Despite our obvious cultural differences, we are more similar than we realize. In order to understand this, students need to learn to search for deep meaning, for aspects of their own identity that may not be readily apparent; aspects that may not be obvious; qualities beyond their awareness. Students need to search beyond the facts of themselves, their surface-level appearances. They need to search deeply for who they are as individuals and what they share with their fellow human beings. A need for such a search has far-reaching implications for how we approach teaching and learning in our schools and is a step toward a more peaceful and sustainable planet. 

Culture can be understood as an iceberg, an often-used metaphor, where only a small percentage of what makes up the iceberg is actually visible above the surface of the water. For culture, below the surface would mean out of conscious awareness. Thinking of culture like this helps us to better understand the unconscious values that drive the more visible expressions of culture. On the surface of culture (above the waterline) we have examples of cultural expression such as language, literature, festivals, food, religion, dress, art and music to name just a few. These ones are readily visible. We see them, hear them, taste them straight away. 

Below the surface of the iceberg of culture however, there are aspects of culture that we do not think about and for this reason, can catch us unaware. Some of these deeper aspects of culture include concepts of time, personal space, notions about logic and validity, concepts of justice, courtesy, notions of modesty and affection, attitudes to elders to name just a few. 

The cultural difference such as notions of personal space expressed through gestures of affection, for example, are more difficult to explain that the concrete foods, flags and festivals found above the surface. Oftentimes, above the surface fact-finding is the limit of a student’s school experience with cultural explorations because below the surface aspects of culture are not so easy to condense into a set of simple facts. Deeper understanding is required.  You would never find an explanation of personal space in a school textbook because it is difficult to explain. Not because it is unimportant, but simply because it is difficult. 

However, if we want to move toward a more peaceful world, one essential prerequisite is that we understand each other, not just what we see on the surface, but what really makes us, us. We also need to be prepared to follow the lines of inquiry that the deeper questions lead us into. A school’s curriculum has a heavy impact on the extent that students are afforded the opportunity to explore these deeper areas of culture. 

But why is this important to you? 

You may not work in education, but you all live in a society made up of the products of that education system; the children who are shaped by it and then move out into the world. They work for you. They are your children. Your grandchildren. They are the ones who will care for us all (hopefully) when we are too old to care for ourselves. I would say that we need to be very interested in the type of people our education systems shape.

In the business world, how often are you confronted by problems that can be solved by looking up the answer in a textbook? In your family lives, how often is this the case? How often are solutions to problems in our lives simple? Moving forward into the middle of this 21st Century, what sort of questions does Japan need its future adults to be asking? In this sense, everyone here this evening has an interest in education. 

By asking deeper questions in school that target areas beyond the surface level of culture, learning becomes messy as it becomes a student-driven exploration. The advantage is that at a deeper level, we are able to see the similarity, as well as difference. We tend to discover the incredible connections that link us in our common humanity and difference becomes just a part of the magnificent cultural tapestry that has emerged across our beautiful, endangered planet.

In this sense, the type of questions we learn to ask in school will heavily influence the type of world we come to know as adults. A more peaceful and sustainable planet requires people who are able to ask good questions and are prepared to follow their inquiries into the depths of culture, to understand that across the globe we are all linked in our common humanity.

目につかない文化

文化間の違いというのは明らかに存在しますが、実は私たちが思っている以上に似通った点も多いのです。このことを理解するために、子供たちは、自分自身のアイデンティティーを認識し、文化のより深い意味を調べ、学ぶ必要があるのです。子供たちは表面だけ見るのではなく、自分が個人として誰なのか、自分が人類として仲間と何をシェアしているのかを深いレベルで探求する必要があるのです。このようなリサーチから学ぶことが、より平和で持続可能な世界へと導いていくステップにもつながっていくのです。

氷山はほんの一角だけが実際に目にすることができる部分ですが、文化にも同じことが言えます。目に見えていない部分とは、無意識に認識している部分です。このように文化を考えることは、無意識の文化表現をより目につくようにさせ、理解しやすくしてくれます。表面上の文化として、例えば言語、文学、祭り、食べ物、宗教、着る物、美術、音楽があげられます。これらは見ることができ、耳にすることができ、すぐに感じることができます。しかし、文化という氷山の下には、考えたこともない、それゆえに気付くこともない文化の側面があるのです。文化の奥深い所に隠れている側面には、例えば時間の観念、個人の空間観念、論理観や正しさの概念、礼儀、謙虚さや情緒の概念などが考えられます。

感情をジェスチャーで表現する感覚、空間観などの文化的違いは、表面的に目にすることのできる食べ物、旗、祭りなどの具体的な事物よりも説明が難しいのです。子供たちが、表面的に見つけることができる事柄を超えて、多文化に触れる授業を経験するには限りがあります。なぜなら水面下に隠れている文化の側面を、単純な事柄に凝縮させることは簡単ではなく、より深い理解を必要とするのです。個人空間観などの説明は、言葉で説明するのが難しいので、教科書に載せることも困難です。

しかしながら、より平和な世界の実現へ向かうには、お互いに理解しあうこと、表面上目に見える事象を理解するだけではなく、何が我々の人格を形成しているのかを理解することは必須です。深い所まで見ていくと、異なる点と同じように、似通った点も見つけることができます。同じ人間ということで、信じられないような繋がりを見出すこともあります。より平和で持続可能な地球を維持するには、我々が文化の深層部まで追求し、地球規模で物事を考え、理解し、全世界みんなが、同じ人類として繋がっていると理解することが必要なのです。

Exploring deeper ideas of culture/目につかない文化