Nowadays, the problem of cultural identity should not be underestimated. In fact, in the modern globalized world there is a strong trend to losing national identity in the result of the amalgamation of culture, or, to put it more precisely, in the result of the growing impact of western culture on other culture of the world. At the same time, individuals naturally cannot live without identity. This is why willingly or not they develop certain cultural identity under the impact of a variety of internal and external factors that actually shape their personality.
In fact, individuals’ identity is inseparable from their personality. Consequently, human relations are, to a significant extent, predetermined by their cultural identity that effects dramatically their communication. As a result, it is always necessary to take into consideration the peculiarities of cultural identity of each individual, especially in education because modern education, being an extremely complicated process, is based on the idea that each individual is unique and his/her needs should be met in the process of education.
Cultural identity in the modern world Before discussing cultural identity in the context of education, it is primarily necessary to briefly dwell upon the concept of cultural identity in the modern world. In fact, the modern concept of cultural identity is based on two key elements, notably modern identity implies being alike other people within a group and common categorizing of outward phenomena, such as race or clothes people wear .
However, in recent year such an attitude to identity is considered to be simplistic and specialists insist that it should be expanded. Obviously, such a definition of identity implies that cultural identity is basically formed in the process of the development of individual, i. e. it is acquired in the result of social relationships of an individual with other people. In stark contrast, to this position, there is an ultimately opposite view on cultural identity as the product of human nature.
To put it more precisely, A. J. Ayer insists that “the general criteria of personal identity may be solely physical in nature that means that the idnividual’s identity is based on his/her physical identity” . Nowadays, such a view is widely criticized, and Baum for instance, underlines that in the postmodern world identity is becoming reconstructed and redefined and, what is more, “the problem of identity is one of avoiding a fixed identity and keeping our options open” .
Nevertheless, regardless the concept of ‘flexible’ cultural identity it is necessary to underline that that it is still an integral part of the individual’s personality. In actuality, “we are neither only what we inherit nor only what we acquire but, instead, stem from dynamic relationship between what we inherit and what we acquire” . In this respect, the ‘flexibility’ of cultural identity also implies individual’s freedom which is actually based on what an individual inherits and what he/she acquires . Cultural identity in educational system
Obviously, cultural identity is of a paramount importance and its role in education is particularly significant because the individual’s identity is constantly developing and, being submitted to changes, it can affect his/her personality dramatically. At the same time, as cultural identity is shaped in the result of relationships between people, than the education process involves the interaction between people who have different cultural identity, different social and economic background, and whose views may vary significantly.
At the same time, it is important to underline that the cultural identity of all agents of the education system, i. e. both educators and learners, is equally important because they constantly mutually influence each other. Also, it is worthy of mention that cultural identity is affected by different factors, including inherit and acquired ones. This is why the cultural identity in the modern education system implies the necessity of the development of such a relationship that would provide the possibility to possibly fuller realize the potential of each individual on the basis of his/her unique cultural identity.
Unquestionably, cultural identity is partially inherited since it is quite natural that an individual acquires certain stereotypes, norms and models of behavior from his/her parents and in the course of times such similarity of a child and parents are growing stronger as the child learns more from his/her parents and develops his/her cultural identity. In fact, in such a situation, a child inherits not just traditions and experience of his/her parents but also traditions and experience of the whole people, or culture, and naturally acquires the experience of this culture that has been accumulating for decades and centuries.
Furthermore, cultural identity is, to a significant extent, predetermined by social position of the individual and his/her social background. As a result, it is possible to estimate that cultural inheritances of an individual which he/she receives from his/her family, interact with social reality and position of the individual in the community. Consequently, “it is in these cultural inheritances that much of our identity is constituted and is thus marked by the social class to which we belong” . Also, it should be said that the development of cultural identity occurs in the process of education.
It is important to realize that human beings are conscious of the fact that they are affected by their cultural identity and the effects of their social environment that creates opportunities to “overcome the strength of cultural inheritance” that can occur in the process of education. As a result, it is possible to say that cultural identity can be changed and this change can occur in the process of education. Moreover, to a significant extent, cultural identity is shaped in the process of learning that is a natural process for human beings who are simply programmed to learn.
As a result, in the process of learning individuals create their own historical and cultural worlds, which “are our products, and … we become animals who are permanent inscribed in a process of learning and seeking” . The role of cultural identity in educational process Obviously, as the cultural identity is extremely important in the educational process, it is quite natural that it is necessary to provide individuals with the opportunity to have freedom in the development of their identity. What is more, their own cultural identity should not be by no means discriminated or simply ignored.
In stark contrast, in the modern really democratic school, it is necessary to provide all students from different socio-cultural background with equal opportunities. However, in the current situation, it is quite difficult to do because the problem of equal opportunities is extremely serious and not often the cultural aspect is taken into consideration when educators attempt to solve this problem. To put it more precisely, it should be said that different students have different cultural identity.
At the same time, there exist the dominant class in the society which plays the primary role in the socio-economic life of society and tend to dominate in the cultural sphere. Naturally, such relations are extrapolated on schools as well. As a result, nowadays, there exist private schools where basically student from upper classes study and there are public schools where students from lower classes prevail . Naturally, in such a situation the teacher-student relationship may be affected dramatically.
For instance, teachers representing the middle class could feel inferior to the upper class students in private schools and, in contrast, feel superior in public schools in relation to lower class students. Obviously, such attitudes are totally unacceptable for progressive educators. This is why it is extremely important to develop normal relationship with students with different cultural identity and treat them objectively avoiding revengeful attitude to upper class students or scornful attitude to lower class students.
In fact, it is necessary to take into consideration the cultural identity of students and stimulate the development of the conscious and objective position of students in relation to their self-esteem and, thus, change their cultural identity making it more objective. Practically, it means that working with lower class students it is necessary to stimulate their self esteem and make them feel respectful to their own cultural identity. It is not a secret that often the overwhelming majority of students in public schools represent lower class families.
Consequently, as the experience shows, their self esteem is quite low and they do not really believe that they can play any important role in the society. In fact, often they feel as if they are outcasts and, as some students believe, if they disappeared, no one would have even noticed their disappearance. In this respect, it is particularly dangerous when teachers ignore their social background and cultural identity since often such students have very peculiar semantics, accents and syntax which do not correspond to the norms of standard language used in the modern education.
As a result, the students from lower classes risk of being academically less successful than students from the middle and upper classes and, as a rule, they actually are. On searching possible solutions of such a situation, it is possible to recommend referring to the cultural identity of students that will help better understand their personality and reveal their real skills and abilities. To put it more precisely, they should have a chance to realize their skills and abilities regardless the linguistic specificity.
It means that they may use different terms and language to explain different phenomena but they may be correct. Furthermore, in order to improve the position of lower class students with cultural identity which may be characterized as that of outcasts, it is possible to recommend the improvement of the current education policy which actually leads to segregation of public schools for in some scools the percentage of non-white students is reaching 100%, while white students from upper classes often turn to be in a privileged position studying at private schools, for instance.
Conclusion Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that nowadays the cultural identity is extremely important and affects the educational process dramatically. It is necessary to underline that in the current situation cultural identity cannot remain fixed, especially in the sphere of education but, instead, should be constantly modified in order to make students conscious of their own cultural identity and that it is not always an objective concept.
Moreover, one of the major tasks of progressive educators is to treat students equally and objectively, taking into consideration their cultural identity. What is more, teachers possess certain authority in education process, consequently, they should use it properly in order to avoid revengeful or scornful attitude to students. At the same time, in relation to lower class students, teachers could change the cultural identity of such students for better and improve their self-esteem.