The institutions of education which are shaping the minds of todays’ youth do not all teach the same facts and curriculum. Throughout the world there are differing opinions on what, when, and how certain facts, theories, and concepts should be taught. Not all children are taught the same truths; this statement might sound unfair, or maybe incomprehensible. How, one may ask, could accepted truths not be taught as such; and what decides whether they will be or not? Cultural constructs such as norms, morals, and shared religious beliefs play a role in what education consists of and looks like for different groups of children all over the world.
Let’s take a look at the common History class. When taking a History class in the United States you will most likely be learning U. S. History, and even if you take a World History class it will still focus on the U. S. and how it interacted with and impacted other countries. In Japan you would be learning Japanese History. However if you were to read through certain Japanese history text books you might be alarmed to find that Japan is portrayed not only as a victim instead of an aggressor in the context of WWII and that there is a lack of general information regarding their participation in the war all together.
Largely in debate is the Nanking Massacre in which the Japanese allegedly systematically kill 300,000 people including both civilians and soldiers. There are two schools of thought, The Massacre Denial and The Massacre Affirmative. Japan’s culture is one of honor which makes it difficult for them to acknowledge their mistakes, and thus largely try to ignore the Nanking incident in a sort of sweep it under the rug fashion. In Japanese Universities many teachers will teach that while the event did happen the numbers were closer to 10,000 and included only soldiers while some classes do not cover the topic at all.
In China they teach that it did in fact happen and claim the body count reached 300,000 or more. The effect of this difference in truths being taught is that in Japan younger generations do not view Japan as having been an aggressor in the war, and younger Chinese generations continue to view the Japanese as horrible people. Then there is Human Growth and Development / Sex Ed. While many believe it is a necessary section of what children learn in Health classes, some find it to go against their culture.
In certain groups simply discussing opening a woman’s menstrual cycle or how a baby is made can be taboo. Not to mention once you start getting into discussions about birth control options and how to properly put on a condom all hell can break lose. To those whose culture forbids them from having premarital sex, these classes can seem obscene and worrisome in the sense that perhaps these classes will cause their children to commit these sins after acquiring knowledge about it.
Then there are also cultures who simply think that school is not a place for these things to be covered, and that it is the parents’ responsibility to teach their children about them themselves. Another main concern is also when these things will be taught. I myself remember being taught about the changes that would happen to my body once I hit puberty starting around 4th grade in Human Growth and Development classes. It wasn’t until high school that anyone really talked about sex, and ways to make it safe.
Some people think that due to rates of teen pregnancy and the way these teen parents seem to be getting younger and younger, that it may be necessary to begin bringing up safe sex much earlier on. However, many people believe this would be overstepping many cultural boundaries. Either way schools almost always allow parents to remove children from these classes as they understand that these matters are viewed differently by different cultures. The way in which the Theory of Evolution is taught throughout the U. S. s another prime example of how cultural beliefs try and sometimes succeed in shaping educational curriculum.
While throughout the science community the Theory of Evolution is greatly accepted as the reason behind animals and humans being the way they are today, the fashion in which it is taught to students throughout the United States varies from state to state. A map published in a 2002 issue of Scientific American which was based on data collected by Lawrence S. Lerner of California State University the map depicts the quality of coverage given to the Theory of Evolution in each states Science Standards.
It shows that while in a little over half of the states the teaching of the theory is considered very good to satisfactory, a number of states, particularly several in the Bible Belt, an area of the Southern United States where the culture reflects the strongly conservative and Evangelical population which boasts higher church attendance than the countries average; there is “unsatisfactory, useless, or absent” coverage of the theory. The battle to allow for another theory to be taught instead of, or alongside Evolution is ongoing but has been approved in Kentucky as well as Tennessee.
These states now teach Creationism/Creation Science, “A literal belief in the biblical account of Creation as it appears in the Book of Genesis. Creationists believe that the creation of the world and all its creatures took place in six calendar days; they therefore deny the theory of evolution. ”() In areas of the U. S. where religion is not a large part of culture it is not likely for Creationism to be seen as something which should be taught in science classes, however is areas where the religious roots of a culture run deep the attempts such as these to control education are apparent.
If one were to make a list of all things which are agreed upon by their culture to be truths and compared it to that of another’s there would undoubtedly be differences. While one would hope the majority of facts matched there will always be variations. This is reflected through the words of teachers and the knowledge of their students. Ones’ culture defines what education consists of and looks like for them, perhaps it seems unfair, but it is undeniably true. Not all children are taught the same truths.
Courtney from Study Moose
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