Understanding the importance of cultural sensitivity in college

Understanding the importance of cultural sensitivity in college

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Importance of cultural sensitivity in college

As cultures and populations continue to evolve, our world is becoming more interconnected. Thanks to technological advancements, travel, and communication, we’re more geographically and culturally connected than ever before. With increased opportunities to interact with individuals from diverse backgrounds, the importance of cultural sensitivity has never been more pronounced.

India, with its rich traditions and culture, stands as one of the most culturally diverse places on earth. Its community living is a tapestry of various cultures, epitomizing unity in diversity—this is evident in everything from local cuisines, rituals, and festivals to languages. Embracing this diversity has been integral to the way of life for countless generations.

How do we define cultural sensitivity?

The foods people eat, their perspectives on healthcare, and their social interactions are deeply influenced by their cultural background. Cultural sensitivity means recognizing that no single culture or way of life holds inherent superiority over another. It involves understanding the values or beliefs associated with an individual’s racial or ethnic origin. To be culturally sensitive, one must be open to adapting their behavior to honor the cultural norms of others. Every cultural perspective is valid and deserves respect. Those who are culturally sensitive understand and adjust their actions to accommodate the diverse cultures present in modern societies.

With increasing rates of immigration and the unparalleled connectivity offered by the internet, cultures are blending in unprecedented ways in today’s world. Cultural sensitivity becomes especially important as it promotes unity while appreciating the unique individual contributions that a multicultural society offers.

It’s vital for individuals to recognize and appreciate cultures other than their own. Additionally, they should be willing to understand and respect the customs and beliefs that individuals uphold because of their cultural heritage.

Also Read: Guide to Indian Higher Education System

Why is cultural sensitivity important in college?

Bennett’s model elucidates the development of cultural sensitivity through six distinct stages. These stages help college students deepen their understanding of their individual perceptions about diversity.

● Denial
Bennett labels the denial stage as predominantly ethnocentric. It often arises from limited exposure to diverse cultures. For instance, communities where most inhabitants share a single culture can breed such a mindset. At this stage, students might recognize vast cultural categories, but overlook nuanced cultural distinctions.

Defense
Here, while students recognize cultural differences, they often deem them as threats. This phase is marked by “negative stereotyping” that bolsters their sense of cultural dominance. Signs of students being in this stage include the assertion of cultural superiority and, paradoxically, some who belittle their own culture in favor of another.

● Minimization
Minimization is the final attempt to centralize one’s own cultural perspective. Individuals in this stage mistakenly believe that acknowledging cultural differences is enough. They might use overarching statements, like “We’re all human,” to trivialize cultural nuances. Although they may think they’re being inclusive, they’re unintentionally dismissing the significance of cultural influences on individual experiences.

● Acceptance
At this juncture, individuals acknowledge that common behaviors might carry diverse cultural meanings. They understand how an individual’s background influences their experiences. Acceptance has two facets: recognizing cultural behaviors and understanding underlying cultural values without judgment.

● Adaptation
Reaching this level means enhancing one’s ability to communicate and interact effectively across cultures. Here, individuals don’t just recognize and accept cultural variations; they actively adjust their behaviors and perspectives to bridge those differences.

● Integration
Those at the integration level seamlessly shift their cultural perspectives and thoroughly embed these cultural nuances into their identity. Such individuals cherish diversity, incorporating it into their everyday lives without judgment or rejection.

For Bennett, people who navigate this stage “celebrate diversity as an enriching facet of all existence.”

Also Read: 4 Fundamental Laws Of India Every Student Should Know About

Expecting students to radically alter their viewpoints after a singular program is ambitious. Sustainable outcomes emerge from continuous opportunities for cross-cultural interaction, honing empathy, and understanding diverse cultural interpretations of shared experiences. Engaging methods to transition from ethnocentrism to ethnorelativism include team building, immersive activities, and structured storytelling sessions with diverse groups.

Emphasizing diversity in higher education not only reshapes cultural identity but also promotes effective teamwork and communication, challenging students to reevaluate their ingrained beliefs.

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