of their own cultural groups, the subjective concepts of self in relationship to these groups, and the values and characteristics one is willing to share with those outside of one's groups (Allen & Labbo, 2001; Allport, 1979; Brown, 2004c).

Allport (1979), Bennett (2003), Erickson (1997), Gollnick and Chinn (2005), and Goodenough (1987) contend that cultural frames of reference are imprinted early in life and subconsciously continue to evolve over the lifespan. Banks (2001), Brown (2005b), and Howard (1999) indicate that these cultural lenses dictate our self-concepts and determine how we value, respect, accept, and interact with others both within and outside of our micro-cultures and how we define ourselves in relation to the majority culture. Hence, a precursor to developing strong cross-cultural competencies is knowing, valuing, and sharing both the subconscious and conscious cultures of self (Banks, 2001; Bennett, 2003; Brown, 2005a; Goodlad & Mantle-Bromley, 2004; Howard, 1999).

To raise self-awareness, teacher educators such as Allen and Labbo (2001), Banks (2001), Brown (2004a), and Sleeter (1996) often initiate cultural diversity training with self-examination activities that require participants to examine their own cultural underpinnings as a precursor to exploring the cultures of others. …

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