Question from my Foundations of Educational Theory Class

Is it the family’s or schools’ responsibility to make sure children are educated about their own cultural heritage? Please consider how values training is already a part of a teacher’s curriculum.

My response (part of the assignment requires that we also ask a question):

One of the chestnuts of philosophical debate is whether we have free will or not. As the working of our nervous system has become better know, I think the current consensus on this topic among philosophers can be stated as “we don’t know if free will exists, but people who behave as if they have free will tend to achieve more satisfactory outcomes than those who do not.” With that formulation in mind, let me say I believe that my wife and I are responsible for our daughter’s education, and I think that better outcomes are more likely when parents share that attitude. We delegate some of the work of educating our daughter to her schools, but we are ultimately responsible for her entering adulthood capable of taking care of herself, having good habits, possessing a knowledge of the traditions and mores that we value, and being prepared as much as possible for dealing with life and living it in the way she would like. Sometimes I am pleased with the job the school does in educating her, and sometime I feel the need to step in and improve upon her school experience. And so I do.

As you can imagine, I take it as the responsibility of the family to educate children in their own cultural heritage. My desire would be for the school to be respectful of my daughter’s heritage, but beyond that I do not see that it is the school’s responsibility to teach her my German/English/Polish melange of heritage, or my wife’s Sicilian/French/Canadian heritage. I think the same way about the heritage of her classmates.

I suppose this attitude is part of my cultural heritage!

Each place in America has it’s own local history, and I think that it is important to teach students their local history. Part of this involves the culture of the peoples being studied. Having grown up in California, I recall studying local Native American tribes, Spanish Mission Culture, Japanese culture, among other elementary school topics. In Hawaii, we study local Hawaiian culture for much the same reason – the folks who lived here, and live here still, are important and they should be known and valued.

As far as training students in values, I think that a broad American set of values should be taught in schools: courtesy, patience, turn-taking, honesty, self-reliance, tolerance, etc.

My question is how accurate do you think oral, non-literate cultures are in representing what their ancient values and traditions were? We write things down to preserve them more accurately. We know from childhood whisper games that stories told can quickly change character as they are passed from one person to another. How much ancient culture do you think Sequoya preserved when he created and popularized the Cherokee alphabet versus how much do you think he froze Cherokee culture at the particular point in time when their status quo could be committed to paper?


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