At-Risk Kids: Cultural Bias is Part of Our CultureBy Bill Page
Indians turned down college scholarships, but offered free educational experiences of their own.
Cultural Bias is Part of Our Culture
Culture is defined quite as: How we do things here.
The “things” can mean everything we do and the “here” can be our school, community, or nation. What we eat, how we eat, when we eat, what we eat with, what we wear, what we value, even how we think and perceive is cultural. A hundred percent of our learning is cultural.
People don’t usually think much about our culture because it is such an automatic part of our existence. As we observe people of other cultures, we make comparisons… quite naturally think our way is best. For the most part, our own culture is all we really know very well. Most of us are familiar with subcultures such as ethnic, cowboy, redneck, southern, etc. Within schools, categories such as Nerd, Preppy, Rah-Rah, Jock, Loner, Geek, and freak are subcultures of kids recognized by their dress, manner, adornments, hairdos, walk, talk and so forth.
As our society and therefore our classrooms become more and more multi-cultural, teachers should think about other cultures and our natural bias for our own culture. The following authentic letter from Benjamin Franklin, and the Indian response, are well done and are interesting examples of the cultural biases. It can serve as an enjoyable, revealing stimulus for a good class or faculty discussion on cultures and cultural bias. [Read on below]
Remarks concerning the Savages of North America
Pamphlet by Benjamin Franklin, Ca. 1784
At the treaty of Lancaster, in Pennsylvania, anno 1744, between the Government of Virginia and the Six Nations, the commissioners from Virginia acquainted the Indians by a speech, that there was at Williamsburg a college with a fund for educating Indian youth; and that if the chiefs of the Six Nations would send down half a dozen of their sons to that college, the government would take care that they be well provided for, and instructed in all the learning of the white people.
The Indians’ spokesman replied:
We know that you highly esteem the kind of learning taught in those colleges, and that the maintenance of our young men, while with you, would be very expensive to you. We are convinced, therefore, that you mean to do us good by your proposal and we thank you heartily.
But you, who are wise, must know that different nations have different conceptions of things; and you will not, therefore, take it amiss, if our ideas of this kind of education happen not to be the same with yours. We have had some experience of it; several of our young people were formerly brought up at the colleges of the northern provinces; they were instructed in all your sciences; but, when they came back to us, they were bad runners, ignorant of every means of living in the woods, unable to bear either cold or hunger, knew neither how to build a cabin, take a deer, nor kill an enemy, spoke our language imperfectly, were therefore neither fit for hunters, warriors, nor counselors; they were totally good for nothing.
We are, however, not the less obligated by your kind offer, though we decline accepting it and to show our grateful sense of it. If the gentlemen of Virginia will send us a dozen of their sons, we will take care of their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them.