by Dr. Denise R. Ames
Why can’t we just get along? That is a question I have been thinking about in my new book, Divided: Colliding Ways We See the World. In the rest of the February blogs, I will share with you some ideas that I have been exploring. The first in the series is one worldviews.
What are worldviews? Part 4
A person’s worldview is socially constructed, or largely shaped by their culture and upbringing. A worldview is a person’s internal mental framework of cognitive understanding about reality and life meaning. Although infants have instincts that shape their behaviors, infants do not have a worldview. Each person’s worldview takes shape over time as an individual grows, develops, gains new experiences and interacts with others, while their instinctual preferences are expressed.
Those involved in the early formation of a child’s worldview vary across cultures. In the United States, those who facilitate the formation of a youngster’s worldview are usually parents and/or close members of a nuclear family. Their influence is powerful during formative years. Other influences in modern society, such as television, social media, and pop culture, have an increasing bearing on worldview formulation and outcome. Youngsters often hold to their early worldviews into adulthood, with varying degrees of firmness.
Those involved in shaping a youngster’s worldview hope to produce a preferred outcome by exposing the child to selected experiences and providing instruction by way of narratives, rituals and behaviors. This indoctrination process may involve screening out alternative worldview narratives and experiences, or at least carefully managing a youngster’s interaction with them. Even a broad-minded approach, one which does not seek to restrict exposure to alternate worldviews, involves instilling certain interpretations and offering guidelines that direct youngsters to accept a particular worldview. These guidelines may be regarded as helpful for general well-being and meaning-making, but the unconscious intention is to frame the youngster’s worldview.
The process of education, by its very nature when conducted in public and private schools, instills a particular worldview. Public education in the U.S. interprets the world in a secular way according to authenticated, scientific standards of knowledge, while molding conduct around common values of 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. Even progressive schools that teach a social justice curriculum are promoting a particular worldview.
For those instilling a worldview, the picture is more complicated than in the past. No longer can a family easily control all the child’s interactions with the outside world. The complexity and rapid changes within today’s culture are bringing many more factors to bear on the child’s worldview formation. Technological developments and ubiquitous commercial advertisement also shape a youngster’s worldview. The contemporary situation presents intense conflicts for parents who seek a high degree of control in shaping their child’s worldview. Even the most open parents may be challenged by obstacles hindering what they intend as the preferred outcome.
Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator, grade 7-university, author of seven books, and president of an educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. CGA provides books, resources, and services with a holistic, global- focused, and perspective-taking approach for their three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, books and resources for educators and students grade 9-university; Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a self-organizing study and conversation program for adults focusing on seeing different perspectives of pressing global issues; and their most recent program Turn, Transformative Understanding and Reflection Network, which encourages lifelong and transformative learning to help us arrive at a place of personal and global well-being using a seven “path” approach.