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Downloading of Culture - 2

By ITS Education Asia

If someone were to put a proposition before men bidding them choose, after examination, the best customs in the world, each nation would certainly select its own.

– Herodotus

I concluded my last blog titled “Downloading of Culture – 1” with: “A major conflict can occur if a child has been given a different culture by the home key people to that of the environmental culture of the child’s new formal school. As a child that moved from the Deep-South of the US to California while in primary school and had to deal with difference peer-groups, I can tell you that school peer-groups can be very mean and unwelcoming”.

As we continue the discussion with the “Culture Fundamentals Stage”, which is Piaget’s “Pre-Operational Stage”, imagine an immigrant child that is of different ethnicity dealing  with  entering a formal schooling system that is different from the child’s home culture.

In an article from The Economist entitled “Where immigrants go to school is more important than where they came from”, it was stated “Migrants can face a twin disadvantage. They are often concentrated in struggling schools. And, at least at first, they may suffer from having to toggle between languages at home and in class. Two-thirds of pupils born outside their host country use another tongue at home.”.  In addition to language, think of the additional ethnic/racial baggage such as physical features, food,  and religion.

Continuing with the computer analogy, we use “programming languages” to program computer behavior. Likewise, we use natural languages to programme human behavior, and store human cultural knowledge. The immigrant child now finds himself in a situation where he is being given formal cultural programming in the schooling system that does not match his home environment training.  This can be worse if the immigrant child is a minority in a school that is a majority of the external environmental culture.

Social Identity Theory explains in-groups and out-groups. It is in the Cultural Fundamental Stage that a human first start to seriously use Pejorative Language to describe a cultural out-group. I remember when I moved to California at the age of nine I was suddenly a “gringo”. Since then I have been a “haole” in Hawai’i, “gweilo” in Hong Kong , “hung mo gwei” in Singapore, “septic” in Australia, “farang” in Thailand…  These are racist terms used to define outsiders. (the hyperlink takes you to a list of racist terms *Warning some terms are very offensive*)  The immigrant child has to survive in a culture that he is not prepared for and may have to accept bullying and insults.

There can be a battle for the home culture to be kept intact from the home key people.  I have a feeling (but no proof) that this is the reason that some immigrant children are able to excel in their academic studies in the U.S. I remember my school days where the Asian students were always at the top of the class. Studying and achieving good grades was a way to gain social status since they did not fit into the main stream environmental culture.

By around 11 years of age the individual has advanced into the  “Cultural Functional Stage” the cultural equivalent of Piaget’s “Formal Operational Stage”. Members of a culture will normally have a fully functional understanding and awareness of the physical environment and culture that they are functioning in. They will understand the language, food, dress codes, gender expectations, etc.  However, I believe that the immigrant person has an identity crisis. Being pulled on one side by their programming in the Cultural Introduction Stage and continual pressures by the home key people to “know your roots”, date people from your own culture … Remember the idiom Birds of a feather flock together ?

Dulwich College Singapore

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

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