What is the relationship between structure and culture? The beliefs, ideas, methods and tools that a society chooses to use in the establishment of the structure of a society form its culture. Once the particular patterns and systems are established for accomplishing duties, activities, and responsibilities are set up, change is difficult. Some cultures do evolve, grown and take different directions. But, change does not always come easily.
Papert’s Chapter 1 reflects on an example of how change does not come easily to education. He gives the example of how much medicine has changed in the last hundred or more years, but not so education. Basically, he says that teachers from that time period could probably walk right into our classrooms and take over after a short period of observation. In a way, I can understand this because we are teaching the same subjects. Conversely, at this point in time, we are venturing into a world where an enormous amount of information is readily available to everyone, not just teachers, and ways to share with others is so easy that major alterations need to be made to our teaching methods. It is sort of a sad commentary that sometimes students are more up-to-date on certain topics than their teachers.
Some things have changed such as the fact that girls go to school longer and more females graduate from college than in the past. That is a cultural change. The structure of our society has had to change so that female workers can be added to the workforce. However, because we are still primarily a male-dominated culture, the uneven pay scale between men and women continues to exist. Women still receive less pay than their male colleagues for the same work.
Back to the subject of Papert and education. Awhile back, we were asked to think about the subject of literacy and most of our answers had something to do with reading and writing. I, for one, have always thought that if one could read; one could do nearly anything. I still believe this. But, after reading Papert, I have begun to think about whether we should be so strict about perfect writing skills because we might just cause some students to concentrate too much on these mechanical skills which, in turn, may cause them to get bogged down in details of a subject that is not as personally interesting as another that they could be learning about to their heart’s desire. Learning for learning’s sake is a wonderful thing. I think that sometimes as adults we forget that joy of life. I do wonder, though, how we will teach and what we will use as an appropriate and acceptable system of thought expression if we decide to educate in this manner. These are some of the decisions that are made by society members about how to structure a culture.
This blog: http://dancingnancy533.wordpress.com/2008/03/04/the-relationship-between-culture-and-structure raises good questions “Is there any way to balance out culture in all schools? Or, will there always be a dominant culture for every region? Is it just a part of life? Is the structure more fluid today than it was say a decade ago? Is it a good thing that structure is fluid? Bad thing?
As an idealist, I would like to believe that we can balance culture in all schools. But, the realist takes over and I have to say that I don’t think so. If so, it is going to take a long time and may come in increments such as making room for women in the workforce, but not permitting fair wages across the board. This is just a microcosm of an example of issues and change within a culture. I do think that structure is more fluid than it was a decade ago and I think that the World Wide Web is largely accountable for this change. The transformation has sort of been forced upon us due to fact that computers have become a part of our everyday lives. It can’t be ignored. Whether it is a good thing or bad thing is a judgment call. I would say that it is a little of both because each time a society elevates itself, the bad is elevated with the good. That is the nature of progress.