Guide Childrens Thinking About Cultural Universals

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The other player, in the dark about the study, was flabbergasted and did not know how to continue. The reactions of outrage, anger, puzzlement, or other emotions illustrated the deep level at which unspoken social norms constitute social life. There are many rules about speaking with strangers in public. It is okay to tell a woman you like her shoes.

It is not okay to ask if you can try them on. It is okay to stand in line behind someone at the ATM. It is not okay to look over their shoulder as they make the transaction. It is okay to sit beside someone on a crowded bus. It is weird to sit beside a stranger in a half-empty bus. For some breaches, the researcher directly engages with innocent bystanders.

In those cases, the bystanders are pressured to respond, and their discomfort illustrates how much we depend on social norms. These cultural norms play an important role. They let us know how to behave around each other and how to feel comfortable in our community, but they are not necessarily rational. Why should we not talk to someone in a public bathroom, or haggle over the price of a good in a store?

Breaching experiments uncover and explore the many unwritten social rules we live by. They indicate the degree to which the world we live in is fragile, arbitrary and ritualistic; socially structured by deep, silent, tacit agreements with others of which we are frequently only dimly aware. Norms may be further classified as mores, folkways, or taboos. Mores pronounced mor — ays are norms that embody the moral views and principles of a group. They are based on social requirements. Violating them can have serious consequences. The strongest mores are legally protected with laws or other formal norms.

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In Canada, for instance, murder is considered immoral, and it is punishable by law a formal norm. More often, mores are judged and guarded by public sentiment an informal norm. People who violate mores are seen as shameful. They can even be shunned or banned from some groups.

Can Universal Basic Income End Our Cultural Obsession With Work? - Philosopher Andrew Taggart

Unlike mores, folkways are norms without any moral underpinnings. They are based on social preferences. Folkways direct appropriate behaviour in the day-to-day practices and expressions of a culture. Folkways indicate whether to shake hands or kiss on the cheek when greeting another person. They specify whether to wear a tie and a blazer or a T-shirt and sandals to an event. In Canada, women can smile and say hello to men on the street.

In Egypt, it is not acceptable. In northern Europe, it is fine for people to go into a sauna or hot tub naked. Often in North America, it is not. An opinion poll that asked Canadian women what they felt would end a relationship after a first date showed that women in British Columbia were pickier than women in the rest of the country Times Colonist , All of these examples illustrate breaking informal rules, which are not serious enough to be called mores, but are serious enough to terminate a relationship before it has begun.

Folkways might be small manners, but they are by no means trivial. Taboos refer to actions which are strongly forbidden by deeply held sacred or moral beliefs. They are the strongest and most deeply held norms. Their transgression evokes revulsion and severe punishment. There was a clear supernatural context for the prohibition; the act offended the gods or ancestors, and evoked their retribution. In secular contexts, taboos refer to powerful moral prohibitions that protect what are regarded as inviolable bonds between people. Incest, pedophilia, and patricide or matricide are taboos. Many mores, folkways, and taboos are taken for granted in everyday life.

These different levels of norm help people negotiate their daily life within a given culture and as such their study is crucial for understanding the distinctions between different cultures. Humans, consciously and subconsciously, are always striving to make sense of their surrounding world. Symbols provide clues to understanding the underlying experiences, statuses, states, and ideas they express. They convey recognizable meanings that are shared by societies. The world is filled with symbols. Sports uniforms, company logos, and traffic signs are symbols. In some cultures, a gold ring is a symbol of marriage.

Some symbols are highly functional; stop signs, for instance, provide useful instruction. As physical objects they belong to material culture, but because they function as symbols, they also convey nonmaterial cultural meanings. Some symbols are only valuable in what they represent. Trophies, blue ribbons, or gold medals, for example, serve no purpose other than to represent accomplishments. Many objects have both material and nonmaterial symbolic value.

They also uphold the value, in North America, that public restrooms should be gender exclusive. Symbols often get noticed when they are used out of context.

Children's Thinking About Cultural Universals

Used unconventionally, symbols convey strong messages. A stop sign on the door of a corporation makes a political statement, as does a camouflage military jacket worn in an antiwar protest. An image of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a folksy sweater holding a cute cat was altered to show him holding an oily duck instead; this is a detournement with a political message.

Even the destruction of symbols is symbolic. Effigies representing public figures are beaten to demonstrate anger at certain leaders. In , crowds tore down the Berlin Wall, a decades-old symbol of the division between East and West Germany, or between communism and capitalism.

Cultural universal

While different cultures have varying systems of symbols, there is one that is common to all: the use of language. Language is a symbolic system through which people communicate and through which culture is transmitted. Some languages contain a system of symbols used for written communication, while others rely only on spoken communication and nonverbal actions. Societies often share a single language, and many languages contain the same basic elements. An alphabet is a written system made of symbolic shapes that refer to spoken sounds.

Taken together, these symbols convey specific meanings. The English alphabet uses a combination of 26 letters to create words; these 26 letters make up over , recognized English words Oxford English Dictionary, Rules for speaking and writing vary even within cultures, most notably by region. Do you refer to a can of carbonated liquid as a soda, pop, or soft drink?

Is a household entertainment room a family room, rec room, or den? Language is constantly evolving as societies create new ideas. In this age of technology, people have adapted almost instantly to new nouns such as email and internet, and verbs such as download, text, and blog. Twenty years ago, the general public would have considered these nonsense words.

Even while it constantly evolves, language continues to shape our reality. This insight was established in the s by two linguists, Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf. To prove this point, the sociologists argued that every language has words or expressions specific to that language.

In Canada, for example, the number 13 is associated with bad luck. In Japan, however, the number four is considered unlucky, since it is pronounced similarly to the Japanese word for death. The hypothesis, which has also been called linguistic relativity, states that we initially develop language to express concepts that emerge from our experience of the world, but afterwards language comes back to shape our experience of the world Swoyer, If a person cannot describe the experience, the person cannot have the experience.

The compilers of Ethnologue estimate that currently 7, languages are used in the world Lewis et al.

Kenneth J. Gergen

This would suggest that there are at least 7, distinct cultural contexts through which humans interpret and experience the world. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis would suggest that their worlds differ to the degree that their languages differ. When languages die out or fail to be passed on to subsequent generations, whole ways of knowing and being in the world die out with them and the ethnosphere is diminished.

In the s it became clear that the federal government needed to develop a bilingual language policy to integrate French Canadians into the national identity and prevent their further alienation. The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism recommended establishing official bilingualism within the federal government. As a result, the Official Languages Act became law in and established both English and French as the official languages of the federal government and federal institutions such as the courts. Not only would Canadians be able to access government services in either French or English, no matter where they were in the country, but also receive French or English education.

The entire country would be home for both French or English speakers McRoberts, However, in the census 67 percent of Canadians spoke English most often at home, while only 26 percent spoke French at home and most of these were in Quebec. Approximately 13 percent of Canadians could maintain a conversation in both languages Statistics Canada, The next highest were Ontario at 4.

In British Columbia, only 0. French speakers had widely settled Canada, but French speaking outside Quebec had lost ground since Confederation because of the higher rates of anglophone immigrants, the assimilation of francophones, and the lack of French-speaking institutions outside Quebec McRoberts, It seemed even in that the ideal of creating a bilingual nation was unlikely and unrealistic. What has happened to the concept of bilingualism over the last 40 years?

According to the census, 58 percent of the Canadian population spoke English at home, while only Proportionately the number of both English and French speakers has actually decreased since the introduction of the Official Languages Act in On the other hand, the number of people who can maintain a conversation in both official languages has increased to However, the most significant linguistic change in Canada has not been French-English bilingualism, but the growth in the use of languages other than French and English. In a sense, what has happened is that the shifting cultural composition of Canada has rendered the goal of a bilingual nation anachronistic.

Today it would be more accurate to speak of Canada as a multilingual nation. One-fifth of Canadians speak a language other than French or English at home; In Toronto, In Greater Vancouver, 31 percent of the population speak a language other than French and English at home: Today, the government of Canada still conducts business in both official languages.

French and English are the dominant languages in the workplace and schools. Labels on products are required to be in both French and English. But increasingly a lot of product information is also made available in multiple languages. In Vancouver and Toronto, and to a lesser extent Montreal, linguistic diversity has become increasingly prevalent.

French and English are still the central languages of convergence and integration for immigrant communities who speak other languages — only 1. Even an action as seemingly simple as commuting to work evidences a great deal of cultural propriety. Take the case of going to work on public transportation. Whether commuting in Dublin, Cairo, Mumbai, or Vancouver, many behaviours will be the same in all locations, but significant differences also arise between cultures.

But when boarding a bus in Cairo, passengers might have to run, because buses there often do not come to a full stop to take on patrons. When boarding a commuter train in Mumbai, passengers must squeeze into overstuffed cars amid a lot of pushing and shoving on the crowded platforms. That kind of behaviour would be considered the height of rudeness in Canada, but in Mumbai it reflects the daily challenges of getting around on a train system that is taxed to capacity.

In this example of commuting, the different cultural responses are seen as various solutions to a common problem, the problem of public transportation. The problem is shared, but the solutions are different. Cultural solutions consist of two components: thoughts or perceptual orientations expectations about personal space, for example and tangible things bus stops, trains, and seating capacity.

Culture includes both material and non-material elements. Material culture refers to the artifacts, technologies, and products of a group of people. Metro passes and bus tokens are part of material culture, as are automobiles, stores, and the physical structures where people worship. Nonmaterial culture , in contrast, consists of the knowledge and beliefs, forms of communication, and norms of behaviour of a society.

It is important to point out here that material and nonmaterial aspects of culture are linked, and physical objects often symbolize cultural ideas. Clothing, hairstyles, and jewellery are part of material culture, but the appropriateness of wearing certain clothing for specific events reflects nonmaterial culture. These material and nonmaterial aspects of culture can vary subtly from region to region.

As people travel farther afield, moving from different regions to entirely different parts of the world, certain material and nonmaterial aspects of culture become dramatically unfamiliar. We notice this when we encounter different cultures. In the introduction of this chapter we noted that culture is the source of the shared meanings through which we interpret and orient ourselves to the world.

While cultural practices are in some respects always a response to biological givens or to the structure of the socioeconomic formation, they are not determined by these factors. Do you prefer listening to opera or hip hop music? Do you read books of poetry or magazines about celebrities? In each pair, one type of entertainment is considered high brow and the other low brow.

People often associate high culture with intellectualism, aesthetic taste, elitism, wealth, and prestige. Pierre Bourdieu argues high culture is not only a symbol of distinction, but a means of maintaining status and power distinctions through the transfer of cultural capital : the knowledge, skills, tastes, mannerisms, speaking style, posture, material possessions, credentials, etc. In modern times, popular culture is often expressed and spread via commercial media such as radio, television, movies, the music industry, publishers, and corporate-run websites.

Unlike high culture, popular culture is known and accessible to most people. But if you tried to launch into a deep discussion on the classical Greek play Antigone , few members of Canadian society today would be familiar with it. Although high culture may be viewed as superior to popular culture, the labels of high culture and popular culture vary over time and place. Contemporary popular culture is frequently referred to as a postmodern culture. In the era of modern culture, or modernity, the distinction between high culture and popular culture framed the experience of culture in more or less a clear way.

The high culture of 19 th — and 20 th -century modernity was often experimental and avant-garde, seeking new and original forms in literature, art, and music to express the elusive, transient, underlying experiences of the modern human condition. High culture also had a civilizing mission to preserve and pass down. In both forms, high culture appealed to a limited but sophisticated audience. Popular culture, on the other hand, was simply the culture of the people; it was immediately accessible and easily digestible, either in the form of folk traditions or commercialized mass culture.

The dominant sensibility of postmodern popular culture is both playful and ironic, as if the blending and mixing of cultural references, like in the television show The Simpsons , is one big in-joke. At a more serious level, postmodern culture is seen to challenge modern culture in a number of key ways. The postmodern eclectic mix of elements from different times and places challenges the modernist concepts of authentic expression and progress; the idea that cultural creations can and should seek new and innovative ways to express the deep meanings of life.

The playfulness and irony of postmodern culture seem to undermine the core values of modernity, especially the idea that cultural critique or innovations in architecture, art, and literature, etc. In postmodernity, nothing is to be taken very seriously, even ourselves. Moreover, in postmodernity everyone with access to a computer and some editing software is seen to be a cultural producer; everyone has an important voice and access to knowledge is simply a matter of crowd-sourcing.

The modernist myth of the great creator or genius is rejected in favour of a plurality of voices. Postmoderns are skeptical of the claims that scientific knowledge leads to progress, that political change creates human emancipation, that Truth sets us free. Some argue that the outcome of this erosion of authority and decline in consensus around core values is a thorough relativism of values in which no standard exists to judge one thing more significant than another. Instead of the privileged truths of elites and authorities, postmodernity witnesses the emergence of a plurality of different voices that had been relegated to the margins.

Culture moves away from homogeneous sameness to heterogeneous diversity. A subculture is just as it sounds—a smaller cultural group within a larger culture. People of a subculture are part of the larger culture, but also share a specific identity within a smaller group. Thousands of subcultures exist within Canada. Ethnic groups share the language, food, and customs of their heritage. Other subcultures are united by shared experiences. For example, biker culture revolves around a dedication to motorcycles.

Alcoholics Anonymous offers support to those suffering from alcoholism. The body modification community embraces aesthetic additions to the human body, such as tattoos, piercings, and certain forms of plastic surgery. But even as members of a subculture band together around a distinct identity, they still identify with and participate in the larger society. In contrast to subcultures, which operate relatively smoothly within the larger society, countercultures might actively defy larger society by developing their own set of rules and norms to live by, sometimes even creating communities that operate outside of greater society.

The hippies, for example, were a subculture that became a counterculture, blending protest against the Vietnam War, technocracy and consumer culture with a back to the land movement, non-Western forms of spirituality, and the practice of voluntary simplicity. Counterculture, in this example, refers to the cultural forms of life taken by a political and social protest movement. They are usually informal, transient religious groups or movements that deviate from orthodox beliefs and often, but not always, involve an intense emotional commitment to the group and allegiance to a charismatic leader.

In pluralistic societies like Canada, they represent quasi-legitimate forms of social experimentation with alternate forms of religious practice, community, sexuality and gender relations, proselytizing, economic organization, healing and therapy. However, sometimes their challenge to conventional laws and norms is regarded as going too far by the dominant society. For example, the group Yearning for Zion YFZ in Eldorado, Texas existed outside the mainstream, and the limelight, until its leader was accused of statutory rape and underage marriage.

In the s and 70s, for example, skinheads shaved their heads, listened to ska music from Jamaica, participated in racist chants at soccer games, and wore highly polished Doctor Marten boots in a manner that deliberately alienated their parents while expressing their own alienation as working class youth with few job prospects in deindustrialized England. Skinny jeans, chunky glasses, ironic moustaches, retro-style single speed bicycles and T-shirts with vintage logos—the hipster is a recognizable figure in contemporary North American culture.

Predominantly based in metropolitan areas, hipsters seek to define themselves by a rejection of mainstream norms and fashion styles. As a subculture, hipsters spurn many values and beliefs of North American society, tending to prefer a bohemian lifestyle over one defined by the accumulation of power and wealth.

At the same time they evince a concern that borders on a fetish with the pedigree of the music, styles, and objects that identify their focal concerns. When did hipster subculture begin? While commonly viewed as a recent trend among middle-class youth, the history of the group stretches back to the early decades of the s.

In the s, black American jazz music was on the rise in the United States. Musicians were known as hepcats and had a smooth, relaxed style that contrasted with more conservative and mainstream expressions of cultural taste. As hipster attitudes spread and young people were increasingly drawn to alternative music and fashion, attitudes and language derived from the culture of jazz were adopted. Unlike the vernacular of the day, hipster slang was purposefully ambiguous.

By the s, another variation on the subculture was on the rise. The beat generation, a title coined by Quebecois-American writer Jack Kerouac — , was defined as a generation that was nonconformist and anti-materialistic. Prominent in this movement were writers and poets who listened to jazz, studied Eastern religions, experimented with different states of experience, and embraced radical politics of personal liberation. They bummed around, hitchhiked the country, sought experience, and lived marginally.

Even in the early stages of the development of the subculture there was a difference between the emphasis in beat and hipster styles:. By the end of the s, the influence of jazz was winding down and many traits of hepcat culture were becoming mainstream. Women wore black leotards and grew their hair long. The subculture became visible and was covered in Life magazine, Esquire , Playboy , and other mainstream media. As the beat generation faded, a new related movement began. It too focused on breaking social boundaries, but also advocated freedom of expression, philosophy, and love.

It took its name from the generations before; in fact, some theorists claim that the beats themselves coined the term to describe their children. Others note that hippie was a derogatory label invented by the mainstream press to discredit and stereotype the movement and its non-materialist aspirations. Contemporary expressions of the hipster rose out of the hippie movement in the same way that hippies evolved from the beats and beats from hepcats.

The sociologist Mark Greif set about investigating the hipster subculture of the United States and found that much of what tied the group together was not a specific set of fashion or music choices, nor a specific point of contention with the mainstream. What has emerged, rather, is an appropriation of consumer capitalism that seeks authenticity in and of itself. Young people are often drawn to oppose mainstream conventions. Much as the hepcats of the jazz era opposed common culture with carefully crafted appearances of coolness and relaxation, modern hipsters reject mainstream values with a purposeful apathy.

Ironic, cool to the point of non-caring, and intellectual, hipsters continue to embody a subculture while simultaneously impacting mainstream culture.

Chapter 3. Culture – Introduction to Sociology – 2nd Canadian Edition

Global Culture The integration of world markets and technological advances of the last decades have allowed for greater exchange between cultures through the processes of globalization and diffusion. Beginning in the s, Western governments began to deregulate social services while granting greater liberties to private businesses. As a result of this process of neoliberalization, world markets became dominated by unregulated, international flows of capital investment and new multinational networks of corporations.

A global economy emerged to replace nationally based economies. We have since come to refer to this integration of international trade and finance markets as globalization. Increased communications and air travel have further opened doors for international business relations, facilitating the flow not only of goods but of information and people as well Scheuerman, Today, many Canadian companies set up offices in other nations where the costs of resources and labour are cheaper.

When a person in Canada calls to get information about banking, insurance, or computer services, the person taking that call may be working in India or Indonesia. While globalization refers to the integration of markets, diffusion relates a similar process to the integration of global cultures. Middle-class North Americans can fly overseas and return with a new appreciation of Thai noodles or Italian gelato. Access to television and the internet has brought the lifestyles and values portrayed in Hollywood sitcoms into homes around the globe.

Twitter feeds from public demonstrations in one nation have encouraged political protesters in other countries. When this kind of diffusion occurs, material objects and ideas from one culture are introduced into another. The increasing flows of global migration and movement also facilitate the diffusion of cultural ideas and artifacts as people from around the world spread out into global diasporas : The dispersions of a people from their original homeland.

All migrants, refugees, temporary foreign workers, or travellers bring their beliefs, attitudes, languages, cuisines, music, religious practices, and other elements of local ways of life with them when they move, and they encounter new ones in the places where they arrive. What would appear to be different in the contemporary era of global migration is the way in which electronic media make it possible for migrants and travellers to keep in touch daily with not only friends and family, but also favourite TV shows, current events, sports, music, and other elements of culture from home.

In the same way, electronic media give migrants access to the culture of their new homes just as they allow local residents to imagine future homes elsewhere in the world.

In the era of globalization, the experience of culture is increasingly disembedded from location. The ways people imagine themselves and define their individual attachments, interests, and aspirations criss-cross and intertwine the divisions between cultures formerly established by the territorial boundaries of societies. Hybridity in cultures is one of the consequences of the increased global flows of capital, people, culture, and entertainment. Hybrid cultures refer to new forms of culture that arise from cross-cultural exchange, especially in the aftermath of the colonial era.

On one hand, there are blendings of different cultural elements that had at one time been distinct and locally based: fusion cuisines, mixed martial arts, and New Age shamanism. On the other hand, there are processes of indigenization and appropriation in which local cultures adopt and redefine foreign cultural forms. As cultural diasporas or emigrant communities begin to introduce their cultural traditions to new homelands and absorb the cultural traditions they find there, opportunities for new and unpredictable forms of hybrid culture emerge. The recent purchase of the Canadian coffee and donut chain Tim Hortons by 3G Capital, the American-Brazilian consortium that owns Burger King, raised questions about Canadian identity that never seem far from the surface in discussions of Canadian culture.

How do we understand Canadian culture and Canadian identity in this example? Earlier in the chapter, we described culture as a product of the socioeconomic formation. Therefore, if we ask the question of whether a specific Canadian culture or Canadian identity exists, we would begin by listing a set of distinctive Canadian cultural characteristics and then attempt to explain their distinctiveness in terms of the way the Canadian socioeconomic formation developed.


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Seymour Martin Lipset famously described several characteristics that distinguished Canadians from Americans:. Canada was settled in part by United Empire Loyalists who fled America to remain loyal to Britain, and it did not become an independent nation state until it was created by an act of the British Parliament the British North America Act of However, how well do they actually represent Canadian culture?

As we saw earlier in the chapter, one prominent aspect of contemporary Canadian cultural identity is the idea of multiculturalism. The census noted that visible minorities made up In Toronto and Vancouver almost half the population are visible minorities. In a certain way, the existence of diverse cultures in Canada undermines the notion that a unified Canadian culture exists. In what way are we still able to speak about a Canadian identity except insofar as it is defined by multiculturalism; essentially many identities?

In the previous section we examined culture in its innovative guise. The innovations of high culture in expanding the range of human sensibility and the inventiveness of pop culture, subculture, and globally hybrid culture in creating and diffusing new cultural forms attests to the innovative side of culture. However, culture can also be examined in its restrictive guise, as source of restriction on human possibilities. Two contemporary modes of culture as restriction can be seen in the processes of rationalization and consumerism. Why was the West the West?

In modernity, everything is subject to the cold and rational gaze of the scientist, the technician, the bureaucrat, and the business person. As the impediments toward rationalization were removed, organizations and institutions were restructured on the principle of maximum efficiency and specialization, while older traditional inefficient types of organization were gradually eliminated.

As rationalization transforms the institutional and organizational life of modernity, other forms of social organization are eliminated and other purposes of life—spiritual, moral, emotional, traditional, etc. Life becomes irrevocably narrower in its focus, and other values are lost. Our attitude towards our own lives becomes oriented to maximizing our own efficiency and eliminating non-productive pursuits and downtime. One of the consequences of the rationalization of everyday life is stress. In , 27 percent of working adults in Canada described their day-to-day lives as highly stressful Crompton, Twenty-three percent of all Canadians aged 15 and older reported that most days were highly stressful in Statistics Canada, The focus on efficiency means that people regard time as a kind of limited resource in which to achieve a maximum number of activities.

The irrationality in rationalization is: Saving time for what? Are we able to take time for activities including sleep which replenish us or enrich us? As we can see in the table below, for a significant number of people, there is simply not enough time in the day to accomplish what we set out to do.

Prior to the invention of the commodity market, economic life revolved around bartering or producing for immediate consumption. Real objects like wool or food were exchanged for other real objects or were produced for immediate consumption according to need. The commodity introduces a strange factor into this equation because in the marketplace objects are exchanged for money. They are produced in order to be sold in the market. Their value is determined not just in regard to their unique qualities, their purpose, or their ability to satisfy a need i. When we ask what something is worth, we are usually referring to its price.

This monetization of value is strange in the first place because the medium of money allows for incomparable, concrete things or use values to be quantified and compared. Twenty dollars will get you a chicken, a novel, or a hammer; these fundamentally different things all become equivalent. It is strange in the second place because the use of money to define the value of commodities makes the commodity appear to stand alone, as if its value was independent of the labour that produced it or the needs it was designed to satisfy.

We see the object and imagine the qualities it will endow us with: a style, a fashionability, a personality type, or a tribal affiliation e. Mac people. We do not recognize the labour and the social relationships of work that produced it, nor the social relationship that tie us to its producers when we purchase it. With the increased importance of maintaining high levels of commodity turn over and consumption that emerged with the system of late capitalism, commodity fetishism plays a powerful role in producing ever new wants and desires.

Consumerism becomes a way of life. Consumerism refers to the way in which we define ourselves in terms of the commodities we purchase. To the degree that our identities become defined by the pattern of our consumer preferences, the commodity no longer exists to serve our needs but to define our needs. Music, fashion, technology, and values — all are products of culture. But what do they mean? How do sociologists perceive and interpret culture based on these material and nonmaterial items?

Functionalists view society as a system in which all parts work — or function — together to create society as a whole. Second, children from all social backgrounds begin accumulating personal experiences with cultural universals right from birth, and they can draw on these experiences as they learn social education concepts and principles. Educators who approach the subject of cultural universals analytically can help students develop a valuable understanding of how our social system works, how and why it got to be that way, how and why related practices vary across location and culture, and what all of this means for personal, social, and civic decision making.

For educators to build on their students' knowledge and to address misconceptions, however, they need more information about the trajectories in children's development of basic social understandings. Although some research has been done on the developmental stages of students' economic, political, and social knowledge, very little such information exists for the social studies.

The authors of this article have been studying the progress of children's knowledge for content commonly addressed in elementary social studies, particularly in the primary grades. We have conducted interviews with large samples of children in grades K-3 to elicit their knowledge and thinking about cultural universals. Our findings should be useful for teachers of grades K-3 in planning instruction about cultural universals, as well for teachers of grade 4 who need to understand the prior knowledge and misconceptions students are likely to have.

Although most surveys of students' social studies knowledge concentrate on isolated facts, with findings that illustrate what percentage of students answered which item correctly, our studies focus on the qualitative aspects of children's thinking, as well as commonly held misconceptions. Below, we present highlights of our findings on children's ideas about shelter, clothing, and food. We also explore methods that humans have developed for addressing these basic needs. The findings were derived from individual interviews conducted with urban and suburban Michigan students in grades K-3, stratified according to socioeconomic status, achievement level, and gender.

This video reveals their selected questions and the process that they went through to get them. Take a look at what happened when the children met with the Taoiseach and he even answered a couple of their questins there and then in Leinster House! Thank you to everyone at the Department of the Taoiseach for welcoming this hugely proud and excited group of children in and ensuring that their voices were heard - as they should be all year round by our government and all grown-ups.