Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Students' cultural capital

An article on building cultural capital among U.S. students noted the importance of enticing all students to participate in activities or events that they've never experienced.  Examples given vary from fancy dinners to opera and most are portrayed as "high culture" that first-generation students might not have experienced.  A comment at the conclusion of the article by one former student indicated, "I found one of the most important functions of the university experience was to ensure that I became alienated from my working-class family culture."

Three questions that arise for me related to international higher education:
  • Why would increasing cultural exposure/capital mean students would have to become alienated from their own lived experience and would this be desirable?
  • How would an international student view experiences like those described in the article?  Perhaps as an opportunity to explore American culture?  What about the culture that international students bring to their American campuses?  Are international students encouraged to engage with American culture as well as share their own with others?
  • In the extremely diverse cultures of many international institutions, what does cultural capital look like?  In Qatar the typical experiences could include hosting a Majlis disucssion, breaking the fast during Ramadan, camping in the desert, or watching a camel race.
The idea of building cultural capital sounds like it had merit in the U.S. context but I wonder if it would work, or how it might be different, in an international university setting.

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