Cultural literacy

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Cultural literacy is a term coined by American educator and literary critic E. D. Hirsch, referring to the ability to understand and participate fluently in a given culture. Cultural literacy is an analogy to literacy proper (the ability to read and write letters). A literate reader knows the object-language's alphabet, grammar, and a sufficient set of vocabulary; a culturally literate person knows a given culture's signs and symbols, including its language, particular dialectic, stories, [1] entertainment, idioms, idiosyncrasies, and so on. The culturally literate person is able to talk to and understand others of that culture with fluency.

Contents

Causes

Children of a given culture typically become culturally literate there via the process of enculturation. Enculturation seems to occur naturally, being intertwined with education, play, family relationships, friendships, etc. The cause of cultural literacy is a more difficult question when considering acculturation of immigrants, outsiders, cultural minorities, strangers, guests, etc.

Literacy of a given culture seems to arise over time with consistent exposure to and participation in that culture, especially certain key cultural strongholds, like business, story, arts, education, history, religion, and family. One could become literate for an oral culture (with no written language or recorded media) only by extended conversation. Alternatively, one could become literate for a written culture through conversation as well as reading culturally relevant books or exposure to culturally relevant films, plays, monuments, television shows, etc.

Western culture in general and Anglo-American culture in particular is a bibliocentric culture. It often trades in allusions to the Christian Bible, [2] the influential works of Early Modern English such as works of William Shakespeare, the Thomas Cranmer Book of Common Prayer , Geoffrey Chaucer's poetry, and many others. Knowledge of these books (among others) contributes largely to cultural literacy in the west. However, also essential are exposure to the art, history, and the lived experience of members of that culture.[ citation needed ]

Examples

For example, in 1908 British author G. K. Chesterton wrote, "Complete self-confidence is a weakness... the man who has [self-confidence] has 'Hanwell' written on his face as plain as it is written on that omnibus". [3] This statement, especially the latter half, might be opaque to a reader from outside the United Kingdom, who does not know that "omnibus" is a less common British word for "bus" and "Hanwell" was the name of a (now defunct) insane asylum.

Consequences

The benefits and detriments of cultural literacy are debated.[ by whom? ] For example, social mobility increases when one is able to comfortably participate in conversation with gatekeepers like employers and teachers. Non-native members of a culture, such as missionaries to a foreign land or refugees from a native land, may experience negative consequences due to cultural illiteracy. However, the achievement of cultural literacy may seem to come at a cost to one's own native culture.[ citation needed ]

Research and questions

Discussions of cultural literacy have given rise to several controversial questions: [4]

See also

Related Research Articles

Literacy Ability to read and write

Literacy in its broadest sense describes "particular ways of thinking about and doing reading and writing" with the purpose of understanding or expressing thoughts or ideas in written form in some specific context of use. In other words, humans in literate societies have sets of practices for producing and consuming writing, and they also have beliefs about these practices. Reading, in this view, is always reading something for some purpose; writing is always writing something for someone for some particular ends. Beliefs about reading and writing and its value for society and for the individual always influence the ways literacy is taught, learned, and practiced over the lifespan.

Bilingual education Education conducted in two languages

Bilingual education involves teaching academic content in two languages, in a native and secondary language with varying amounts of each language used in accordance with the program model. Bilingual education refers to the utilization of two languages as means of instruction for students and considered part of or the entire school curriculum, as distinct from simply teaching a second language as a subject.

Neil Postman American media theorist and cultural critic

Neil Postman was an American author, educator, media theorist and cultural critic, who eschewed digital technology, including personal computers, mobile devices, and cruise control in cars, and was critical of uses of technology, such as personal computers in school. He is best known for twenty books regarding technology and education, including Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985), Conscientious Objections (1988), Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (1992), The Disappearance of Childhood (1982) and The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School (1995).

In mathematics education, ethnomathematics is the study of the relationship between mathematics and culture. Often associated with "cultures without written expression", it may also be defined as "the mathematics which is practised among identifiable cultural groups". It refers to a broad cluster of ideas ranging from distinct numerical and mathematical systems to multicultural mathematics education. The goal of ethnomathematics is to contribute both to the understanding of culture and the understanding of mathematics, and mainly to lead to an appreciation of the connections between the two.

English as a second or foreign language Use of English by speakers with different native languages

English as a second or foreign language is the use of English by speakers with different native languages. Language education for people learning English may be known as English as a second language (ESL), English as a foreign language (EFL), English as an additional language (EAL), English as a New Language (ENL), or English for speakers of other languages (ESOL). The aspect in which ESL is taught is referred to as teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), teaching English as a second language (TESL) or teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). Technically, TEFL refers to English language teaching in a country where English is not the official language, TESL refers to teaching English to non-native English speakers in a native English-speaking country and TESOL covers both. In practice, however, each of these terms tends to be used more generically across the full field. TEFL is more widely used in the UK and TESL or TESOL in the US.

Cultural identity Identity or feeling of belonging to a group

Cultural identity is a part of a person's identity, or their self-conception and self-perception, and is related to nationality, ethnicity, religion, social class, generation, locality or any kind of social group that has its own distinct culture. In this way, cultural identity is both characteristic of the individual but also of the culturally identical group of members sharing the same cultural identity or upbringing. Cultural identity is a fluid process that is changed by different social, cultural, and historical experiences. Some people undergo more cultural identity changes as opposed to others, those who change less often have a clear cultural identity. This means that they have a dynamic yet stable integration of their culture.

Cultural assimilation is the process in which a minority group or culture comes to resemble a society's majority group or assume the values, behaviors, and beliefs of another group whether fully or partially. The different types of cultural assimilation include full assimilation and forced assimilation; full assimilation being the more prevalent of the two, as it occurs spontaneously. During cultural assimilation, minority groups are expected to adapt to the everyday practices of the dominant culture through language and appearance as well as via more significant socioeconomic factors such as absorption into the local cultural and employment community. Some types of cultural assimilation resemble acculturation in which a minority group or culture completely assimilates into the dominant culture in which defining characteristics of the minority culture are less obverse or outright disappear; while in other types of cultural assimilation such as cultural integration mostly found in multicultural communities, a minority group within a given society adopts aspects of the dominant culture through either cultural diffusion or for practical reason like adapting to another society's social norms while retaining their original culture. A conceptualization describes cultural assimilation as similar to acculturation while another merely considers the former as one of the latter's phases. Throughout history there have been different forms of cultural assimilation examples of types of acculturation include voluntary and involuntary assimilation. Assimilation could also involve the so-called additive acculturation wherein, instead of replacing the ancestral culture, an individual expands their existing cultural repertoire.

Language immersion Use of two languages across a variety of educational subjects

Language immersion, or simply immersion, is a technique used in bilingual language education in which two languages are used for instruction in a variety of topics, including math, science, or social studies. The languages used for instruction are referred to as the L1 and the L2 for each student, with L1 being the student's native language and L2 being the second language to be acquired through immersion programs and techniques. There are different types of language immersion that depend on the age of the students, the classtime spent in L2, the subjects that are taught, and the level of participation by the speakers of L1.

Critical literacy is the ability to find embedded discrimination in media. This is done by analyzing the messages promoting prejudiced power relationships found naturally in media and written material that go unnoticed otherwise by reading beyond the author's words and examining the manner in which the author has conveyed his or her ideas about society's norms to determine whether these ideas contain racial or gender inequality.

E. D. Hirsch

Eric Donald Hirsch Jr. - known as E. D. Hirsch - is an American educator, literary critic, and theorist of education. He is professor emeritus of education and humanities at the University of Virginia.

Composition studies

Composition studies is the professional field of writing, research, and instruction, focusing especially on writing at the college level in the United States. The flagship national organization for this field is the Conference on College Composition and Communication.

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Shirley R. Steinberg is an educator, author, activist,filmmaker, and public speaker whose work focuses on critical pedagogy, social justice, and cultural studies. She has written and edited numerous books and articles about critical pedagogy, urban and youth culture, community studies, cultural studies, Islamophobia, and issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Steinberg is the Research Chair of Critical Youth Studies at the University of Calgary, executive director of the Freire Project freireproject.org, and a visiting researcher at University of Barcelona and Murdoch University. She has held faculty positions at Montclair State University, Adelphi University, Brooklyn College, The CUNY Graduate Center, and McGill University. Steinberg directed the Institute for Youth and Community Research at the University of the West of Scotland for two years.

Donna Alvermann is an American educator and researcher in the field of Language and Literacy Education whose work focuses on adolescent literacy in and out of school, inclusive of new media and digital literacies. Her most recent research interest involves developing historical-autobiographical methods for uncovering silences in scholarly writing that mask more than they disclose. She is the Omer Clyde and Elizabeth Parr Aderhold Professor in Education in the Mary Frances Early College of Education at the University of Georgia (UGA). She is also a UGA-appointed Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Language and Literacy Education.

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Culture in music cognition refers to the impact that a person's culture has on their music cognition, including their preferences, emotion recognition, and musical memory. Musical preferences are biased toward culturally familiar musical traditions beginning in infancy, and adults' classification of the emotion of a musical piece depends on both culturally specific and universal structural features. Additionally, individuals' musical memory abilities are greater for culturally familiar music than for culturally unfamiliar music. The sum of these effects makes culture a powerful influence in music cognition.

Cultural studies is an interdisciplinary field that examines the political dynamics of contemporary culture and its historical foundations. Cultural studies researchers generally investigate how cultural practices relate to wider systems of power associated with, or operating through, social phenomena. These include ideology, class structures, national formations, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and generation. Employing cultural analysis, cultural studies views cultures not as fixed, bounded, stable, and discrete entities, but rather as constantly interacting and changing sets of practices and processes. The field of cultural studies encompasses a range of theoretical and methodological perspectives and practices. Although distinct from the discipline of cultural anthropology and the interdisciplinary field of ethnic studies, cultural studies draws upon and has contributed to each of these fields.

References

  1. Watson, Rita (Oct 1987). "Learning Words from Linguistic Expressions: Definition and Narrative". Research in the Teaching of English. 21 (3): 298–317. JSTOR   40171117.
  2. Mangalwadi, Vishal Mangalwadi (2012). The Book that Made Your World. Thomas Nelson. p. 464. ISBN   978-1595555458.
  3. Chesterton, G. K. (1908). Orthodoxy . Chapter II, "The Maniac".
  4. Applebee, Arthur N.[A.N.A] (Oct 1987). "Musings...: Cultural Literacy". Research in the Teaching of English. 21 (3): 229–231. JSTOR   40171113.
  5. Wiener, Harvey S. (Sep 1985). "Multicultural Literacy for Faculty: Accommodating Non-Native Speakers of English in Content Courses". Rhetoric Review. 4 (1): 100–107. doi:10.1080/07350198509359111. JSTOR   465770.

Further reading