Interviewing individuals about diversity and culture is by itself an exploration of diversity and culture. Curious if the people around me share the same perspectives that I have, I chosen to interview three people with whom I have very close relationships.
Andy is my partner. Also a teacher, we met at a school where we both worked. Although Canadian, he has spent two-thirds of his life outside his home country. He has lived in five continents, lived and worked in 18 countries, and visited 39 countries.
“It includes beliefs, values, and mores encompassing religion, and education of a specific group. It reflects they way people grew up, and how they were taught. Culture can change when one picks up different pieces of culture depending on what you come across with and what you are exposed to. We have our own culture as young children, but we add to it as we expand, explore our experience and environment.”
“It is being able to accept other cultures – race, literature, music, arts, and food. It is being empathetic and accepting. The more you are exposed to different cultures, the more diverse you become. It is also being able to assimilate different cultures, being able to show that you can follow the belief system of another and not just your own. Diversity is about open-mindedness and being a global citizen.”
Maria is my daughter. From age five, she started attending international schools in and outside our home country. She now goes to a university in Canada. She intends to continue traveling and to find work that would allow her to do this. She has lived in three countries and visited seven countries.
“It is a system of signals and behaviors that help us understand ourselves and the environment of which we navigate through. Signals are gestures, customs, traditions, as well as how the community functions and communicates. Tradition can be part of a family culture, but it does not mean there is a presence of one culture only. Every individual within a family takes on a different interpretation and aspect of a culture.“
“It is home – it is where everyone belongs. There is a variety of nationality, ethnicity, history, and culture. Privilege, as manifested in biases and prejudices, destroys the essence of diversity in its attempt to create a monoculture. Where there is a presence of a dominant culture, one assimilates to blend in.”
As her mother, I was curious to dig into her thoughts so I asked, “Could you keep your culture as you assimilate the culture of others? She replied I keep my culture as I practice in private. Then, I preserve it within myself.”
I raised the question, “Would you say you are not in a diverse community?” Her response was “My school? No. But I compromise so I won’t struggle.”
Beckie is a colleague, neighbor and also a friend. She worked in an international school in her home country her whole life and after retirement, has decided to work outside the country. She has visited more than 30 countries.
“It is all that pertains to traditions, language and way of life. There is family culture, a school culture, a town culture and a country culture. The people involved in a group; their way of life; and the geographical contexts including the resources where they live form their culture. Thus, even the nutrition and diet of the people depending on the places they live depict their culture.”
“It is multi-cultural. Language is diverse. Although there are differences in the cultures of different groups, they look at commonalities and assimilate and modify ways if necessary. Where there are differences in religions, languages, and thinking, diversity is when there is an absence of cliques, clans, and instead there is openness, tolerance, and acceptance.”
Gleaning from the lens of these people from different generations, they all present what culture is all about – that it is not restricted to race, language, and food, but all the many ways of life. Beckie made an interesting point on how the physical environment shapes one’s culture while Andy and Maria both mentioned about the diversity of experiences and how they expand one’s culture.
If I were to analyze the identity of each based on the perspectives presented, Andy and Beckie seem to have established who they are already. They have formed a solid definition of what they are and what they choose to practice. Maria, who is quite young is still exploring how to make her culture visible in a context where the dominant culture is different from hers. In an attempt to tolerate the dominant culture while preserving hers, she finds a way to “compromise” – the third way. Maria thinks that diversity is ‘home’ because everybody is comfortable in what they do, say, feel and think. It is the very essence of what Derman-Sparks (2010) among many others claim about diversity.
Laureate Education (Producer). (2011). Culture and diversity [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Laureate Education (Producer). (2011). Family cultures: Dynamic interactions [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu