Culture, the learned Helu-Thaman contends, “is central to all understanding of human endeavors” (cited in Leach & Little, 1999, p. 69). The corollary implications of the author’s contention scope a wide range of study. But the crux of her contention lies in affirming the fact that culture greatly colors the unique manner by which peoples of different backgrounds perceive one and the same reality.
Which is why, and along the same vein, this paper seeks to shed light into the convenient but incurably truthful proposition that education, since it is operative within the overarching concept of culture, is a human endeavor that is taken differently by people of differing cultural backgrounds. Specifically, this brief work takes a keen interest in discussing the extent to which families and children alike variously emphasize education as an activity that cuts across the attainment of personal development and growth on the one hand, and the fulfillment of corporate and/or familial responsibilities on the other hand.
Polarizing Emphasis and Path towards Integration Two contrasting facets of education take shape from the contention just cited. First, it is generally accepted that people pursue education or higher learning on account of the desire, if not the need, to attain a certain level of competence, excellence and fruitfulness as one progress in life. Human excellence, it might as well be argued, is an aspect which bears no little importance to the motives of those who endeavor towards higher scholastic training.
Second however, it is also not without good reasons to suppose that a good majority of people educate themselves on account of finding viable ways to fulfill the corporate responsibilities laid on to their shoulders. In other words, people are educated not only to do well in the eyes of the society, but also – nay, even more so – to maintain a decent kind of life in support of their families’ interests and needs. Without having to engage in unwarranted stereotyping, it may help to cite that these seemingly polarizing positions get usually typified by way of racial behaviors and temperaments.
For instance, it is often said that American and European adolescents, whose sense of individuality is greatly pronounced, tend to put higher premium than most on upholding a level of autonomy in respect to many avenues of human activities, not the least in regard to education. Just the same, behavioral autonomy is highly valued for and by adolescents developing along an independent pathway. On the other side of the spectrum, the emphasis upon familial duty appears to be readily shared by adolescents from Asian and Latin American immigrant families.
Zhou & Bankston (1998), by quoting a Vietnamese interviewee, could not have said it more clearly: “To be an American, you may be able to do whatever you want. But to be a Vietnamese, you must think of your family first” (p. 166). In fact, recent studies of immigrant families within the United States have suggested that many Asian and Latin American families continue to emphasize familial duty and obligation in pursuing education on account of a feeling of indebtedness and desire to maintain a better life. Ho (1981) confirms the validity of such observation.
He submits that many Asian cultural traditions “have valued family solidarity, respect and commitment. ” Along the same vein, Helu-Thalman, in her succinct review of the paradigmatic orientations of the people of Tonga, subscribe to the view that many non-Western students value education not only as a “good in itself” but as a “means of acquiring knowledge and skills necessary to find jobs that pay well,” and thereby “fulfill obligations within various groups in which they interact” (1999, p. 75). How then can one successfully integrate the two seemingly mutually exclusive take on education?
Better yet, what can Americans and Asians/Latin Americans learn from each other’s working paradigm on the general thrust of their scholastic learning? Herein it would be necessary to cite that discerning an integrative point of synthesis can help enrich the very concept of education. In other words, one needs to affirm that both facets of education – i. e. the ontological and utilitarian motives – are valid in themselves, and merit considerable emphasis whenever needed. On the one hand, Americans can always learn from the utilitarian approach which many of their Asian and Latin American counterparts employ in seeing their education.
A utilitarian approach, it may be argued, can afford people with practical avenues that translate scholastic concepts into concrete life-sensitive actions. On the other hand, Asians and/or Latin American can appreciate the inherent worth of education by peeking through how Americans have greatly valued its ontological worth; i. e. , being educated, notwithstanding practical uses, is already a good in itself. Such ontological approach can make Asians and Latin Americans alike realize the nobility that comes with any activity – e. g.
, education at that – that seeks to promote human excellence, more than anything else. Conclusion Briefly therefore, this paper concludes that while there are differing emphases on what constitutes the general thrust of education, it is not without good reasons to suppose that people of different backgrounds can learn from each other’s otherwise unique take on the matter, specifically in an attempt to successfully integrate the more ontological approach to pursuing the education into a perceptively utilitarian conduct of the same.
In the discussions that were developed, it was seen that culture plays a crucial role in informing the motives of any human activity, being that culture is an all-inclusive reality. In the ultimate analysis however, it merits noting that the seemingly contrasting poles of education must not be taken as mutually exclusive, but as diverse points for greater integration, if only that many people can appreciate the larger goal and picture for which education first and foremost exists.
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