The second purpose of education is cultural in nature. Culture is the set of formal and informal practices shared by a group of people, normally living in the same geographic locality, or sharing something else in common, such as religion.
Thus there is such a thing as Filipino culture, Chinese culture, or American culture and so on — which can be further broken down into subcultures per region — so Davao would have its own set of customs and practices, Cebu would have another, and so on.
Some of these practices can be weird for others and capitalized by comedians using their own racial quirks as sources of humor — like a Filipino-American guy who talks about his mom using Vicks as a cure-all for any ailment, or that old Chinese story about the family patriarch on his deathbed, who sees his wife and all his children gathered around him. He looks at them, then calls each one by name, then looks alarmed and says, “You’re all here. Who’s minding the store?”
One can also talk about a Christian culture, Muslim culture, Jewish Culture, Buddhist culture, and so on, where even people from different geographic locations would share some common practices (such as prayers or rituals) based on religion, and again these can have their own subcultures depending on the particular sect within a religion..
Robinson’s shorthand way of describing culture is “how we do things around here.”
One might think that education’s role is to perpetuate these practices and customs — and indeed that is what many schools do — but we ought to go beyond simply that.
As different parts of the world become more and more accessible to people, we are seeing more and more diverse communities composed of multiple races, religions, and nationalities. If education were to focus only on the perpetuation of one’s own culture, then it is quite possible to bloat one’s sense of importance of one’s own culture and develop a disdain for others.
We need not look far back to see conflicts and even wars between different cultures like Christian vs Muslim, Catholic vs Protestant, Hindu vs Muslim, Shia vs Sunni, Hutu vs Tutsi, Black vs White vs Latinos vs Asians.
The important and practical direction for education would be, as Robinson puts it, to “understand their own cultures, to understand other cultures, and to promote a sense of cultural tolerance and coexistence.” In other words, educating for culture is not merely a means of propagating and appreciating one’s culture, but must necessarily include a basic respect for the diversity of others.
Only then can we live in harmony with each other.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.