Monday, March 2, 2009

Culture of Self

Every community has their own beliefs and traditions. These traditions are comprised of behaviors and decisions, which have been successful in the past, and are thought to maintain balance for future generations. There is no one true way of life as can be seen by the diverse nature of people in this world. As time goes on, new generations adopt the old ways of their culture in order to survive. With the wide variety of ideas and information available to people in the 21st century, we are no longer restricted to the views of our family and neighbors. While it is important to respect one’s roots, people now have the opportunity to be enlightened by a multitude of knowledge, opinions, and choices.
One’s culture is the result of teachings, experiences, and personal reflection. As lessons are instilled in an individual, personal opinions develop. These opinions become strong at a young age and are innocently accepted as absolute truths. One’s opinions typically reflect those of the community, and precedence is set for that particular culture. These opinions usually remain strong through one’s early childhood. Children typically hold an “I’m right, you’re wrong” attitude. Although closed-minded, this mantra is not necessarily a negative viewpoint to possess in the early stages of one’s development. It lays a base necessary for comparison. It is not until a person matures and experiences other cultures and thought processes that they are able to incorporate other views into their perspective.
The shaping of one’s culture does not only consist of things to which an individual is exposed. A person has the ability to decide whether they will accept or reject ideas that are presented to them. A stubborn individual may retain their original opinions, while other may look at the world with an open mind and adopt new ideas that appeal to them and have worked for others. Cultural views are held and practiced simply because that is what works for the individual. We, as humans, have a desire to set personal and cultural standards. They allow us to feel comfortable in what is, in all actuality, an ambiguous, undefined world.
I am proud and appreciative of my upbringing and will use the knowledge gained through my culture to further my learning. I grew up in a calm, suburban community with a close family. My parents are very supportive, loving people who only want the best for their children. I was taught to be compassionate and understanding of others and make reasonable, well-thought out decisions. Moderation is the mantra of my family: work hard, stay safe, and keep a level head.
My family’s religion also has had a great impact on me, though not in terms of ideology. The Jewish religion is similar to most others in its preaching of kindness, respect, etc. What has influenced me is its notion of inquiry. While other religions stress “blind faith” to keep their followers, Judaism has taught me to ask questions, to learn through understanding. That is not to say Judaism does not have its own clever ploys to keep their people in check. The guilt of a Jewish mother is indeed a powerful weapon...
As I grow, I make an effort to understand and accept all walks of life. Within the last few years, I have come to discover Buddhism. Buddhism believes the key to enlightenment is through the self; a closed mind can let no light shine through. I see every day as a new opportunity to experience the variety of cultural views and better understand my own mind. I will forever be a learner. Each experience shapes my thoughts and improves my clarity. This is why I am excited to enter the classroom as a teacher. Everyone brings a unique culture to the table. As a teacher, I want to create an open environment that encourages thought and inquiry but also teaches pride and respect. Children should be proud of who they are and where they came from but understand that opposing views are not necessarily wrong. Through my teachings, I will stress the importance of not holding beliefs and opinions as concrete facts but as tools to help shape one’s understanding. Dictating information, whether fact or opinion, doesn’t result in learning or thinking; it only trains a person to be mindless, stubborn, and obedient. While order is necessary in both the classroom and life, critical thinking and the respectfully questioning of authority are necessary for progress, whether it be of the mind or culture.
Someone from another cultural background may disagree with my thoughts and ideals. My way is not necessarily the “right way.” It is only what works for me. What others do and believe is what works for them. The key is respect. Respect is what allows us all to come together as a society, community, or classroom. This concept was best expressed by Voltaire when he said, “I do not agree with a word you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it." Individual cultures must be shared and respected. An opposing view may seem strange, wrong, or even offensive, but we must remember that different doesn’t mean wrong or bad. Diversity gives us the opportunity to learn. It gives us the gift of variety.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed reading your piece because it puts into perspective the power of being open-minded, and the positive impact it can have on a personal level and ultimately on society. You stated that respect is key, I agree with you 100%. As a minority myself, I've been in situations where I have been disrespected because of the prejudice views some find so difficult to let go of. In the end, these experiences have made me a stronger person and prouder to have the cultural background that is huge part of me. I am so pleased to know that a person like you, with your openness to diversity, is pursuing a career in education where undoubtedly you will have a positive impact on each and every one of your students. Good luck in all that do!