Perspectives on Culture & Diversity

I asked two of my friends to share their perspectives on culture and diversity with me. Their answers were, at times, surprising and always interesting and informative. My friend Paul Bareis-Golumb is a Montessori elementary and married father of two grown children. He has lived in the US his entire life and relocated from South Dakota to Colorado well over a decade ago. Sandie Nelson Coutts is a British expatriate living in Colorado. She has three grown children and relocated to the US when her children were young. They each offered a fresh perspective on their definitions of culture and diversity.

Culture is the myriad of experiences and events that influence and shape us as we grow and learn. I believe that all learning takes place within the context of relationships and so the people we encounter in our families, communities and societies are critical in the development of our individual values and beliefs.

Diversity to me is about what makes us unique as human beings and also what connects and binds us together, Our essential humanity, which I believe is universal and transcends cultural differences is one pool of collective consciousness. I believe that life is a gift that we are blessed with and how we express and utilize that gift is what makes us a diverse human race.

People by their very nature desire to be connected to each other, and so we define ourselves and those around us using beliefs and values and we try to make sense of our world through the commonalities we share with other human beings. I grew up in England in the 60’s and 70’s so the events and experiences that shaped my growth into womanhood were very different than those of a woman growing up in another part of the world. Here are some examples:

The IRA bombing campaign of the early 70’s caused deep fear and anxiety in my childhood. I started to understand the concept of hatred as I struggled to come to terms with those fears. I still believe that hatred is a failure of imagination and that to truly hate a fellow human being is not possible once you acknowledge that they are truly human just as you are. Knowing that there were people in the world who hated me enough to kill me just because of where I was born was a terrible truth to learn at a young age.

I was a teenager when England had it’s first female Prime Minister. This was hugely influential on my emerging beliefs about the possibilities of what a woman can achieve in the world, even though I personally disagreed with everything she stood for as a politician.

I grew up in a welfare state with access to free health care and came to understand this as basic human right. It has been a painful transition to come to the US and see how easily a person can be thrust into poverty simply because they are sick, injured or disabled. This has been a constant source of sadness for me. I believe a society is ultimately judged against the way it cares for the young, the old and the sick.

I grew up in a county with strict gun control and an unarmed police force. Gun crime was a very rare and unusual thing in my childhood. This has undoubtedly shaped the way I feel about guns and those who use them.

I started my career in early childhood education in a country where teachers were deeply respected and well paid. Quality nursery education is part of the public school system in England and so is free and universally available to all. Again, I came to believe that this is a basic human right and was horrified to find that not to be the case in the US. To see a child disadvantaged in school and life because of the inability of their family to afford a preschool education goes against everything I believe in.

Interesting that when we think of cultural diversity, we often first think of physical differences, but I think it is the values, attitudes and beliefs that really define cultural differences. It’s even more interesting when two people of the same race, upbringing, etc. are radically different. A personal example would be myself, a white male born and raised in South Dakota. Now living in Denver, most of my values, attitudes and beliefs would be atypical for SD and one of the major reasons I’d never return there to live. My brother continues to live in SD, and is quite happy there.

Thank you to my friends for offering these varied perspectives on culture and diversity. I am grateful to you!

~ by vegucationmama on March 23, 2014.

2 Responses to “Perspectives on Culture & Diversity”

  1. It is the connection of others that plays role in our behaviors at times. I remember as a child being a protector of my younger brother, if this meant a fight I would have for him. It was the connection that I had with him that led me to this feeling.

  2. Very in-depth responses and I enjoyed reading them.

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