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As the U.S. population becomes much more culturally diversified, it’s important for children to learn about different cultures through education. With that in mind, some private, alternative and charter schools have taken cultural education as a foundation for their curriculum.
How Do You Make Students More Culturally Aware?
Often the term “cultural competency” is used when talking about emphasizing culture in the education forum. Cultural competency is defined as, “The ability of individuals to work or respond effectively across cultures in a way that acknowledges and respects the culture of another. Culturally competent youth are respectful of the values, beliefs, traditions, and customs of others.”
To introduce this concept to students, it’s helpful to start at a young age, when children may be more open to learning about and experiencing other cultures. When we don’t spend much time around people of other cultures and belief-systems, we tend to think of our own as the right or “normal” way of living. This includes examining stereotypes and prejudices. Very young children don’t usually have entrenched beliefs about people of other cultures.
Things Parents Can Do
There are a number of learning opportunities that parents can provide their children to increase cultural awareness:
• Taste foods from different countries
• Watch educational programs on TV
• Attend a local festival and ask questions about exhibits or programs
Being open is the best way to model cultural learning. As a parent or teacher, you will learn, too!