By Jenny LewisSpecial to CSMS MagazineThe best way to begin to understand the statement “much of culture is invisible” is to look at the influence of the dominant culture over the sum of all sub cultures. It is best portrayed in the media and popular film, radio, and books. It can also be seen in a society’s infrastructure. Both cater to the dominant culture while choosing to ignore the needs and sometimes the contributions of minority groups. Not only is this true in the dominant culture of The United States, but the same could likely be said after observing other countries and societies. The focus is going to be on the dominant or “mainstream” group, and even though all sub cultures combined may outnumber those in the dominant culture, they are less likely to be noticed. If you do not fit into the mold of the mainstream, your voice is less likely to be heard; and your needs and concerns are less likely to be met.Since the beginning of time, the power of one group in a particular society always leads to a culture of dominance through its political and financial power it holds. There is a parody of the golden rule that reads, “He who has the gold makes the rules.” This statement applies to this discussion of dominant culture’s influence over all sub cultures in a society. The dominant group maintains a system or a power structure that best meets its own needs in order to ensure a continued position of power.Learning about one’s own culture can help us in understanding other cultures. By discovering those facets of our own culture that are subtle to us, but are such a dominant force in creating our view of the world, we begin to understand the role culture plays in individuals. By having an acute understanding of your own culture and how it has shaped your views of right and wrong, gender roles, social expectations, and the like, you can transfer this understanding to someone of a different culture to see if he/she may have markedly different views of the world than your own. Perceptions are realities to the holder of those perceptions. Some multicultural authors wrote about having their foreign sounding names changed or converted to Anglo sounding names to make them fit into what was familiar to the mainstream perception. Patricia Covarrubias writes “I was born to a world shaped, in great measure, by what people call themselves and each other.” This statement indicates how important it is to be addressed correctly. When her name was shortened to simply “Pat”, it took away part of her cultural significance; it also discounted her as a person. Teachers need to understand that students must be addressed properly to give significance to students’ name and respect for their culture. By ignoring the importance of names, a teacher can create a barrier to the learning environment. If they are not giving their students proper respect to their names, teachers stand the risk of deepening the culture shock that immigrant students in their classes are already facing and thereby hindering their academic performance.Note: Jenny Lewis is a professor of Cross-cultural Studies at University of North Florida. She wrote this piece for CSMS Magazine.Also see Much culture is invisible: http://www.csmsmagazine.org/news.php?pg=20060905I250
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