Why to Teach Students about other Cultures

With areas such as math, physics, biology, and the hard sciences emphasized in educational testing it may seem like a waste of time to spend on teaching students about different cultures. If a teacher is judged by their ability to get students prepared for state testing, they are going to likely emphasize areas that the tests focus on and less on areas dealing with the social sciences or the humanities such as English. (Seven Reasons Why Standardized Tests are Not Working) Though these areas are still considered to be a part of school curriculum, American nationalism and history are emphasized whereas the technical difficulties concerning the impact of globalization are often times trivialized. This approach toward teaching causes some serious troubles in the long run for not only students of different cultural backgrounds, but for the standard white middle class student as well.

In the peak of multiculturalism more and more students of diverse backgrounds are entering higher education and the workplace. Though institutional racism is persistent in the states, many states have made some improvements in attempts to bridge the gaps between white students and students of color. This results in a positive impact that allows people from many backgrounds to enter and participate productively in American life. Properly so, many workplaces and educational institutions actively enforce laws and policies that protect individuals from prejudice. In doing so they eliminate workers and students who hold and participate in prejudice acts based in the stereotypes they grew up on.

The short term effects of teaching culture in the education system is it breaks down ideas about race and helps to remove prejudice students pick up from at home and in their cliques. Students become more inclined to step in to prevent bullying due to cultural differences, and are less likely to participate in prejudice behavior. This allows students of different backgrounds from the American norm to gain confidence in the classroom, ask more questions, and to feel more comfortable inside the school setting. In the end, students from varying backgrounds can work together more cooperatively. Unfortunately, this process is currently under way and needs a lot of time to result in equality. Education on culture is imperative for this to occur.

In the long term, students who have thoroughly engaged in a curriculum designed to break down stereotypes about other cultures will be able to participate more critically in the working world. They will be more inclined to question their assumptions about others who come from different backgrounds because they will know a.) why a particular culture exists here in America and b.) the social norms and conventions of a particular culture. Instead of thinking that one way of life is the right way, students will begin to think separate cultures are just a different but equally acceptable way of living. This will help make the adjustment into college life and the working world much easier as students who’ve been taught culture won’t make ignorant comments and behave negatively towards certain demographics. If they do, some university’s and work places are will address this issue directly and it results in negative social and financial consequences including loss of job and expulsion from university.

A perfect example of this is the incident at Hamline University in 2007. Football players dressed up as African American Tribesman for a Halloween party.(Hamline Blackface costumes) This caused a controversy as it is an offensive act. The players were suspended and a threat of expulsion loomed over their heads.

Behavior like this has intense consequence in the real world. It can be thwarted if educators took the topic of culture as seriously as they did the hard sciences.