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Reframing the Novice ersus Expert Roles of Children, Parents, and Teachers from a Cultural ... - page 4 / 22





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Doucet and Tudge

these proximal processes are the “engines of development” (1993); it is by engaging in them that individuals learn what is expected of them, which activities are considered appropriate or inappropriate for them, how they are expected to engage in these activities, the ways other peo- ple will deal with them, and the ways in which they are expected to deal with others. People initiate activities themselves and try to draw others into those activities, and it is in the course of these activities that they try out different roles and observe the roles of others, both with regard to themselves and with others.

As Bronfenbrenner and Morris (1998) point out, however, these proximal processes are influenced both by characteristics of the individuals involved and by the environment. Age, gender, temperament, motivation, experience with the activit , experience with the other or others who are also engaged in the activity—all are implicated in the processes by which any activity is altered by the characteristics of the individuals involved. As for the environment, activities are only possible within contexts, and although the contexts can have an impact on the activities that go on within them, the contexts themselves are also transformed in the course of engagement in the activity. Context is partially represented by the settings in which individuals engage in activities, settings to which Bronfenbrenner referred as microsystems. Children always develop in more than a single microsystem, and Bronfenbrenner (1979) coined the term mesosystem to highlight the match or mismatch of children’s everyday expe- riences across different microsystems such as home and school.

To understand the nature of experiences in any microsystem—why children are encouraged to be in some settings and not others; why the settings are established in the ways they are; or why adults encourage some activities, discourage others, and never even consider the possibility of yet other activities—can be explained in part by the specific char- acteristics (values, beliefs, resources, and so forth) that individuals possess. However, such questions relate even more importantly to the social group (e.g., class, race/ethnicity, reli- gion) of which the individuals are a part.

In this context, culture refers to any group that has a shared set of values, beliefs, prac- tices, access to resources, social institutions, and a sense of identity, and that communicates those values, beliefs, and so forth to the next generation. According to this definition, dif- ferent societies constitute different cultural groups, but it is clearly important to recognize that culture is far from a unitary construct. To the extent that Americans share values, be- liefs, practices, access to resources, and a sense of identity as Americans, they may be thought of as members of a culture distinct from Angolans or Japanese. However, within the United States, it is clear that different racial/ethnic or social-class groups also qualify as different cultures to the extent that the definition also applies to them. Blacks and Whites in the United States may share the past 200 years of history, but they have experienced the same events in markedly different ways. Not surprisingly, although they may share a sense of identity as Americans (when contrasting themselves with people from other societies), they also have distinct identities and differing values, beliefs, and practices.

Similarly, a good case can be made for different social classes within any society being considered different cultures on the grounds that, as Kohn and others have argued, mem- bers of different classes have different values and beliefs about child rearing that stem from their different life experiences and that are linked to different ways of raising their children (Kohn, 1979, 1995; Luster, Rhoades, & Haas, 1989; Tudge & Putnam, 1997). Although Whites and Blacks may be considered different cultural groups when focusing on racial/ ethnic patterns, to the extent that middle-class Whites and working-class Whites have

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