There is an incredible amount of variety even with a culture or within a family. As opposed to those who are deterministic (i.e. a belief that culture “makes” people do certain actions), I believe humans are unique because of our power to reinterpret and transcend our past (i.e. a belief that “culture” invites certain actions to be more or less likely) – especially as we come to understand what is hidden and have a more clear vision for what we would like in the future. A very interesting new book by Arden Dean, “Power Surge”, vividly describes the innovative power of individuals to create and transcend the status quo (see http://powertoproduce.com).
So how does this fit into the study of culture and its impact on learning/instructional design? First, it is important to recognize and account for the complexity and agency of each human. I like this little section from an upcoming book I am helping co-author that gives a taste for how choice and different associations within a culture contribute to each of our uniqueness.
“No matter how culturally isolated a person’s life may appear,” the educational anthropologist Frederick Erickson has written, “in large-scale modern societies (and even in small-scale traditional societies) each member carries a considerable amount of that society’s cultural diversity inside” (p. 33).
From the field of Multicultural Counseling, Arredondo et al. (1996) have provided a highly useful way of categorizing some of the major subcultural identities that, together, make up the patchwork a person’s cultural identity. Some of these differences are matters of birth, some of choice, and some seem to fall somewhere between the “givens” of one’s birth and the exercise of one’s agency. Arredondo et al. suggest three major “dimensions” of subcultures:
“A” Dimensions: age, culture, gender, language, physical challenge, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class.
“B” Dimensions: geographic location, income, marital status, religion, work experience, citizenship status, military experience, hobbies/recreational interests.
“C” Dimensions: shared historical moments that members of a generation have lived through, characteristics and preferences of that generational cohort.
There are other ways of categorizing subcultural diversity. The general point is simply that, as Arredondo et al. insist, we must always be aware of “the complexity and holism of individuals,” and that “despite the categories we may all fit into or that are assigned to us, the combination of these affiliations is what makes everyone unique” (p. 54).