Category Archives: Graduate Coursework

Cultural Considerations

This is a discussion post essay I wrote on 2014-09-22 for EDF 6155: Lifespan Human Development & Learning, a graduate class at University of Central Florida.

Richard Thripp
EDF 6155 Module 3 Discussion Post, “Culture”
22 September 2014

Name: Richard Thripp
Grade Contract: A

1. Culture and Development – Important Ideas

a. Culture and Family

Collectivist subcultures in America, such as African Americans and Asians, often live together in extended family households that include several generations and even married children and their spouses (Berk, 2010, p. 66). This structure has many benefits, such as closer communication and familial ties, lower costs, and shared responsibilities. It is ironic that American culture tends to encourage families to split up, children to move out or move far away for college at an early age, and for working adults (and especially men) to prioritize their careers over their children or grandparents. While independence has its benefits, denigrating young adults for living with their parents—even when they may be providing support and kinship while saving money on housing—demonstrates a lack of insight and a predilection for wastefulness. Thus, we should not overlook the numerous benefits of collectivism at the family level, despite living in an individualistic society.

b. Culture is a Moving Target

The idea that the intangible aspects of a culture can be preserved is misguided at best—these ethereal qualities are constantly in flux as people and circumstances change. An example is the move to support the ancestral culture of the native, white majority in the United Kingdom (Boyes, 2008)—this is a culture that, with the decline of the British Empire, diminished power of royalty and nobility, and recent wide-scale immigration into the U.K., arguably does not even exist anymore. Cultures are both dynamic and relative and cannot be pinned down on the basis of race, nationality, language, or any other factor. Even the borders between languages and nations exhibit their own unique blends of speech and identity—each of which is a distinct culture.

c. Alleviating Cultural Oppression

According to Ifeyinwa Mbakogu, the long-standing cultural dominance of the West steamrolls African cultures—there is no “exchange” of cultures but merely imposition (2004, p. 39). There is little imperative that Western culture be preserved when the premier institutions of power promulgate its immortality—however, no such mechanisms exist for Africans, Native Americans, and other oppressed groups. Therefore, disproportionally elevating the prominence of cultures that have been historically ignored and oppressed could be considered social justice in action. Just as it is arguably impossible for blacks to exhibit racism toward whites or women to exhibit sexism toward men (though prejudice is a different matter), it would be near impossible for too little attention to be paid to Western culture, given the centuries-long surplus it has accumulated. However, allowing Westerners the reins to interpret and present oppressed cultures may result in the proliferation of bastardizations of these cultures—a fate hypothetically worse than no representation. For instance, consider the misrepresentation of Native Americans in the 20th century Western film genre (Schnupp, 2011). If Westerners wish to be culturally competent, it might be best for them to cede space and airtime to actual members of the cultures they aim to publicize, because any interpretation by an outsider is bound to lack contextual depth.

2. References

Berk, L. E. (2010). Development through the lifespan (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Boyes, S. (2008, November 4). Whose culture is it anyway? Culture Wars. Retrieved September 22, 2014, from http://www.culturewars.org.uk/index.php/site/article/whose_culture_is_it_anyway/

Mbakogu, I. (2004). Is there really a relationship between culture and development? The Anthropologist, 6(1), 37-43.

Schnupp, B. (2011, October 15). The shifting other: Native Americans in film, 1950-present. Native American Identity in Popular Film, 1950-Present. Retrieved September 22, 2014, from http://bill-shiftingother.blogspot.com/

Draft of My Teaching Philosophy

As a student in Preparing Tomorrow’s Faculty, a free not-for-credit program for graduate students at University of Central Florida, I was assigned to write a draft copy of my teaching philosophy. While I have not taught yet, I have tutored math, English, and GRE prep, as well as being a “supplemental instruction leader” for a college class called Survey of Biology (BSC 1005) in 2009, so I have some experience working with students. This is what I came up with:

Teaching Philosophy
2014 October 31 Draft
Richard Thripp

I believe that teaching is an interactive experience involving a sharing of beliefs, evidence, and ideas. While some answers may be more correct than others, simply telling students what to think does not help them evaluate or reconcile what has been suggested. Therefore, my college classroom will include many collaborative and individual in-class activities to help the learner better negotiate the course material. In smaller classes, I will regularly use peer-sharing and class presentations—larger classes may require online discussions and simpler in-class activities. As an educator I feel responsible to do whatever I can to help the students learn the material required for the class, as well as other concepts that may interest them if they inquire outside of class.

As a tutor focusing on math and language skills, I found that it is essential to allow students the opportunity to figure out problems on their own. That does not mean I will not guide them in the right direction, but I have learned to refrain from intervening without being asked, especially with math problems. This allows students to build self-efficacy when they are successful at coming up with good ideas without the ideas being suggested by me. As a teacher, I will use similar strategies that are more time-intensive than simply telling students the process and answers, but will have better long-term results for their understanding and performance. While lecturing, I will allow for student questions, and I will intersperse lectures with activities to maintain student interest and engagement.

The role an instructor plays has greatly changed with the technological revolution. Most or all of the information provided in a class can now be found online in text format, with illustrations, or even as videos. It is no longer sufficient for an instructor to simply be a provider of information—he or she must interpret and present the information in a way that is superior to free sources for understanding and mastering the material. Maintaining student interest is a must. With the trend toward online classes, we must recognize and implement the unique opportunities that face-to-face classes offer, such as peer interactions and hands-on learning; otherwise, classroom-based learning might become a dying art. As an educator, a pivotal principle for me is simplicity—covering fewer learning objectives more thoroughly can improve performance, reduce student anxiety, and help less gifted students retain the knowledge and enjoy acquiring it. It also allows me to include activities and exercises that would otherwise be time-prohibitive. Thus, whenever possible, I will actually be teaching less material than other instructors teaching the same course, but with a higher level of rigor, and (hopefully) better long-term results.