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Cultural Awareness

During the month of February, we have been highlighting the importance of increasing our cultural awareness & competency here at AK Child & Family, where both our staff and the students & families we serve represent a rich variety of cultural backgrounds.
We are striving to ensure we respond respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures, classes, races, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and faiths or religions in a manner that recognizes, affirms, and values the worth of individuals, families, tribes, and communities, and protects and preserves the dignity of each.
At our February “All-Staff Meeting”, we focused on the 10 components of culture. A fun “Human Bingo” activity helped us begin to explore: Survival, Education, Transportation, Communication, Economy, Technology, Social Structure, Beliefs & Traditions, Rules & Regulations, and Arts & Recreation. The interaction with one another helped us identify and learn a little about one another’s cultural backgrounds in a short period of time. Learning about our own culture and the makeup of our culture helps us work better with people of different cultures. It’s important that we understand that culture is acquired or learned.
“Culture” can be a confusing word. The Merriam-Webster dictionary offers six definitions for it (including the biological one, as in “bacterial culture”). The problem is that “culture” is more than the sum of its definitions. If anything, its value as a word depends on the tension between the differing definitions. The critic Raymond Williams, in his souped-up dictionary, “Keywords,” writes that “culture” has three divergent meanings: there’s culture as a process of individual enrichment, as when we say that someone is “cultured”; culture as a group’s “particular way of life:” and there’s multiculturalism. These three senses of culture are quite different: indeed, they compete with one another. Each time we use the word “culture,” we incline toward one or another of its aspects: toward the “culture” that’s imbibed through osmosis or the “culture” that’s learned at museums, toward the “culture” that makes you a better a person or the “culture” that just inducts you into a group.
Educating ourselves and the young people we work with about culture will enhance the work and relationships we have with another.