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  • Writer's pictureSam Wilks

The Role of Education in Cultural Transmission


The role of education in cultural transmission is a complex subject that delves into how changes in the education system impact the transmission of Western values and traditions. I hope to shed light on the subtle ways that culture shapes education and vice versa and how as educators we are required to adapt to the needs of our students.


Education is more than the mere transmission of knowledge; it's the vehicle through which societies pass down values, traditions, and modes of thinking from one generation to the next. The education system, therefore, doesn't operate in a vacuum but is a reflection of the society it serves. It's both shaped by and shapes the cultural norms and values of that society. In Western contexts, this has traditionally meant a focus on individualism, rationalism, and the liberal democratic values that underpin much of Western thought, the often cited meritocracy.


However, recent shifts in educational paradigms have raised questions about how effectively these values are being transmitted. The move towards more inclusive, diverse, and student-centered learning approaches, while positive in some respects, has also led to debates about the dilution of traditional Western educational content. This is particularly evident in the debates surrounding the curriculum in the Northern Territory of Australia, where attempts to incorporate a more comprehensive representation of Aboriginal history and culture are often seen in tension with the transmission of traditional Western values.


The real-world implications of these shifts are evident in various spheres. For instance, the decline in students' understanding of democratic processes and principles, noted in several Australian studies, can be linked to the changing focus in education. Similarly, debates around free speech on university campuses across the West and in particular in Victoria, Australia, reflect a deeper uncertainty about the balance between upholding traditional values of open debate and ensuring a respectful and inclusive environment for all students.


In the Northern Territory, the challenge is particularly pronounced. Efforts to reconcile the traditional Western curriculum with the rich cultural heritage of the indigenous population have led to innovative educational models. These models aim to respect and incorporate indigenous knowledge systems while also providing students with the tools to navigate and succeed in a predominantly Westernised world. This balancing act is reflective of the broader challenge facing educators: how to transmit varied cultural values and traditions in a way that is both respectful of diversity and true to the foundational principles of Western education.


From an economic perspective, the role of education in cultural transmission is also crucial. The labour market increasingly demands not just technical skills but also the ability to navigate a complex and rapidly changing cultural landscape. This requires an education system that is not only robust in its academic offerings but also agile in its cultural approach. As a security personnel trainer, I spend a substantial amount of time on research and adjustments to courses based on feedback and data, to validate the importance of a system that can adapt to and reflect the needs and values of the society it serves.


Psychologically, the impact of education on cultural transmission is profound. The shaping of young minds is not just about imparting knowledge but also about moulding the worldview and ethical framework within which that knowledge is applied. The balance between teaching critical thinking and maintaining respect for traditional values is delicate and reflects the broader societal debates about identity, morality, and belonging. My goal is to teach my students how to think, not what to think. To help them become flexible, adaptable, unpredictable, and capable through discourse and critical and creative thinking.


From a security and risk management perspective, the role of education in cultural transmission is also significant. In an increasingly interconnected and sometimes volatile world, understanding and respecting different cultures is not just a moral imperative but a practical necessity. The teachings of those in the field of security and risk management underscore the importance of an education system that prepares students not just to thrive in their immediate environment but to understand and engage with the wider world in a respectful and informed manner.


The role of education in the transmission of cultural values and traditions is a complex and evolving subject. The shifts in educational paradigms, while challenging, also offer opportunities for a more inclusive and dynamic understanding of culture and tradition. The examples from Australia illustrate the unique challenges and opportunities that arise when education systems attempt to reconcile multiple cultural narratives. As society continues to evolve, so too must our understanding of the role of education in shaping and being shaped by the cultural values and traditions it seeks to transmit.


Over four-fifths of my students grapple with English as a second language, and they hail from an eclectic mix of Asian, Middle Eastern, and African backgrounds. The prejudiced attitudes they've encountered are often intensified in Australia's complex cultural landscape, which, to the casual observer, might seem homogenous but is, in reality, a tapestry woven from myriad religions, tribal affiliations, and historical conflicts.


My task is to foster interaction in a context where avoidance might seem like the easier path. I strive to cultivate a mindset of enquiry and understanding, where the default might otherwise be to succumb to broad stereotypes. This involves teaching them to notice and appreciate the worth in others, blending elements of personality development, security, and cultural awareness. Ultimately, my aim is to equip my students not just to survive but to thrive amidst the diversity and challenges they will inevitably face, making positive contributions to the society and varied cultures they will navigate. From the author.


The opinions and statements are those of Sam Wilks and do not necessarily represent whom Sam Consults or contracts to. Sam Wilks is a skilled and experienced Security Consultant with almost 3 decades of expertise in the fields of Real estate, Security, and the hospitality/gaming industry. His knowledge and practical experience have made him a valuable asset to many organizations looking to enhance their security measures and provide a safe and secure environment for their clients and staff.

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