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John A. Brownridge Ed.D.

Cultural Learning and Socialization
John Brownridge Ed.D.

Cultural learning is an important aspect of total education because it is through the influences and control mechanisms of human society that individuals form ideas and values and learn how to deal with them. Educators today are often concerned with the learning styles of individual students. It is important to recognize that culture and socialization have a great influence on how these styles are formed and developed.

Not only is new information learned and passed on through cultural traditions, but rules and recipes concerning behavioral expectations are also established in this context, and the interpretation of symbolic meanings in society is learned. The process by which children learn through the culture of their parents, their extended families and society at large is called enculturation.

Human societies, like those of the animal kingdoms, are controlled and protected by certain norms and values, and individual members of society must find their role by fulfilling the needs and functions of the whole group. In order to be accepted, they must learn the boundaries of behavior within their cultural framework and develop a lifestyle that is seen to be useful and productive. Certain aspects of cultural development may be learned consciously through a formal education system, but by far the greatest part is learned through gradual assimilation of values within the context of the family and local community.

Direct teaching of many cultural norms usually takes place during childhood as parents train their children in what is and is not acceptable behavior. Habits of politeness, courtesy and respect, for example, are taught in this way. Where infractions of these basic values occur, children tend to be corrected, not only by family members but also in daily contact with other adults and children outside of the home. In a school situation, the societal norms concerning behavior are reflected in the rules and regulations of the institution, and the consequences of neglecting behavioral requirements encourage cooperation.

Many aspects of enculturation are acquired by copying the behavior and habits of others. This is very obvious in certain animal societies, like that of wolves or monkeys, but humans are also intrinsically disposed to emulate and imitate the behavior they observe in the world around them. Individuals generally do not want to be different and isolated from their peers, especially during the rapid growth and learning periods of their lives. Both young children and adolescents go to great lengths to imitate the dress, language and habits of those around them, and this is a prominent and necessary part of the enculturation process. Many of the cultural and societal values adopted during adolescence are acquired subconsciously as young people interact and socialize with each other

Although enculturation starts at birth and is most intense during childhood and adolescence, it should be viewed as a life-long progression. It is a necessary process as it is the way that societies become unified and homogeneous. Even though many cultural practices change and evolve, core beliefs tend to remain the same, giving unique status and identification to societies in different parts of the world. Cultural learning and socialization ensure that distinct cultures and societies survive and prosper, even within the social context of a single country.