What is Cultural Education?

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Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 10.12.38It’s a good question, and it’s a big question. Because culture covers so many different things. On one level, perhaps an unexpected one today, it relates to a religious dimension, because ‘culture’ relates to the cult —to the cult of the gods. And so, through cult(ure), we enter the world of the gods: the world of temples, of art, of beauty.

On another level, culture relates to an intensely practical dimension, to the realm of the pragmatic — and the economic. ‘Culture’ is related to agri-culture: to the tilling of the soil, to the ‘cultivation’ of produce; to its distribution, to buying and selling; to the world of business and economics; to commerce.

And because ‘culture’ covers all these dimensions, Cultural Education has to cover them all too: and Knowledge Exchange and Industry Engagement are two faces of the relation between Cultural Education and the spheres of business, commerce, and —in the broadest sense— ‘exchange’. In other words, Cultural Education goes to the heart of what a College of Arts is committed to doing.

In order to do business with people, we have to understand them, and Cultural Education points, over and beyond the questions of linguistic grammar and syntax, to the grammar and syntax of trading, connecting, and personal engagement. In my own job field of modern languages, this is particularly important: we learn to speak another language, not just to get the grammar right, but in order to engage with —and to learn from— other people and other cultures.

In fact, why would we want to learn another language, unless it were to encounter new ideas, different ways of thinking and doing, fresh ways of understanding the world? Language can never be an end in itself (and so ‘modern languages’ can never be an end in themselves). In other words, Cultural Education involves the articulation of languages with the real problems. Of the real world.

A final thought. Etymologically, the word ‘culture’ derives from cultivare, cultura, and cult-, a past participle stem of colere: in other words, it forms part of a nexus of words meaning ‘to cultivate’ but also ‘to worship’, ‘to tend’, ‘to honour’. At its most profound and also at its most pragmatic, Cultural Education is ultimately about respect for the other.

 

Text by Prof Paul Bishop, William Jacks Chair in Modern Languages (German). To view Prof Bishop’s video on Cultural Education visit our YouTube channel

To find out more about Cultural Education visit http://www.gla.ac.uk/colleges/arts/knowledge-exchange/themes/culturaleducation/ or email fraser.rowan@glasgow.ac.uk

 

Post Author: Fraser Rowan

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