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As the world turns: Constructing the problem of cultural illiteracy

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  1. Introduction
  2. Deconstructing the problem
    1. Defining cultural illiteracy
    2. Rochefort and Cobb's view
  3. Contextualizing the problem
    1. The social problem of cultural illiteracy
    2. The urgency of the problem
  4. Conclusion
  5. References

Miscommunication happens every day, in every type of forum, for many different reasons. Sometimes the incident is simply that ? a miscommunication, but other times it bears witness to a deeper misunderstanding, based on or ignoring one's cultural or ethnic group. The current name that I offer for this problem is cultural illiteracy. I have previously referred to this problem as cultural incompetence, with the ultimate solution being a universal cultural competence. Of course, from the framework of Standpoint Theory (Robbins et al., 2006) and Freire's (1993) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, it may seem that the need for such a competency is more urgent amongst populations of power, or in the Freirean vernacular, the "oppressors".

[...] However, while all of these people may note cultural illiteracy as a problem, their understanding of the condition varies because they see the issue from different perspectives, hold different values within their professional lens, and note different elements of what is at stake (e.g. Arasaratam & Doerfel, 2005). For instance, from an educator's point of view, it is the student's education and opportunities that are at stake (e.g. Duckworth et al., 2005; Schuerholz-Lehr, 2007), but in the case of business professionals, it is their productivity and revenue at stake, when they are not able to tailor a product to the needs and values of a broader audience (e.g. [...]

[...] Stemming from this traditional definition of illiteracy, I would define cultural illiteracy as the absence of education about, and the lack of valuation of, multiple ethnic and cultural group experiences, traditions, and values. In defining cultural illiteracy in this way, one assumes there is a value to cultural literacy and that the causes of this problem are global, and not group specific. The nature of cultural illiteracy is divisions, devaluation, and misunderstanding. One must ask where these elements stem from. [...]

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