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Personal Definition of Culture
In my view, culture is an abstract term that varies greatly depending on one’s family influence, education, work, and other factors. Some people include simple “politeness” in the term culture while others look at it as at the complex concept. My personal view on culture was formed based on my background, education, and work. I worked out the personal definition of culture that includes the following sub-points:
- Culture includes shared patterns of behavior, beliefs, and cognitive functions. Thus, for me, it is obvious that the cultural background of the personality is not an individual inborn characteristic. These patterns of behavior are common for many individuals in a particular social group.
- Culture is learned through the process of socialization. Parents raise children. Therefore, the main people in the life of infants are their mother and father. Later, children socialize by engaging in some relations with peers and the surrounding environment. If infants are left without social interactions, they will not learn even the basic skills, including how to speak, eat with a spoon, and wear clothes, among others.
- The cultural background of a person is learned through verbal, sensorimotor, and visual interactions. Children adhere to a certain cultural model through language (when they are talked to), tactile contact (when they are touched), and movements (children may look at silent movements that are also the representation of the culture).
- As culture is a shared concept that is practiced by the group of people, one may look at cultural differences in various geographical locations (the culture of the Afro-Caribbean region), organizations (the culture of the school or university), and nations (German culture, Russian culture, or English culture). The culture of the small group is more specific while the culture of the big group could be more diverse. Usually, the culture of the small group is based on the cultural aspects of the larger group or subculture.
Thus, I define culture as a set of shared patterns of behavior that are learned through the process of socialization (via language, movements, and visual scenes) and that characterize a certain group in the society. These patterns of behavior may vary in different geographical areas, organizations, or groups.
My Background and Its Influence on My Cultural Development
I see my background as a combination of many factors. I was born in a family that consisted of the mother, father, and my older brother. I was the second child in the family. We are Black Americans. I grew up in Detroit, which is considered one of the most racially segregated cities in the United States. At the beginning of the 20th century, Black Americans accounted for only 1% of Detroit population. However, the situation has changed drastically throughout the century. In 1970, when I was two years old, the city’s demographic picture included 55% of White Americans and 43,7% of Black Americans. Today Detroit is populated mostly by Black Americans because the majority of Whites moved to suburban areas. I was born during the second wave of the migration of Afro-Americans to Detroit, who escaped from Jim Crow laws in the South and moved to the North in search of jobs. However, Black people faced serious discrimination in Detroit. White people crashed their houses, broke windows and fired their places. Besides, the laws regarding employment and other benefits were directed against Black people. Thus, I was raised in the atmosphere of racial discrimination against Blacks.
My mother passed when I was ten years old, and my father was responsible for raising two children. Detroit is known for the developed automobile industry. There are several motor plants of different car brands in the city. My father worked on the assembly line at the Pontiac motor plant. The earnings were low, and our family could hardly earn enough money to provide for basic needs. It was a struggle for my father. Therefore, my father did not have a possibility to spend time with children. His primary concern was the financial support of the family. I was educated by peers, my brother, his friends, my schoolmates, and the surrounding environment.
Our family follows Christianity. Every Sunday we went to church, and in fact, my religious education had a tremendous influence on my identity. In spite of all the hardship in my life, I was raised in the atmosphere of Christian values and virtues. I was taught to respect older people, help other individuals, sacrifice, and love. I perceived life hardships as useful experiences that were given by God as trials on the way to the grace.
Currently, I am a 48-years old male, divorced. I think that gender is one of the important characteristics when one analyzes the personality. Numerous research findings suggest that males and females show different cognitive development patterns. Being the representative of the male gender, I expose certain features that are specific to males. For example, I tend to make well-thought decisions that are based on the real assessment of positive and negative factors. I tend to be concise and do not talk much. I am closed to strangers and never express my emotions publicly. These features may be the expression of a certain temperament, but I also attribute these features of my personality to the male gender.
Three Main Components of My Cultural Identity and Their Influence on the Attitude to Diversity
According to Oganesyan, the cultural identity of the person consists of numerous components, including family, socioeconomic status, gender, ethnicity, religion, race, cultural heritage, territory, and language. I think that family, race, and socioeconomic status are three most important components of cultural identity. These components have a significant influence on one’s beliefs and attitudes to diversity.
Family values are the core of the person’s self-identity as family influences a personality from the very birth. Different families may practice various approaches toward raising children. Some parents may use an authoritative approach, some may use an authoritarian approach, and some may use a permissive style parenting. Although most researchers conclude that authoritative parenting is the most efficient way of raising children, I can say that my parents applied the permissive parenting style. They paid small attention to my education and hobbies. I was allowed to do whatever I preferred. My parents did not set any goals for education or development for us, children. Instead, they were struggling to provide for basic needs, so other aspects of our life were at our disposal. Nevertheless, I saw an excellent example in my parents. They were trustworthy, hardworking, and religious people. They respected each other, and we were raised in the atmosphere of Christian virtues. My parents forgave the offenders. Probably, because of their forgiving attitude, I have no aggression toward other people. I perceive the diversity as a normal issue and praise the variety. I try to evaluate people by their doings rather than by appearance, race, and socioeconomic status. Therefore, I think that my family contributed greatly to my attitude to diversity.
The race is also an important factor influencing the person’s views on diversity. I am Black American, and my family underwent the racial discrimination. I know the meaning of the term “racial segregation” from my personal experience. When I was a child, I could not understand why White people had some privileges. When I grew older and learned the history, I understood the roots of the discrimination. I had many friends who felt aggression toward White people in response to the discrimination. Probably, the morality and ethics of my family contributed to my positive attitude toward all people. I treat all races equally and never give preferences to any race. My family taught me that all people are God’s creatures and are equal before God.
Finally, socioeconomic status also plays a significant role in people’s attitudes to diversity. The diverse society represents people from all statuses. My childhood memories show the pitiful picture of low socioeconomic status. Especially after the death of my mother, my father struggled to earn enough money to support our family. Now, I work as dean and belong to the middle class. I can afford the basic benefits and enjoy vacations. I never judge people on the financial basis. I think that socioeconomic status may change, as it happened in my case, but our moral values should lead our attitude to diversity. I think that people of all statuses should be treated equally well. I do not have any prejudice toward other races, but I think that people tend to judge other people from the personal perspective and give preference to the same race. For instance, I saw many cases when Black children at the playground shared toys with Black children, rather than with White, and vice versa.
The Organizational Culture of the Robbinsdale Cooper High School
I work in a position of the Academic Dean at the Robbinsdale Cooper High School (RCHS). This public secondary school is located in New Hope, Minnesota. It is the suburban location of Minneapolis city. The RCHS was founded in 1964 in response to the increasing number of the student population in the district. It was considered one of the most advanced and modernized schools in the area, both structurally and technologically. Today, the school holds classes for 9-12th grades. The district has seven high schools, including the biggest “competitor” of the RCHS – Robbinsdale Armstrong. Other secondary public schools in the district are small. These two schools compete in many areas. The RCHS educates children from eight different communities that differ significantly in socioeconomic, racial, and other aspects. The total enrollment of the RCHS is 1750 students, which means that it is a big organization.
The organizational culture of the school is represented by students, teachers, and personnel and their influences, and the variety of in-school organizations. The student body gender makeup consists of 49% male and 51% female students, which is good as there are no any signs of gender discrimination in this school. The student-teacher ratio is 20:1, which is better than the ratio of 24:1 at Robbinsdale Armstrong. The comparison of this ratio with the national average suggests that the RCHS has a better ratio than the national average for the secondary schools. The National Center for Educational Statistics provides data that the national average student-teacher ratio was 26:8 in 2011-2012, meaning that each student in the RCHS receives more attention from professional teachers. The racial makeup of the school is 70% White children, 25% Blacks, and 5% representatives of other races. Further, 51% of the enrolled students are on a free lunch program and 9% of children receive lunch for the reduced price. Thus, the total economically disadvantaged rate, which is the measure of student poverty, is 60%.
The above statistics provide an insight regarding the following cultural features of the RCHS:
- The school has children of diverse races. The gender distribution in school is approximately equal.
- The school is diverse in terms of the socioeconomic level of enrolled students.
- The school has a relatively high student-teacher ratio, which is a good feature.
In addition to the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the school, it is essential to look at the programs and extracurricular activities offered to students. The school offers more than 75 diverse programs that suit demanding tastes of students, including the fine arts and music programs. Besides, the RCHS joined the IB World School initiative in 1998 and it offers international baccalaureate programs. In addition to diverse academic possibilities, the RCHS is famous for its athletics accomplishments. The students of the school are offered approximately ten different seasonal athletics programs for fall, winter, and spring seasons. Rich athletics culture unifies students of the school, who are referred to as Hawks, around the sports events, competitions, activities, and training. The extracurricular activities of the school, especially the athletics component, create the culture, in which students are motivated to partake in after-class activities, grow personally, and enrich through the communication with peers.
The Assessment of the Robbinsdale Cooper High School Organizational Culture and the Change Model for Improvement
The school has a viable atmosphere and rich culture. Nevertheless, like any entity, it has some flaws. While assessing the RCHS organizational culture I came to a conclusion that students are overwhelmed with extracurricular activities and pay less attention to academic performance. In particular, students behave in a way to impress their peers, win the attention of the majority, become the center of the group, and develop interpersonal communication among classmates. At the same time, they tend to ignore the academic side of the school life. For example, many students in our school make significant contributions to the school sports teams (soccer, basketball, baseball, cheerleading, hockey, and ski) but show unsatisfactory performance in the mandatory classes (Math and English). The US News statistics states that 47% of the school’s students do not meet the standards in Math examination.
Consequently, the change model for the improvement of the emphasis on academic integrity should include the following steps:
- We need to organize more extracurricular activities that aim at increasing students’ awareness of the importance of academic performance. Further, we have to advertise these activities and encourage students’ participation. For example, we can organize academic contests and competitions in different subjects. To encourage participation, the school may offer some valuable prizes to winners.
- We can implement the “Subject Days” with speeches, master classes, and lectures from notable alumni or just successful people in the particular area. For example, interesting lectures on public speaking may encourage students to study English. Master classes in business management offered by successful business owners will motivate students to study economics.
- Schoolteachers should pay attention to the communication component and encourage team tasks. Team assignments are a good chance to combine the communication among peers and academic productivity. The group of students will try to impress other teams with excellent performance. Thus, students will compete and improve academic skills through the completion of group tasks.
- We should work closely with parents of the children and explain the significance of the academic performance.
These steps are easy to implement, as they do not require huge financial investments. In particular, academic contests may be organized by schoolteachers, and the school only needs to purchase prizes for the winners. The organization of the “Subject Days” and master-classes may be negotiated with invited people. There are many businesspersons and scientists who would like to sponsor particular activities and raise the awareness of their company or individual achievements. The emphasis on the team tasks and collaboration with parents also require no financial investments. Teachers should only invest their time to prepare the curriculum.
The cultural identity of the person is a complex issue that includes family influence, gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, and other components. I think that my background, especially my family, socioeconomic status, and race, played a significant role in the formation of my cultural views and attitudes. I work as an Academic Dean at the RCHS, which is a place characterized by a diverse organizational culture. The school offers a bunch of extracurricular activities to students, especially in sports. The aspect in the school’s culture that requires intervention is the emphasis on academic performance. To improve performance, there is a suggestion to implement the four-step change model, including academic contests, “Subject Days,” team assignments, and collaboration with parents.