Attributes of Culture Race

Attributes of Culture
Although race has often been defined as a biological category, it has been argued that race is a
biological concept of little use because there are no “pure” races (e.g., all humans are genetically
racially mixed, though few of us might know this or acknowledge it). Recent research in
mapping the genetic code of five people of different races demonstrates that the concept of race
has no scientific basis (Akron Beacon Journal, 2000). Nevertheless, in the United States, race is
an important category and is judged largely based on skin color. The latest U.S. census included
a category for “mixed race” in addition to such categories as “White,” “Black,” “Hispanic-nonWhite,” and “Asian and Pacific Islander.” Technically, race is not part of culture, yet in this
county, people define their race as their culture.
• How is race evident in your life?
• Is it something you think about daily?
• What benefits do you have in this country because of your race?
• How has race affected your learning and social experience/s?
Gender is defined based on a set of physical characteristics related to male and female
reproduction (but remember, of course, that one’s reproductive organs can be surgically
changed). Cultural meanings associated with gender are expressed in terms of socially valued
behaviors that are assigned according to one’s gender. Gender roles are those sets of behaviors
thought by a particular people to be “normal” and “good” when carried out by the assigned sex.
• How is gender evident in your life?
• Is it something you think about daily?
• What benefits do you have in society due to your gender?
• How has gender affected your learning and social experience/s?
Social Class
Social class is culturally defined based on those criteria by which a person or social group may
be ranked in relation to others in a stratified society. Common terms you might have heard are
“working class,” “poor,” “middle class,” “rich,” “owning class,” etc. There is considerable debate
about the criteria that determine social class. Some identify class membership primarily in terms
of wealth and its origin (e.g., inherited or newly earned). Others prefer to consider criteria such
as amount of one’s education, power, and influence, as well as one’s choice of leisure pursuits.
• How is social class evident in your life?
• Is it something you think about daily?
• What are the benefits you reap because of your social class?
• How has social class affected your life experience/s?
Ethnicity is defined according to the knowledge, beliefs, and behavior patterns shared by a group
of people with the same history and the same language. Ethnicity carries a strong sense of
“peoplehood,” or loyalty to one’s community. Nationality is defined based on shared citizenship
that may or may not include a shared ethnicity. In the contemporary world, the population of
most nations includes citizens and resident non-citizens who vary in ethnicity. While we are
accustomed to this idea in the U.S., we are sometimes unaware that it is also the case in other
nations. Thus, we tend to identify all people from Japan as Japanese, all people from France as
French, etc. Similarly, when American citizens of varying ethnic identities go abroad, they tend
to be identified as “American.”
• How did you learn about your ethnicity and nationality?
• How are the concepts of ethnicity and nationality evident in your life?
• Is it something you think about daily?
• How have ethnicity and nationality affected your educational and social experience/s?
Religion and spirituality are defined based on a shared set of ideas about the relationship of the
earth and the people on it to a deity or deities and a shared set of rules for living moral values
that will enhance that relationship. A set of behaviors identified with worship is also commonly
shared. Religious identity may include membership in a world – – wide organized religion (e.g.,
Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism), or in smaller (but also worldwide) sects
belonging to each of the larger religions (e.g., Catholic or Protestant Christianity, or
Conservative, Reformed, or Hasidic Judaism). Religious identity may also include a large variety
of spiritualistic religions, which may or may not be connected to a religious institution.
• How is religion or spirituality evident in your life?
• Is it something you think about daily?
• How have religion and/or spirituality affected your life experience/s?
• Is your religion a dominant entity in this country?
Geographic Location
Geographic location is defined by the characteristics of the ecological environment in which one
lives. This may include the characteristics of one’s neighborhood or community (rural, suburban,
urban), and/or the natural and climatic features of one’s region (plains, coastal, hot, cold, etc.).
This may also include mobility and the number of places where you have lived.
• How is geographic or regional identity evident in your life?
• Is it something you think about daily?
• How has geographic location affected your life experience/s?
• What values do you consider typical of the region where you currently live?
Age is defined according to the length of time one has lived and the state of physical and mental
development one has attained. Chronological age is measured in different ways by different
social groups or societies. Some calculate it in calendar years, others by natural cycles such as
phases of the moon, and still others by the marking of major natural or social events. Most
humans view such development as a matter of “stages,” but the nature and particular
characteristics of each “stage” may differ widely. In most western societies, for example, age
cohort groups are usually identified as infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age.
In many nonwestern societies, the cohort group we define as adolescents may not exist at all, and
the classifications of childhood and old age may be longer or shorter. In addition, different
societies place different value on age, some placing more emphasis on youth while others
venerate the aged.
• How is age evident in your life?
• Is it something you think about daily?
• How has age affected your life experience/s?
• Is age a factor you think will influence your teaching?
The cultural definition of language is “a shared system of vocal sounds and/or nonverbal
behaviors by which members of a group communicates with one another” (Gollnick & Chin,
1990). It is through language that most other cultural knowledge is acquired. Considerable
research on the relation of brain function to language gives evidence that human beings are “hard
wired” for language development at a stage in brain development (Chomsky, 1966). That is,
children who are in the company of other people appear to be “programmed” to learn whatever
spoken language or sign system is used around them. Children even invent their own language
systems, complete with syntactical structures, if no other language is available. Language is
meaningful in terms of both its verbal properties (what we “name things, people, ideas), and in
terms of its nonverbal properties (its norms regarding interpersonal distance, meaningful
gestures, etc.).
• How is language evident in your life?
• Is it something you think about daily?
• How has language affected your life experience/s?
• Define the best way you communicate with others.
How to cite this document:
Borel, D. A. (2018). Resource: Attributes of culture. In EDLD 5312: Leadership for Diverse
Learners [Class handout]. Retrieved from

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