Worldviews: How We See the World, Part 2

As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. 00-bent-tree

The Center for Global Awareness is pleased to announce a forthcoming conversation program to enhance global awareness for adult learners called GRASP (Global Awareness Adult Study Program). GRASP’s mission is to enhance adult learners’ global awareness by offering conversation materials that present significant global topics using a unique four dimensional approach: see, know, evolve, and engage (SEEK). Participants will be able to see different perspectives and views, know more about significant global topics, evolve attitudes and shift behaviors, and engage more actively in helping to solve pressing global concerns through interacting more deeply with others.

We at CGA think it is as important to see different perspectives and views of global topics as it is to know about the topics. Therefore, we are developing new materials to enhance this “see” skill for adult learners. One of the ways to help us see different perspectives is to understand different worldviews. One of our forthcoming books, Worldviews: How We See the World, addresses the see dimension. I would like to share with you a condensed version of the first chapter of this book: An Introduction to Worldviews. Please follow our 4-part blog series on worldviews.

Much of any person’s worldview is shaped by his or her culture and upbringing. But, a worldview is not merely a philosophical byproduct of a person’s culture. Worldviews are constructed by society that is they are more collective than individual. I am also distinguishing worldviews from cultural views that I describe in another book. A worldview is a person’s internal mental framework of cognitive understanding about reality and life meaning. No infant has a worldview. Each person’s worldview takes shape over time as an individual grows and develops and as s/he engages in new events and experiences, interacts with others, and derives answers to inquiries about life and living from others.

Those involved in the early formation of a worldview for any child vary across cultural and other variables that influence a child’s upbringing, such as living in a nuclear family or collective, extended family. In the United States, those who supply answers to questions and facilitate the formation of a youngster’s worldview are usually parents and/or close family of the child. Their influence during formative years is powerful. Youngsters hold to their formulation of a worldview with varying degrees of firmness and cognitive maturity. Influences in modern society such as television, social media, and pop culture have an increasing bearing on worldview formulation and outcome.

Those involved in shaping a youngster’s worldview hope to produce a preferred outcome by exposing s/he to selected experiences and providing instruction by way of narratives, rituals and behaviors. 05-infantThis indoctrination process may involve screening out alternative worldview narratives and experiences, or at least careful managing a youngster’s acquaintance with them. Even a broad-minded approach, one which does not seek to restrict exposure to alternate worldviews, will involve instilling certain interpretations and offering guidelines that direct youngsters to accept a particular worldview. These guidelines may be regarded as helpful for understanding the universe living life well, and gaining meaning, but the unconscious intention is to frame the youngster’s worldview.

The process of education, by its very nature, conducted in public and private schools instills a particular worldview. Public education concentrates on interpreting the world in secular fashion according to authenticated, scientific standards of knowledge and molding conduct around common values of civilized society and a respect for individualism. The authentication process involves training experts in the peer-accepted standards of scientific knowledge and research. Religious schools may accept some of the scientific standards of knowledge found in the public schools, but also infuse religious ways of knowing that may conflict with scientific standards.

For those instilling a worldview, the picture is more complicated than in the past. No longer can a family as readily control major interactions of the child within a general locale and accepting local mores. The complexity and rapid changes within today’s culture are bringing many more factors to bear. 06-chinese-studentsTechnological developments and advertisers of a commercial marketplace may increasingly hold sway in shaping a youngster’s worldview. The contemporary situation presents intense conflicts for those parents who seek a high degree of command over shaping their child’s worldview. Even the most liberal of parents may be challenged by an inability to channel experiences for their progeny toward what they hold as a hoped-for outcome. If worldviews are so important in influencing what we do, what are the prevailing worldviews that we all hold so dearly?

A unique period of human history is occurring at this time, a fifth turning—what I have called the Global Wave—that is transforming our human story as this new millennium dawns. The Global Wave, as outlined in my book Waves of Global Change: A Holistic World History, is characterized by rapid technological, intellectual, psychological, spiritual, economic, social, cultural, political, and ecological changes that are profoundly altering familiar patterns of the past. coverjpgsmrevAs is often the case when deep changes occur there is today a great deal of anxiety, tension, conflict, and disruption as well. The deep changes occurring today are organized, in this holistic world history, into a fifth wave, the Global Wave. Deep transformations are not new in our human history, for punctuations of human rhythms have shifted the flow of history in the past as well. Periods of discontinuity alter the balance of continuity and create change. Now, once again, is a time of ground-breaking change.

Within the Global Wave there is not one all-pervasive, homogeneous way of thinking and seeing reality. Instead I have identified five often contentious and conflicting worldviews, with contradictory ways of knowing and understanding the world, each promoting dissimilar visions for the present and future. In the United States and throughout the world, most people identify with one or another of these worldviews or hold a combination of ideas from these five worldviews. The next blog gives a brief summary of the five major worldviews: indigenous, modern, fundamentalist, globalized, and transformative.


  1. In what ways do you or society in general socialize children to conform to a worldview? What are some characteristics of that worldview?


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