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Cultural Awareness:
Its Influence on Our Children

( Intro to a Series of four articles by Scott Clift )


Author's background
Scott Clift is the Statewide Project Coordinator of the MN Cultural Dynamics Education Project. Having grown up in Japan as a European American expatriate, his experiences have led to unique perspectives on interactions between and within cultures. He has lived and traveled extensively around the world. Educated in the humanities, Mr. Clift pursues a multi-disciplinary approach to issues surrounding communication and childhood development.

My greatest fear is that I will hear one more person say,

"I am colorblind. I treat everyone the same.".

While I know that they mean to say,

"I treat everyone equally.",

there is something insidious in this comment that I would like to examine with you over the course of this series of articles on "Culture Awareness: It's Influence on our Children."

Culture: a word often misused, overused, abused, or feared.

But! . . . What is it? . . . Who has it? . . . How do we define it?

And most importantly! . . . Why should we continue talking about it?

Haven't we as a society moved beyond needing to talk about it? Haven't we done enough cultural diversity / sensitivity training?

Even in my own work as a coordinator for a statewide training endeavor to discuss these very topics, these questions continue to be raised inside me. They are not comfortable questions because they challenge the value of my efforts. What I fear most is the comfortable place of thinking that I have, indeed, done enough.

And yet, I am reminded with each child whose hand I touch and eyes that gaze at me, that we have not done enough. For I know without a shadow of a doubt that our children are not being given everything they deserve to succeed in the diverse world of today and tomorrow.

Over the course of the next few months, I will be presenting to you five articles that will focus on "culture" and its influence on our children. I hope to offer you deeper insights into the meaning of culture and of how a heightened awareness of it will help us all build a better world in which our children can succeed. Initially, we will look at how and why the Cultural Dynamics Education Project was developed in Minnesota for child educators and caregivers, focusing on how our heightened awareness of the issues at hand is more important now than it has ever been before.

We will then tease out what we mean by culture and reclaim its meaning from popular usage. Thirdly, we will discuss how communication stems from our cultural milieu and identity, and some techniques for increasing our effectiveness as friends, colleagues, spouses, teachers, and parents.

Any discussion of culture would not be complete without a serious examination of the larger societal issues that play a part in children's development. We will look at some of the institutional ways culture is treated, and what role we may play in either supporting or working against those trends.

Finally, I hope to offer some tips that we can implement and resources that will support us as we continue moving on this journey.

I invite you to walk this stretch of your journey with me. I will not always say things that are pleasant or comfortable. I ask you to keep an open mind, acknowledging that this is the path that we must walk together, for it is only together that we will build a better world for our children.

MN CDEP's logo

Cultural Dynamics Education Project  (CDEP)
Created in response to Minnesota's changing demographics, CDEP educates child educators and care providers in the significance and dynamics surrounding each individual's culture. It is affiliated with the Early Childhood Resource Center (ECRC) in Minneapolis.
Please visit the CDEP website at www.ecrc1.org .



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