Honors English 2/ Period 1
5 October 2018
The United States has been a melting point of different cultures and nationalities since its inception. Different cultures have added to our rich tapestry and have immensely contributed to the United States becoming the richest country in the world. It is imperative for us as a country to strengthen our long-ingrained tradition of welcoming different cultures and helping them assimilate into our unique cultural experience. Herein, schools as the fountainheads of ideas and in shaping perspective play a key role .Our schools should devote more resources to reinvigorating our humanities course to better emphasize embracing different cultures where students are encouraged to be kind and confident in expressing their opinion. An incorporation of cultural awareness and education will transform our school into an environment that cultivates citizens who are open-minded and innovative, and prevent students from becoming derstanding of the diversity that surrounds them.
Properly educating students about other cultures fosters an environment of acceptance as students are taught to understand one another and develop their own personalities. Cultural biases are prevalent in everyday life on campus, evident in the predispositions people have about cultures different from their own. For example, I had always been confused as to why Mormons were always so uptight, or “goodie-two-shoes” as I had heard people call them. Once I was taught about the Mormon belief of earning a right to heaven as a reward for good behavior, I had a new-found respect for the Mormon culture and was inspired by their dedication to faith and good works. Understanding other cultures allow us to shape our moral compass for the better. Culture is a reminder of what we all have in common. However, the perspectives of different cultures are what makes each one unique. Exposing ourselves to these different set of beliefs allows us to learn from these unique cultures and adapt our own for the better. BBC states how the hijab, usually perceived in the West as a way for men to exercise their dominance over women in the East, is actually a “principle of modesty” for women of Eastern culture. Misunderstanding of a culture, as well as misconceived judgments off the surface of a culture, can lead to stereotypes. Stereotypes are very prevalent in our society, and whether intentionally, or unintentionally, serve for the mistreatment of our fellow community members. Understanding that other cultures aren’t simply worse imitations of our own is key to creating a kind environment for everyone at schools. Culture is a strong part of people’s lives and an influencer upon their views and values so a correct understanding of other cultures allows us to understand other people better as well. This would, in turn, strengthen social bonds between different cultures and allow engagement with the community at a more personal level.
A more supportive environment also allows students of different cultures, or with different beliefs to be confident in sharing their opinions. A study from Eurekalert! States how “friendships across ethnic groups” can “provide validation and emotional support.” A safer environment where students are not afraid of expressing themselves because racial restraints will allow schools to shape our impressionable youth into more confident adults. Each cultural group has unique strengths and perspectives that the larger community can benefit from. In the video “15-Yr-Old Kelvin Doe Wows M.I.T.,” a science whiz from Sierra Leone named Kelvin Doe was given the opportunity to work alongside students at MIT. One of the students, astonished by Kelvins unprecedented and effective techniques, had remarked: “Just as Kelvin is getting his world expanded by coming here, so am I getting my world expanded by interacting with him.” Our society is rapidly changing and we need students to be better adept at the changing circumstances. Our changing work environment creates an industry fueled by creative and innovative thinking. However, having only one dominant culture leaves little room for out-of-the-box thinking. By invoking confidence within people of all cultures we can overcome obstacles and improve society in new, fresh and unprecedented methods. We need a wide range of ideas, customs, and wisdom to solve problems and enrich community life. Bringing secular groups into the center of civic activity can provide fresh perspectives and shed new light on tough problems. All people have unique takes on life and understanding these approaches would help immensely in creating a better future.
California schools are the most diverse in the country with over 75% of students in racially and culturally diverse classrooms in California have a strong mandate to inculcate tolerance and celebration of cultural diversity. Paradoxically, the increased diversity in classrooms has led to increased instances of bullying, cultural stereotyping which in turn feeds into the development of conscious and unconscious biases. As Mark Twain famously said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness”; the remedy lies in increasing the exposure and experience of students to different cultures in their full glory. In order to terminate this issue, our humanities course must be augmented with more tangible and real-life experiences which can pique the interest and make it more meaningful for students. I believe there should be better funding especially for our humanities class and increased interactions with actual people of different cultures. Mr. Emery, a humanities teacher at Maria Carrillo high school, stresses the need for more “inter-classroom seminars” because it allowed students to “talk to and learn from each other.” An “inter classroom” seminar is a discussion we had in humanities where students were allowed to discuss important aspects of life with students of different countries and cultures. This was a great idea, but unfortunately, one that was done only twice in my class last year. Not only does this discussion allow students to learn about different perspectives in a fresh and engaging way, but it also allows us to perceive the lifestyles of other cultures and how their upbringing has impacted their views. There should also be more resources and funding for humanity course teachers. Mr. Emery states how the course must “adapt to current circumstances” each year to allow students a more valid understanding in comparison to other history courses where students are taught the “same historic events every year.” Mr. Emery says one of the only resources he had to inform students of current day events was through articles from websites such as Newsela. However, with more funding, Humanities could be more interactive and allow students more hands-on experience with different cultures in comparison to only reading articles for the sake of passing the quiz at the end. This “read, answer, forget, repeat” pattern silently promotes students to chase a grade not comprehension of other cultures and knowledge.
The understanding of other cultures gives students more confidence and allows for kinder and mature citizens after high schools. High School is more important than one may think. The appreciation of cultural diversity will create a just and equitable society. Students may only make up 24% of our population but they make up 100% of our future. Schools should strive to create an environment where all children feel valued and all children can learn from one another.