Brooklyn College has experienced massive growth over the years, and it currently admits over 15,000 undergraduate students every year. It offers a wide range of courses meant to equip its graduates with relevant skills in the job market in a wide range of industries (Iceland, 2017). This course is one of the most important ones that I believe the institution should consider making one of the required courses for the campus. The United States has one of the most culturally diverse societies in the world, especially in major cities such as New York. Brooklyn College community is a perfect reflection of the diversity in the country. It is critical for members of this community to understand the culture and how diverse it is. The following are some of the reasons, based on my experience in this class and what I have learned this semester, why I believe the institution should make this course one of its core units.
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During my time in this institution and my private life, I have noticed that there is a massive misunderstanding of diverse cultures in the country. For instance, there is a serious lack of knowledge of the Jewish culture among people of other beliefs in the country (Hanson & Richards, 2019). It means that many people do not understand why Jews behave in a certain way based on their faith. As such, they become victims of prejudice, not because of any retrogressive practice, but misleading beliefs that others have towards them. Through this course, the rest of the society will have the capacity to understand some of these practices, which may help in fighting discrimination.
The American culture strongly supports sexual education, especially in learning institutions, as a way of empowering adolescents to understand their sexuality. However, the Jewish culture considers such topics taboo, and it is rare for a parent to engage their children in such a debate (Campbell, 2018). I believe that through this course, it is possible to address this conflict in culture. Those of Jewish faith can be made to understand the significance of sex education and how it helps children to become responsible adults. The role of the parent, who may be reluctant to engage their children in such discussion. Teachers can take over such a responsibility and help learners to address concerns that they may have about their sexuality.
The workplace environment in the United States, just like the society itself, is highly diversified. It is critical for this institution to ensure that its graduates are not only equipped with skills specific to their career needs but also a proper understanding of society (Iceland, 2017). Understanding the culture of this society will enable these graduates to have a better capacity to deal with diversity in their workplace. For instance, a Christian will understand why a Jew takes specific prayers at a specific time of the day. Having that knowledge will eliminate or at least minimize significantly cases of stereotypes and attacks based on one’s culture. I strongly believe that such knowledge will also be essential in building a strong united family at Brooklyn College.
Learners will understand the need for them to embrace gender, age, race, and cultural differences that exist. As Campbell (2018) notes, diversity should be viewed as a strength in an organization instead of being a divisive factor. I strongly believe that through this course, students will learn about the benefits of diversity and how they can embrace it. They will become better and more responsible citizens than they were before joining this institution. They will lead the change that this society needs so much of being a truly multi-racial community where people are defined by the content of their character.
Ethnography in Addressing Cultural Misunderstandings and Prejudice
Ethnography is the most effective approach to addressing cultural misunderstanding and prejudice in society. According to Iceland (2017), globalization has created a highly diversified society, especially because of the immigration that the country has witnessed. Local communities, workplace environments, and learning institutions are becoming increasingly diversified because of this trend. The problem is that as society becomes more diversified, cultural misunderstandings, prejudice, and disagreements based on these lines of race and religion are becoming more common than they were in the past. American society has witnessed cases where people are attacked because of their race. These racial differences pose an existential threat to society and the freedom of people. Ethnography is one of the most effective ways through which these challenges can be addressed.
Ethnography offers the learner an opportunity to live with a given community for at least one year. During this period, one gets an opportunity to learn why some people act in a given way. For instance, Christians believe in the idea of one being born again for them to see the kingdom of God when they die. Such an idea may appear to be absurd to a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist, or a Hindu (Hanson & Richards, 2019). A single-day interaction between a Christian and non-Christian is not enough to explain why such a belief is at the very core of Christianity. However, when one stays with the community for at least one year, they will learn about the history of this religion, its fundamental principles, and why one needs to be born again. They will have an opportunity to ask questions about issues that are not clear about the belief and members of the society will get to explain it to them from a different perspective.
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Ethnography is the perfect way of eliminating cultural misunderstanding and prejudice in society. According to Iceland (2017), there is a wrong perception in American society that black men are more likely to abuse drugs and engage in criminal acts. It explains why the concentration of law enforcement officers in African-American neighborhoods is significantly higher than that of the rest of the population. When a white man gets an opportunity to live among these people for the primary purpose of learning about their culture, it will be easy to realize that this perception is wrong. African Americans are highly religious people and they strongly believe in the family (Campbell, 2018). They are willing to help one another during difficult times and sometimes they make personal sacrifices for the people they love.
The problem that they face is that the systemic racism in the country has denied them the opportunity to improve their economic status. It is in these communities where the rate of unemployment is at its highest in the country. Because of this challenge, sometimes one may be tempted to engage in crime as a way of making ends meet. A black teen will sell drugs just to provide for the family. One cannot understand the real source of the challenge unless they stay with these people and understand why they engage in certain activities. Ethnography provides a perfect opportunity of understanding a community from the perspective of those being studied. For instance, police brutality is a common problem in society. It is easy for those who are not victims of this problem to conclude that these officers are just doing their job in fighting crime among these communities. However, when one gets the opportunity to experience the problem firsthand, it will be easy to appreciate why victims constantly cry for help.
Orthodox Jewish (Judaism) Culture: Teharat HaMishpacha
During this course, there were different presentations of the My-Culture case study projects that were presented in class. The presentation about the Orthodox Jewish culture, specifically focusing on the topic of Taharat HaMishpacha was specifically interesting because it addressed an issue that I had limited knowledge about. The presentation enabled me to have a deeper understanding of the Jewish culture and how it differs from other religious practices in the country. One of the critical issues that were discussed in this case was the approach that members of this study take towards sex education. Among the Jews, it is prohibited for people to talk about sex in a social gathering.
The practice is considered holy and private and should only be discussed by two adults who are in holy matrimony. On the other hand, American society strongly supports sex education as a way of empowering teenagers. It avoids mistakes that teenagers often commit, leading to early pregnancy or the spread of sexually transmitted infections among minors (Mahiri, 2017). Before this presentation, I considered this prohibition among the Jews a retrogressive practice that denies youth an opportunity for them to learn about their sexuality. However, the presentation enabled me to understand why this society prohibits the practice. I believe they are justified and should be respected enough to be allowed to embrace the practice.
That HanMishpacha refers to family purity, which describes the process through which women get a new period. This community strongly believes in the practice of women protecting their virginity until they are lawfully married. Virginity not only shows the purity of a woman at the time of marriage but also demonstrates their ability to remain faithful to their partners and be obedient. It is believed that such a person is loyal, respectful, and capable of strictly following instructions given by their husbands and those who are in positions of authority.
American society has gone through an extended period of transition over the years and virginity is no longer a means of measuring a woman’s virtue (Hanson & Richards, 2019). However, Jews have remained faithful to this belief despite the massive interactions they have had with other members of society. Through the presentation, I understood why it was rare for a Jew to marry a person of other faith. The problem of such intermarriage does not just arise from the possibility that the non-Jew may not be a virgin, but also the complexity of culture. The culture clash may make it difficult for the two to have a peaceful marriage.
Campbell, P. S. (2018). Music, education, and diversity: Bridging cultures and communities. Teachers College Press.
Hanson, R., & Richards, P. (2019). Harassed: Gender, bodies, and ethnographic research. University of California Press.
Iceland, J. (2017). Race and ethnicity in America. University of California Press.
Mahiri, J. (2017). Deconstructing race: Multicultural education beyond the color-bind. Teachers College Press.