Cultural Influence in Education Term Paper

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Cultural Influence in Education

Culture is an evasive term that is hard to define and even harder to name. This is despite the fact that the term is used definitively and repeatedly in almost every aspect of discussion regarding people. The culture of an individual or group is said to define and meld their character and help determine their ethic, morality and their eventual behavior. Many people classify culture by the name of the dominant regional or personal religion and yet it is clear that religion is an aspect of culture, as apposed to one in the same. This is not to say that religion is not a pervasive aspect of culture to the point that in some cultures the dominant faith affects many other aspects of culture and even those who are not members of that particular faith are effected by the that faith through culture. Culture, no matter its influence by religion has a significant influence on education, as its standards determine the manner in which decisions are made, curriculum is developed and ethics and morality are taught to students.

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These observations are particularly true of the Muslim faith as the faith has been the dominant force of culture, law, government, education and everyday life in regions where the faith is pervasive. (Vogel, 2000, p. 81) (Minnis, 1999, p. 172) the Muslim faith is an inclusive system that dominates many aspects of culture and by some standards is the driving force behind aspects of culture which are most influential, such as education. (Reagan, 2005, p. 227) Though this is not to say that the region where the faith dominates is a monolithic or singular culture. (Reagan, 2005, p. 219) a Muslim education is not divorced of faith and religion is in fact a large aspect of curriculum in most Muslim cultures, where defining intellect has as much to do with understanding God and faith as is does math and literature. (Buetow, 1991, p. 281) (Setia, 2007, p. 23)

These issues become particularly difficult to reconcile when people of strong and pervasive faith live in or immigrate to regions where education is more secularized and some would say lacking in the necessary moral lessons of faith, culture and/or morality. (Ravitch, 2002, p.5)

Term Paper on Cultural Influence in Education Assignment

By way of example, following a series of court orders which secularized Ontario public schools -- a change vigorously opposed by many conservative religious believers -- a coalition of Christian, Hindu and Muslim parents sought to establish a constitutional right to funded parochial education. (Collins, 2006, p. 342)

The constitution of the U.S. determines that no religion will be discriminated against by law and to do so have attempted to remove religion from curriculum. "The First Amendment guarantees that 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.'(1)." (Penalver, 1997, p. 791) Yet, to some the discrimination is inherent in a system that refuses to allow a pervasive faith such as the Muslim faith to be an aspect of educating those who are members of that faith.

Reconciling these issues is difficult to say the least. Muslim parents can choose to send their children to expensive parochial schools that are more responsive to religious teachings or allow their children to be educated in the public system and supplement such education with additional religious teaching at home or in places of worship. Neither of these options are likely to be available to all who desire them nor are they likely to fully meet the standards of the faith. If immigration had not taken place the individual would be likely to be able to seek an education for their children that is responsive to religion and particularly the morality that it stresses without concern of the infiltration of contradictory religious and/or moral messages occurring within the school day.

Reagan an expert on cultural influence on education argues that the Islamic faith and that of the Judeo Christian faiths are commonly linked in time and origin and should not be treated as if they are foreign to one another or as if the Islamic faith is historically non-western. (Reagan, 2005, p. 217) While he goes on to stress that this is the stand of many with regard to accepting commonalities and differences or even simply in understanding the Muslim religion, culture, and educational influence and defines this post 9/11 pervasive thought as the reason that Islamic education be included in his text on non-western educational traditions, if for no other reason than that western educators need to understand and be able to respond respectfully to its influence on education. (p.218-220)

There is a clear expression of diversity in application among Islamic cultures, regarding religions practice and even educational standards there are several core messages or practices of the faith that pervade all cultures and national borders of Islamic nations and are shared by all Muslims. (Reagan, 2005, p. 225) These core principles are known as the five pillars of Islam and they are; the profession of faith (shahadah), prayer (salah), almsgiving (zakah), fasting (sawm), and the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj). (Fisher, 1994, pp. 320-323) (Sarwar, 1989, pp. 40-83) (Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri, 1993, pp. 37-42) These pillars require educational acceptance of diversity as they are pervasive in the daily or lifetime role of the Muslim and require maintenance and planning daily.

Underlying all five of the pillars of Islam is the unity of belief and practice, as well as the idea that Islam is not simply a body of religious beliefs, but is rather a unified and consistent way of life for both the individual and the community. 55 Shan a, or Islamic religious law, provides the framework within which Islamic communities should exist, thus ensuring consistency with the mandates of the Qur'an. 56

According to most people who study or live within an Islamic culture the concept of Islam is based on the idea that Islam is not a religion but rather a way to live one's life, which is inclusive of education as well as many other aspects of the human condition.

As Ghulam Sarwar explained, "Islam is a complete way of life. It is the guidance provided by Allah, the Creator of the Universe, for all mankind. It covers all the things people do in their lifetime. Islam tells us the purpose of our creation, our final destiny and our place among other creatures. It shows us the best way to conduct our private, social, political, economic, moral and spiritual affairs." (Reagan, 2005, p. 227)

The value of having a system that guides the standards and practices of a culture is something that most Muslims hold dear and wish to uphold, regardless of their geographic location, and this certainly includes converts to the faith who are not Islamic immigrants to non-Islamic nations. The Qur'an is in fact the guiding standard of the faith and has also been described as the first textbook of the Islamic education system.

This understanding of the nature of the Qur'an, of course, has important educational implications for the Muslim. First, literacy becomes an important religious obligation. Indeed, the name of the Qur'an itself, which can also be translated as "that which is to be read," entails a challenge to become literate. Muslims the world over not only read the Qur'an but, regardless of their native language, memorize the Qur'an in Arabic. Thus, the role of Arabic, as the language not only of the Qur'an but also of Islamic prayer, takes on a great significance for the believer as well. (Reagan, 2005, p. 230)

Education is an essential aspect of Islam and according to Reagan has been so since the time of the prophet. (Reagan, 2005, p. 230) a.L. Tibawi comments in his old standard upon the faith, "The mosques, became the first schools in Islam [and] it would be equally true to say that the Qur'an was the first textbook" (Tibawi, 1972, p. 24) These essential aspects of the life that is Muslim are difficult to include in education, when education is secular, in or outside of the Islamic world. "In fact, education from an Islamic point-of-view makes little sense if one removes it from a religious context, and it is in the Qur'an that educational thought should be grounded." (Reagan, 2005, p. 230)

Another issue which is commonly difficult ot bridge within and without Islamic educational institutions is the role of women in education. Though it has been states and is stressed by the Qur'an that it is the responsibility of all (women and men) to receive education (especially religious education) there are limits within Islam toward women's education as they are restricted from certain roles that require advanced education and the practicality of the faith demonstrates that women tend only to be educated for their prescribed role.

Women have the right to education, to religious instruction, to honor and respect, to the vote, and to employment. There are, however, restrictions sanctioned by the religious law for the welfare and stability of society as a… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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