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Social Dimensions of Education

Characteristics of Culture

Culture is learned, shared by a group of people, cumulative, dynamic, ideational, and diverse. Culture also changes and gives us a range of permissible behavior patterns.



There are quite a number of characteristics of culture. These are:

1. Culture is learned.

The first essential characteristic of culture is that it is learned. A child born in the Philippines but was brought to the United States after birth may not develop traits characteristic of Filipinos. He may learn behavior pattern characteristics of American children, including language.

2. Culture is shared by a group of people.

For a thought or action to be considered cultural, it must be commonly shared by some population or group of individuals. Even if some behavior is not commonly appropriate, it is cultural if most people think it is appropriate. For example, the idea that marriage involves only one man and one woman is cultural in our society.

3. Culture is cumulative.

Knowledge is stored and passed on from one generation to the next, and new knowledge is being added to what is existing. Each culture has worked out solutions to the basic problems of life, which it then passes on to its children. The jeepneys and tricycles in the Philippines are good examples of the cumulative quality of culture. Their invention involved the use of materials which were invented in different places of the world (Hunt et al, 1995).

4. Cultures change.

All cultural knowledge does not perpetually accumulate. At the same time that new cultural traits are added, some old ones are lost because they are no longer useful. For example, most city dwellers today do not have or need the skills required for survival in a wilderness. Most would likely starve to death because they do not know how to acquire wild foods and survive the extremes of weather outdoors. What is more important in modern urban life are such things as the ability to drive a car, use a computer, and understand how to obtain food in a supermarket or restaurant (O’Neill, 2005).

5. Culture is dynamic.

This is a characteristic of culture that stems from its cumulative quality. No culture is ever in a permanent state. It is constantly changing because new ideas and new techniques are added and old ways are constantly modified and discarded. This is because of the rapid changes that occur which may be introduced from within or without. It also grows by the spread of traits from the individual and from one group to another which is termed as diffusion. One form of diffusion is the growth of language
Filipino vocabulary has grown because of borrowed words from other languages like Spanish, Chinese and English.

6. Culture is ideational.

Culture is an ideal pattern of behavior which the members are expected to follow. Man assigns meanings to his environment and experiences by symbolizing them. These are internalized by the individual and he sees or approaches his world from the standpoint of this culture (Panopio, 1994).

7. Culture is diverse.

The sum total of human culture consists of a great many separate cultures, each of them different. Culture as a whole, is a system with many mutually interdependent parts. For example, the choice or a marriage partner involves many different parts of culture as religion, economic class, education, etc.

8. Culture gives us a range of permissible behavior patterns.

Every culture allows a range of ways in which men can be men and women can be women. Culture also tells us how different activities should be conducted, such as how one should act as a husband, wife, parent, child, etc. These rules of permissible behavior are usually flexible to a degree – there are some alternatives rather than hard rules.

For instance, culture tells us how we should dress based on our gender, but it allows us to dress in different ways in different situations in order to communicate varied messages and statuses. The clothing patterns of women in this society can be particularly rich and complex. Their clothing can be intentionally business-like, recreational, as well as sexually attractive, ambiguous, neutral, or even repulsive.

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