Defining Culture and Diversity

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After being asked to call, write to, or talk to at least three friends, family members, acquaintances, and/or colleagues and ask them what their definitions of culture and diversity are, here is what I found: I asked a friend of mine who is half Indian, half Pakistani what her definitions of diversity and culture where and she said: “I define culture as the norms of the current society we are living in – example what is “socially” and/or morally acceptable. Culture is dynamic like society. As society changes, so does culture. The culture that I grew up in differs from the culture in my home. My parents migrated from India and Pakistan before my birth. They brought their language, traditions, customs, clothing and values to America. Their culture is intertwined and heavily influenced by their religion. What my parents and their cultural defines as societal norms and what is socially acceptable is a part of my culture. My culture is also mixed with some of the societal norms outside of my home. I define diversity as varying cultures, nationalities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and races. I see diversity as differences – neither positive nor negative. It does not define us or our actions like culture. Aspects of diversity can dynamic (like socioeconomic status, but not race). Society does not dictate diversity the way it influences culture.” I also asked a friend who is Korean what her definitions were. She said: Culture is what one develops over their life time. This depends on their beliefs, moral and attitude on life, social interactions, family values and laws of one’s homeland country. Being diverse means that everyone is unique and different. This difference may be the economic status, race, ability level, gender, social class, etc. For the third and final person, I asked a friend who I believe to be of dominant culture. She said: “Culture is the way a person behaves or the beliefs they have based on where or how they were brought up. Diversity is the ways in which every person is different be if from race, culture, gender, or other more personal things that make them different.” I found it funny that the people who are seemingly more diverse culturally and in other ways from the dominant culture had much more in depth answers when asked the two questions. I think that unless you have taken a course on diversity and culture or experience it from the minority side, people have very shallow understandings of it. It seems to be very black and white to those who do not really understand it. Some of the aspects of culture and diversity that I have studied were included in the answers from my friends. The way my friends described culture was that it is something develops because of society and values of families and it is heavily affected by where you live or where your beliefs come from. Many times this can be a result of how they were brought up with-in the culture they were raised. I believe that family culture and dominant culture were also included in these responses. I really liked how my one friend stated that “society does not dictate diversity the way it influences culture.” I think this is very true. Society has a large effect on culture but diversity is more of an individual thing. I found that the way some of these things were explained by my friends who have firsthand experience really helped to give me a better understanding and ways to clearly define them. Despite having an understanding of them through taking courses, it was very difficult for me to put into words until reading some of these answers.

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About toteachistotouchlives

Hi. My name is Kristen Hammel and I am a first grade teacher in Maryland. I am in my fourth year of teaching and now beginning my Masters program in Early Childhood Education at Walden University. I am very excited for this new journey I am embarking on and am excited to share my experiences with you.

3 responses »

  1. Hello!
    I enjoyed reading your post. It is amazing how we can learn from another person’s culture. Now days communication is so much easier, this makes learning and interacting easy as well.

  2. Hi Kristen,
    I really enjoyed reading your post. I espeically enjoyed the depth in the answer your friend with parents from India and Pakistan gave you. I was thinking the same thing as you about how much deeper the understanding is in those who are not among our dominant culture. I was having a conversation last week with a college student from Jordan. He is only 20 years old and his understanding of diversity and compassion and understanding for people’s differences is very mature. I think that it is not only because he is a minority here, but because he is a visitor here. He came at age 14 or 15. His family is still back home. His parents are from Palestine. We were discussing prejudices of people and it seems that it is the same in his country. People fear what is different. They make judgements without knowledge, based soley on what they have heard or seen on television. In his experience, it took him coming here and meeting people and experiencing life in our country before he began to really know anythng about us. He is fortunate to have had these experiences at a young age. He will be able to serve as an example to people around him; here and back home.

  3. I too noticed that the person I questioned who was different from me in terms of race and religion had more to say about culture and diversity than the other two people I asked about culture and religion. I agree that I think that those who may be in the cultural minority have more to say about this topic than others since they are used to explaining their culture. We would not think to ask those who are similar to us to explain their culture even though everyone has cultural aspects that are different than us. However, we often ask those whose culture is different than us on the surface to explain their traditions and other cultural aspects to us as they are different than ours.

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