ERIC Number: EJ1045945
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Reference Count: 55
Native-American & Euro-American Cultures: A Comparative Look at the Intersection between Language & Worldview
Hain-Jamall, Doe A. S.
Multicultural Education, v21 n1 p13-19 Fall 2013
According to this author, the Earth is in trouble. Decades of mining, over-fishing, and the pumping of toxic chemicals into the atmosphere have taken an enormous toll on an otherwise robust and healthy planetary ecosystem. Those responsible have prioritized financial gain over sustainability, over life--plant, animal, and human. Short-term profit realization has resulted in a blatant disregard for long-term environmental effects, and has been supported by governments and corporations, demonstrating a widespread disrespect for the earth that supports their activities. One must ask, then, how so many people can allow, and even endorse, such ecologically destructive practices. There are differences in the way different cultures think. A mindset, or worldview, is a culture's standard way of perceiving reality, of processing information, of approaching problems, and of interacting with others. Cultures with individualistic tendencies generally have analytic, decontextualizing cognitive orientations, while those with collectivistic tendencies have holistic, contextualizing cognitive orientations (Ji, Nisbett, & Peng, 2000). A group's worldview reflects their culture's values, and is the mechanism used in turn to shape the values of successive generations, largely with language as the conduit (Gay, 2010; Goddard, 2003; Oyserman, 2011). Many values are conveyed unconsciously, in the form of colloquialisms, catch phrases, and cultural metaphors (Bowers, 2004; Martusewicz, Edmundson, & Lupinacci, 2011). This article begins with a comparison of the worldviews of Native Americans and those of Euro-Americans as related to the natural world, followed by a discussion of the many ways in which language perpetuates a culture's mindset. Identifying four core Native-American values that are particularly relevant to the ecological crisis, the discussion turns to Native holistic thinking and Euro-American systems thinking in order to examine ways in which English might be deliberately used to encourage students to adopt a more eco-friendly, holistic cognitive orientation toward human-environmental relationships.
Descriptors: American Indians, American Indian Culture, Whites, World Views, Cultural Differences, Ecology, Social Values, Comparative Analysis, Language Role, Holistic Approach, Systems Approach, English, Environmental Education
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A