Define the terms identity, ethnicity, ‘race’, class, culture and gender, and explore the differences, similarities and links between them. Briefly discuss the nature of religion, and the relationship between identity and belief from both religious and non-religious perspectives. Suggest ways in which schools can positively acknowledge and affirm the identities of learners from a diverse range of cultural, ethnic or religious backgrounds, both in the curriculum and in their organisation.
In today’s multicultural society, groups and individuals identify themselves and live within the context of their ethnicity, ‘race’, class, culture and gender. A clearer understanding of the terms and how they are interlinked, also how the role of religion plays a part within this framework can help schools to promote tolerance and acceptance of a rich diversity of people both throughout the curriculum and within their establishment.
Any individual can identify themselves on a myriad of levels: in a personal sense, a social sense, on an ethnic, cultural, spiritual or religious basis and by way of their moral values. As a consequence, identities can be seen as flexible or even conflicting (cited in Bhavnani and Phoenix 1994), with no one person’s identity being the same as another, and each person having their own unique mix of allegiances (Richardson and Wood 2000). In order for any individual to feel valued all of these separate themes need to be acknowledged. Cummins suggests,
‘Affirmation of identity thus refers to the establishment of the respect and trust between educators and students…”
(1996, pg 4)
therefore proposing that shared understanding of a student’s perspectives is critical to the approval of their personal identity. Furthermore, the negotiation of an individual’s identity has far reaching effects for their sense of self and both personal and social aspirations.
Ethnicity refers to a collection or nation of people who are more than a mere collective group but an aggregate consciously related by common origins and shared experiences. Incorporated into a group’s ethnicity is a distinct language, religious beliefs and political institutions which are passed down generations. (Cashmore, 1984). Similarly Madge (2001) considers a list of requirements that embodies ethnicity which include country of origin, society, aspects of skin colour and culture. However Meighan and Siraj – Blatchford (2003) argue that everyone has an ethnic and cultural identity but often the term ‘ethnic’ is used to objectify a minority group or as a
‘…euphemism for ‘black’’.
Meighan and Siraj – Blatchford (2003) also remind us that there is no scientific foundation for defining the human races, that the variation within the human population is bigger than between; humans are in fact therefore more homogenous that any other species. This view is shared by Jones (1991) who believes that what is meant by ‘race’, is in effect colour. He argues that classifying people leads to judging people which in turn leads to prejudice (cited in Haralambus and Holburn 2000).
The term ‘class’ is purely a social stratification of wealth and prestige the result being social inequalities. An individual’s class position can be predetermined by birth, ‘race’ and education nonetheless sociologists argue that within a capitalist society, an individual’s class position can be largely achieved (Haralambus and Holburn 2000).Unlike the Indian belief in the caste system by which you are born into your class and remain so.
Cultures, argues Cashmore (1984), are not rigid but evolve and develop. Cultural traditions can be indistinct within a society for example because of technological advances. Culture has many definitions but the definition made by Linton (1945) who considered culture as a way of life for its members, a gathering of routines and...
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