It is said that America is great because of the firm cultural and values system that the founding fathers established. Equally, individuals become successful and respectful members of the society depending on the cultural value system embedded in the earlier generations in the family lineage. This is because the ancestral culture inspires the behaviors and motivates the following generations towards following their footsteps. For example, if one was born to a family with the history of leadership, the entire generation tends to be inspired to take up leadership positions. The spirits and the behaviors people inherit modify their behaviors to resemble their forefathers in a given way. The family becomes crucial in determining these behaviors and passing them on to their children as they select experiences, convey attitudes and impart knowledge to offspring. Similarly, my ancestors have played a critical role in influencing my cultural beliefs and learning through a framework of ideologies inherited by my family and passed on to me.
Gender Roles, Social Skills, and Individualism vs. Collectivism
My ancestral family background has transitioned through several generations that have impacted on the perceptions on basic issues of life including gender roles, social skills and defining relationships in the society.
Gender is a social concept defining cultural and social differences that society assigns to individuals based on their biological sex (Fairbairn, Blanckenhorn & Szekely, 2007). For example, if an individual is a boy, the society has a social concept that designates him as a man and what is expected of him. This social conceptualization leads to gender roles. Gender roles are the societal expectations of an individual's attitudes and behavior depending on whether they are female or male. These expectations define femininity and masculinity whereby certain roles are expected from females (femininity) and the expectations from boys (masculinity).
During the generations of my ancestors that lived in the 18th and 19th centuries, the concept of femininity and masculinity was well established with males and women playing different roles in the family and the community. Women were charged with governing the domestic affairs. They were to look after children and prepare them to be women or men by showing them their roles. Their roles included preparing meals and maintaining the home. Women rarely participated in any economic activity, but if they did so, they were taking up less energetic jobs such as teaching and nursing. On the other hand, men were the breadwinners. In the earlier ages, they went on hunting, but towards the 19th century, they were engaged in industry work where they earned a living for the family. Most of the time, they were out of the homestead. Also, men were family heads.
Although the modern society has changed in gender roles to an extent this distinction in gender roles is considered a traditional affair, the experiences of my family through those generations have impacted on my belief system and learning. For example, the fact that women were the ones who nurse children and prepared them for their future roles has made me believe that females are nearly the source of life which ought to be nurturing, gentle, graceful and decorative. Regarding this, I have learned to respect women for who they are. On the other hand, I have come to the belief that men should be hard-working people as the society largely depends on them as the breadwinners of their families. Although women are now empowered to be breadwinners, I still believe that men should play a bigger role in the family as the head.
Social skills are the interpersonal skills used by people to interact both verbally and non-verbally either through body language, gestures, and personal appearance. Human beings are naturally social and have developed different ways to communicate, share their thoughts and express feelings.
During the earlier generations in my ancestral lineage, boys and girls used to work together and engage in various roles and recreational activities. Through these co-operations, individuals expressed their feelings, thoughts and interpersonal skills with others and developed as well. Also, the youth assembled in social gatherings where education took place. They were guided by their elders who acted as their instructors.
Although today learning occurs in organized classrooms, I have come to believe in group learning as effective means through which one can develop social skills. According to Lavasani, Afzali, Borhanzadeh, Afzali and Davoodi (2011), cooperative learning engages learners in participatory learning where each has an opportunity to develop his or her interpersonal social skills such as how to communicate with peers. I learn better in groups than during common lectures. Perhaps this tendency has been motivated by my family experiences in learning through social groups and common activities in the past.
Individualism vs. Collectivism
Relationships between individuals in a group can be understood in two possible ways; individualism and collectivism. In individualism, one acts on his or her won. An individual acts more independently from the group. Individualism examines whether one is different from others and makes up his or her mind regarding issues. Individualism encourages the capitalistic economy. On the other hand, the group is considered as a primary entity with individuals lost along the way. The group rules over an individual. The group is important than an individual and forms the basis of socialistic societies (Triandis, 2018).
America is widely regarded as an individualistic society. Upon tracing my ancestral history, I have realized that individualism began in the 18th century with the beginning of industry when individual wealth formation became necessary to Americans. Similarly, my ancestors began to embrace the idea of individualistic thinking and acting. It was the only way that they distinguished themselves and act competitively in the society. This thinking has affected by belief system as I always like acting as a separate entity, making independent choices, thinking my thoughts and taking full responsibility for my choices.
Importance of History in Shaping Culture and How it Has Affected My Family
History makes and shapes culture. Culture, being a sum of behavior patterns, institutions, beliefs and other products of human thought and work that can be socially transmitted, shapes how people think and behave over time (De Groot, 2016). It means that as time passes, people evolve their thinking patterns which influence how they behave and this allows them to respond effectively to the changing environment. A good example would the rise of the humanist movement in Italy in the 14th century. After the end of medieval age which was wiped out by calamities, the new generation had to shape its thoughts, art and how they approached life to ensure that they did not fall back to the mistakes of their forefathers who lived through the 12th and 13th centuries. History, therefore, is important in shaping culture including uprooting inappropriate cultures and cultivating new ones to enable the people to adapt to the new world.
In my family lineage, history has been significant in changing the culture and the belief system embraced by the members. It is through history that our family learns the importance of changing thought and behavior framework to cope up with the changing world while shading out cultures that are no longer necessary. For example, currently, my family believes in empowering girls as they do to boys because they believe the world has been transformed and abilities created that have eliminated barriers to women success. My family is sensitive to popular culture, and we believe that to keep up with the modern world we have to embrace a new culture.
The family background is key in determining the personal belief system and learning going forward into the future. It is from the family history that one establishes a conceptualization of basic aspects such as gender roles, social skills, and relationship with groups. The family influences the way one perceives roles of each gender and helps define how one treats a member of the opposite gender. Also, the family background determines how one can best acquire social skills and advance learning through different learning methods. Moreover, the family history is the source of how one relates to a group or acts independently and account for his or her decisions and actions. Overall, history shapes existing cultures or makes new ones and allows people to adjust to the changing world or learn to act in new ways that are better adapted to the present conditions.
De Groot, J. (2016). Consuming history: Historians and heritage in contemporary popular culture. Routledge.
Fairbairn, D. J., Blanckenhorn, W. U., & Szekely, T. (Eds.). (2007). Sex, size and gender roles: evolutionary studies of sexual size dimorphism. Oxford University Press.
Lavasani, M. G., Afzali, L., Borhanzadeh, S., Afzali, F., & Davoodi, M. (2011). The effect of cooperative learning on the social skills of first grade elementary school girls. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 15, 1802-1805.
Triandis, H. C. (2018). Individualism and collectivism. Routledge.
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