My Personal Cultural Artifacts

I am immersed in a variety of different cultures.

“Culture is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one category of people from another.” (G. Hofstede)

I am a member of the LDS Church. This religion has a distinct culture, and my geographical and social location (as a full-time student living on campus at the Church-owned Brigham Young University) seems to emphasize this culture, as am I pretty much surrounded by active members of my church at all times. Some parts of the culture stem from our beliefs, while others are constructed outside of the realm of doctrine. There are explicit/ “written” rules and then the unwritten rules which are the things we just “do”. For example, it is part of Mormon doctrine to not drink, swear, use tobacco, have premarital sex, serve full-time missions, etc. However, praying for a blessing over doughnuts, going to church dances, girls following the newer trend of going on missions at 19 (based on a change in church-official rules), only sustaining members of your own ward, calling eachother “brother” or “sister”, dressing a certain way, and emphasizing family (also based on teachings of the church but often over-elaborated in the culture).  The following illustrate (often in exaggerated ways) some of the notions of “Utah Mormon”/ BYU culture:

Clip from the comedy movie about Mormon Culture called “the R.M.”:

Dress is an important cultural implication of my religion. We believe that women should dress modestly (cover shoulders, breasts, legs above the knee, stomach, etc.)

dress 2 dress

Some of the more general culture I feel influences my life is communicated via social media. I look at social media usually daily and it has a prominent affect upon what I want to do, say, act like, and look like. It really seems to give the best snapshot of our culture–what people love and care about and promote. It’s popularity speaks for its validity. There is even a culture around social media itself–in what’s acceptable and what’s not. There seems to be a standard for physical perfection in videos and content that one posts. Some of the following images typify the portrayals that people give of their lives via instagram, facebook, and twitter:

I am in a culture in which techonolgy is very prevalent and there are many rules of what is and isn’t acceptable with its use. It is ok to post “selfies” and commentary on happy times, but people generally don’t appreciate negativity (or reality, as some might say).

phones

My culture also emphasizes consumerism. “The more you have, the better” in terms of material things. It is generally seen as ok to spend beyond one’s means and appearance is valued over financial status.

credit beach cost-inside times square

There is a huge trend for “clean” lifestyles– green smoothies, vegan, organic, non-GMO, etc. This is promoted through social media. People want to be “alternative”. This is especially part of “my” culture because I am an athlete and a runner and so I associate with many of these kinds of people and places and feel generally comfortable with my knowledge of the “health fanatic” culture.

Within this group, I am part of a very specific culture of runners. I understand how to run and race, what workouts to do (and what to call them- for example: fartleks, tempo runs, LSD runs, resistance runs, speed work, etc.), what to wear (both for appearance and practicality), where to run, etc. I engage with a very specific group of people, not only because I enjoy what I do with them (run), but because I also feel socially comfortable with them.

run

There is also an interesting contrast I have noticed between people saying it’s good and ok to be “fat” but then promoting a contradictory image. There was a huge social media (mostly Instagram) trend about people trying to get “thigh-gaps” and “thigh-brows”, a seemingly obvious contradiction in body expectations, and a definite mark of our culture. It felt close to me because it became a part of conversation with my sisters and friends. This seemed to be a mostly white female phenomenon, and as a person who has had an eating disorder, I definitely have definitely felt the effects of societal standards for physical beauty.

Along with this, even while living in a local culture that seems to have many moral standards, I still feel like the culture I am a part of is very sexualized.

Television (mostly online), especially Netflix, has developed a definite culture in which one must understand and be able to speak about in order to engage with others. Lately, a huge part of the “Netflix” culture has been being able to engage in the conversation about the court case of Steven Avery, as depicted in the Netflix show “Making a Murderer”.  People have even made a following around the shorter of the two attorneys (shown below in the top right) and claimed he is a “fashion icon” (with blogs and fan clubs). My culture is highly effected by “shows” and “binge watching” is something that seems very socially acceptable to do.

netflix

I am a part of a very digitized culture that emphasizes the virtual world over face-to-face interactions. This can also skew how people perceive the world (for example, some people attribute our culture of “violence” to video games).

My culture idealizes other people (as evidenced in social media), especially celebrities. There is a lot of outspoken support and acceptance for the Kardashian/Jenner family–I think both because of their appearances, notoriety, and Caitlyn Jenner’s controversial new identity. Caitlyn Jenner won woman of the year.

k1

The show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” has a huge following and in this clip, shows what the substance of much of it is.

My culture views formal education as very necessary. If you have not at least completed high school, your prospects for employment are seriously hindered, despite other skills. We also often tend to equate level of education with intelligence and class. I assume that other cultures might place more emphasis on skills or other standards, where education is less available or less important in the workforce. This video demonstrates this cultural value that has permeated even our government:

As a college student in a relatively civic-conscious society, politics are part of regular discussion, both on social media and in daily school and social interactions. In general, our political system and process is very publicized, especially with the upcoming presidential election. My culture tells me that if I am responsible, educated, and moral, I should be talking about politics (if not doing more by being actively involved).

Being able to reflect about my own culture has helped me to realize that it is so complex. Most of it seems “natural” to me and is something I never even think about. But analyzing it like this has helped me to see that there are so many “rules” that would not be obvious to someone who is unfamiliar with the culture. In order to be an effective educator, I need to constantly analyze the culture of my school and my classroom (and my life), be aware of the limitations that may arise for those who come from other various cultures, and provide aids to helping all students to succeed.

My personal culture is comprised of a variety of values and is the result of many life experiences. Although I had few experiences growing up where my school culture or teachers had significantly different backgrounds than mine, I recognize that that happens frequently and can be a learning experience or a hinderence to a student, depending on how the teacher approaches cultures and people that differ from themselves. Because it’s impossible to create a “culturally neutral” classroom, teachers need to be more acknowledging and affirming of other cultures.

All these subcultures that I belong to “add up” to who I am and how I understand and relate to others. Because of this, I will have tendencies to understand, love, and relate to certain students over others. For example, because I am L.D.S. and white I may naturally feel more comfortable with those of my students that share these commonalities of culture. However, it is my responsibility to disregard these tendencies and do all that I can to give recognition to various cultures–including my students’ personal cultures. My personal culture can either be a strength or a hindrance to my classroom, depending on how I use it. My culture can help me to understand perhaps a small amount of my students’ perspectives and experiences if I try to impose it on them, but if I use it as a personal caution of my own potential biases, it can benefit more of my students. Recognizing these tendencies will allow me to correct those preferences and understand my diverse students and their personal “cultural artifacts”. Although those with whom I share cultural similarities will be easiest for me to sympathize with and understand, I can recognize that other students are made up of their own culture, which is just as valid as mine and is deserving of my respect.

 

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