Many of us believe in promoting multiculturalism. Before we push to hard for this goal we need to be aware what culture really means to people living now. It would also do us well to get over some myths about what culture used to mean for the generations past.
To live successfully in the modern world a person must live within many cultures. The cultures which define a person's life are no longer ethnically based. They are now based on function. A person must learn to live in a business culture, a school culture, a home culture, and a street culture. These cultures have inconsistent norms.
In business culture there are behaviors, attires, and speech patterns that tract a person for management, behaviors, attires, and vocabularies that track a person for office work, and those that track a person for labor. Where a person ends up in the work force, and consequently economic status, has little do with skill and abilities, and everything to do with the culture he embodies.
Schools have a culture of their own. Although there is some relationship between school culture and business culture, the two have different norms, and focuses. The behaviors of success in school are not the behaviors of success in business. Intelligence, memorization, silent listening, and creativity are major factors in school culture. These things are at most minor factors in business culture. Clocks and punctuality are major factors in both cultures. Those rising in status in school culture are expected to treat others with quiet respect in all realms except sports where aggression is allowed. In business aggression and plagiarism (taking credit for the work of others) is considered the norm for management. There are, of course, a very specific norms in business culture for how that should be done.
Home culture varies from house to house and ethnic group to ethnic group. Home culture typically place less emphasis on clocks and punctuality than business or school culture. The behaviors, attires, language, and gender roles at home have only accidental correlation with those of business culture. The definitions of success at home are quite different from those of school or business. Memorization does not help you at home the way it does at school, and winning does not help at home the way it does in business. It is not the same culture.
And street culture is not the same as the others. One does not dress or talk with his friends the same as his family or business. He does not act the same when purchasing items, or going out to eat, as he does at work, school, or home. A typical modern American will find himself living in at least 4 different cultures in his life, and to be successful he must adjust his behavior, language, and attire as he passes from one culture to another.
There has been psychological research of males raised in wealthy households who learned only business culture. They never learned how to treat their spouse as an equal, instead they treat her as a servant, or as a mommy. These males are very excellent material providers, but their wives become very stressed from being treated as subordinates.
In another report, many major corporations had to send their top brass to Outward Bound to teach them how to cooperate. These males were so cutthroat in their status climbing behaviors, that they could not even cooperate successfully within their own companies. This is quite ironic, since their high salaries are largely legitimized in terms of what their great cooperation skills do for the company.
On the other end of the spectrum, there have been observations of inner-city minority youth. They were led to believe that school culture and business culture are "white culture" not their culture. In accepting this myth they reject learning the elements of those two cultures. The consequence of this misleading information is their own choices contribute to the forces already working against them, leaving them economically disenfranchised in this country.
Much can be gained by promoting multicultural understanding. But promoting outdated view of culture that purports that culture is ethnically based can be counterproductive. Promoting the view that culture is ethnic-based can alienate individual from opportunities, and the understanding of others.