As we start the New Year, a good place to start is cultural literacy. Cultural literacy is defined as the knowledge of the values, beliefs, and customs of both your own culture and those that differ. In a world where political polarization and hate speech are on the rise, cultural literacy plays a crucial role if we are ever to live in harmony.
Here are a few questions that might help guide us:
1) What is your personal cultural view of the world and how much of the world does it involve?
2) What are your attitudes and beliefs toward cultural differences? There are six major religions worldwide, not including many smaller or historical ones. We have lost many lives in the name of religion over many centuries. Can you name the major six and give a synopsis of their beliefs? Here’s a hint: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Judaism.
3) How many cultural practices do you know that differ from your own? There are hundreds of secular, religious, and country-celebrated holidays and seasons around the world. How many have you experienced or familiar with?
4) Are you able to see alternative perspectives on people and things different from your own? Learning and understanding cultural differences dispels ethnocentrism, bigotry, racism, and many other evils. It is an excellent cure for ignorance and incorrect assumptions.
Cultural literacy extends in many directions, such as countries, art, religion, music, literature, and many more. Wouldn’t the world be better if we tried to learn what we don’t understand before we jump to judgment?