Blink Consulting
On Language
On Diversity
On Multiculturalism
On Normative Culture
On Whiteness


“Culture in this case is just a fancy way of saying ‘your mom.’”
- Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma

In a multicultural society, not all cultures are equal: at the core is a group that has established the norms of the society as a whole. For people who belong to the normative culture, these ways are like the air they breathe: essential, yet unapparent. Normative culture is, after all, normal. But to those unversed in the normative culture, the air can seem very strange indeed.

Beyond simply being conventional, norms suggest what is right to the people who live them: how things are done eventually becomes how things should be done. Of course, what is “right” is a matter of context: what seems indisputably correct in one culture may not be-or may not so simply be-appropriate in another. One of the misapprehensions in multicultural societies is mistaking a cultural issue for an individual one. All too often, we blame the canary for not getting along in the coal mine. By acknowledging normative culture, schools can effect change not just for the benefit of a few individuals but for all those who breathe the air.

While normative culture is the unlevel playing field in a multicultural society, it is not inherently bad. Nor is assimilation. Such is the truth in an independent school: the school is part of a culture to which its students aspire. Its institution, behavior patterns, rituals, language and artifacts embody a normative culture to which students-to an extent-need to conform in order to succeed, not only at the school but at the next level of their education and, ultimately, as adult members of society. Schools can find a balance in the dynamics of multiculturalism not by throwing out the normative culture, but by educating students through and about this and other cultures. With the ability to distinguish cultural artifacts from absolute truth or correctness, students can breathe a little easier as they find their ways in the global community.
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