Understanding culture and heritage: Part Two…hints for curricula reviewers and policymakers


LET me begin this part with a quote that reminds us of the complexity of culture.
The quote is taken from The Importance of Culture in Evaluation: A Practical Guide for Evaluators Report prepared for The Colorado Trust by Kien Lee:
“Culture comes in many forms and shapes that are constantly evolving. One way of thinking about culture is as ‘an iceberg sticking out of the ocean’.
At the tip of the iceberg, visible above sea level, are relatively obvious forms of culture, such as music, dance, food, clothing, language, skin colour, celebrations and art.
These forms are more easily recognised and understood by someone outside the culture. They produce few misunderstandings between people in and outside the culture.
Right beneath the sea level are less obvious forms of culture, such as religion, history, rituals related to birth and death, social class, concepts of beauty, patterns of superior and subordinate relationships, rites of passage, body language and use of leisure time.
These forms may become apparent to the outsider who asks the right questions, listens carefully and pays close attention to non-verbal cues. If misunderstood, negative feelings between people in and outside the culture could result.”
The importance of preserving cultural heritage lies in the sense of belonging and unity that it offers.
Cultural heritage and traditions serve to link us with our ancestors, which is valuable and should not be lost.
The beliefs and laws laid down by the roots of our culture are meaningful and are for the betterment of our lives.
Everything from marriage traditions to religious beliefs should be valued in any culture.
Even though times are changing now and ‘mixed cultures’ are in fashion, efforts to not let go of original cultures are constantly carried out.
Below is a summary of reasons culture is important:
– Ancestry: Our cultures help us gain valuable information about our ancestry. Cultural traditions are like pages in a history book which should be read with interest. Human beings do not live for eternity, but their cultures do. Cultures give us a gateway to study about our ancestors.
– Self-realisation: When we study about the roots of our cultures and follow them accordingly, we get to know about ourselves much better. We can better relate to our origin and value ourselves more. It boosts our self-respect and dignity to follow our culture. It also makes us feel proud to belong to our own culture.
– Evolutionary enlightenment: Evolutionary enlightenment: Knowing our culture in-depth gives us a sneak peek into our evolution. Cultures have originated in ancient times when human beings started to live as a community. Thus, studying about our cultures and of the entire world’s is extremely interesting and it surely gives us some enlightenment about ancient times. This also gives us the required clarity against all our doubts.
– Moral values: Following a culture instills moral values in us. Every culture has its share of knowledge and beliefs which make us better human beings. It makes us responsible people who can co-exist with each other in a harmonious society.
– Discipline: Cultural traditions keep us disciplined. Every culture has certain norms and laws Laid down, which, if followed, lead to peaceful existence. The rules were made for a reason and should be followed correctly. Neglecting cultural traditions is not wise and should not be kept as an option.
– Knowledge: Detailed study about every aspect of our culture can give us profound knowledge. Cultures never demand blind followers. Everything is well explained and accounted for in history. Studying about them will make us more knowledgeable.
– Compassion: Every culture teaches us to co-exist with all the other cultures in the world. Cultural teachings always aim for peace. They teach us to live compassionately and respectfully with everyone so that peace prevails.
– Meaning of life: Cultures teach us the real meaning of life. Every phase of our life demands different actions and our culture teaches us that. As we grow up and grow old, our culture holds our hand and directs us towards the right path.
– Safeguard future generations: Cultural traditions were made by our experienced ancestors who wanted to pass on their valued knowledge about life to every generation of mankind, henceforth, to make their survival easier.
– Responsibility: Cultural traditions teach us to be responsible human beings. A culture-less and lawless human being is just another animal. Our culture and society make us be the responsible entities that we are.
We can further summarise all these benefits by saying that participating in culture can benefit individuals in many different ways, some of which are deeply personal.
They are a source of delight and wonder, and can provide emotionally and intellectually moving experiences, whether pleasurable or unsettling, that encourage celebration or contemplation.
Culture is also a means of expressing creativity, forging an individual identity and enhancing or preserving a community’s sense of place.
Indeed, cultural experiences are opportunities for leisure, entertainment, learning, and sharing experiences with others.
From museums to theatres and from dance studios to public libraries, culture brings people together.
Our culture should be upheld as our heritage. Nothing and no one should be allowed to attack or destroy our cultural traditions.
It is always wise to remember that our cultures define our existence and make us who we are across generations.
To this end, culture is the lifeblood of any vibrant society, expressed in the many ways we tell our stories, celebrate, remember the past, entertain ourselves and imagine the future.
Our creative expression helps define who we are and helps us see the world through the eyes of others.
You can participate in culture in many ways — as audiences, professionals, amateurs, volunteers and donors or investors.
And besides this intrinsic value, culture also provides important social and economic benefits.
With improved learning and health, increased tolerance and opportunities to come together with others, culture enhances our quality of life and increases overall well-being for both individuals and communities.


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