In many grade levels, students examine the culture of people. Sometimes students look at cultures of the past/present or the culture of a region/nation. We use the word "culture" in broad ways because culture is a HUUUUUUGE concept. As adults, we typically understand the nuances of culture. Still, we (adults and teachers) are challenged as we search for ways to support students in understanding the complexity of culture. Before I begin to discuss how students might learn about culture, I want to explore how adults automatically think about the nuances of culture. Here are some examples:
- Belief Systems: I might find myself listening to stories on NPR about religion throughout the world. If I listen to stories that take place in foreign countries, I often compare how religious beliefs elsewhere compare to the religious beliefs and practices within my own country. I'm making generalizations about one nation and comparing them to generalizations about my own nation. At the same time, I might listen to religious news stories that are from the United States. When I listen to these stories, I often compare these beliefs to my own beliefs. I recognize that culture includes BELIEF SYSTEMS. When I take the time to compare/contrast the religious beliefs of different places and people, I begin to understand the great diversity of beliefs in our world (both now and in the past). In doing so, I also begin to understand a bit more about myself and the cultures to which I belong.
- Daily Life: I might find myself reading about people living in a different time and place. As I do this, I compare their daily life with daily life in my own country. I also compare their daily life with the life that I live. By comparing/contrasting my daily life with others, I begin to understand others throughout history living in different places. I also further my own thinking and understanding of myself and the cultures to which I belong.
- Forms of Artistic Expression: In my study of Mexico, I access information about artistic expression. As I read about and view the art of Mexico, I start to compare this to the art of my country. I also compare it to the art that I feel connects with who I am as an individual. By comparing/contrasting the art of Mexico with the art of my country, I begin to learn more about the different ways that cultures express themselves. I also begin to understand myself and the cultures to which I belong.