Jeudi, mai 16, 2019

Illumination #2: Children and access to culture

 

 

In many societies today, the issue of access to culture is an area of concern. Indeed, access to culture is unevenly distributed and some people simply don’t benefit from it at all. While adults and young people in disadvantaged neighbourhoods are often the people most often heard to claim access, children are as well increasingly on the margins of this claim.

 

But what do we mean by Culture?

 

Culture is a polysemous term. In its general sense it refers to the knowledge of intellectual works: literature, music, painting, etc.

It may appear under different forms. As a result, we can have the explicit culture that constitutes all the elements of an entire people (dance, languages, customs, clothing, rituals, artistic achievements...); and on the other hand the implicit culture or "mentality" that is the product of representations, values and feelings of an environment. 

 

Why is Culture so important?

 

Culture is expressed in the way we tell our stories, celebrate, remember the past, have fun and imagine the future. Our creative expression helps us to define ourselves and see the world through the eyes of others.

 

It has the ability to offer emotionally or intellectually moving experiences, whether pleasant or disturbing, that invite celebration or contemplation. It is also a foundation that provides the means to express creativity, forge one's own identity and strengthen or preserve a sense of belonging to the community.

 

Participation in cultural activities enable children and young people to broaden their capacities for reflection and adaptation, and to strengthen their self-esteem, which in the end is reflected in their academic performance.

 

What are the barriers to access to Culture for children and young people?

 

Protected by Article 31 of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, access to culture is still a luxury for many children around the world.

 

In its explicit aspect, children encounter many barriers that do not allow them to learn about their culture.

 

The environment children grow in is an important factor in their access to culture. Indeed, in situations of extreme poverty or instability, children do not necessarily have the opportunity to learn about the aspects of culture that surround them.

 

Education is also a crucial factor for access to culture. However, in many situations the rights to education is already violated for certain categories (girls, poor, disabled, indigenous children, minorities, etc.) and depending on the background situations (war, forced labour, refugees, etc.).

 

In addition, refugee and asylum-seeking children face great difficulties in exercising their rights referred to in article 31. They are often both estranged from their own traditions and cultures and excluded from the culture of the host country.

 

Modern and traditional Cultures

 

For many years Western culture has always been predominant in the world, whether because of colonialist influence or later through modern media and especially with the rise of television, the Internet and today's social networks. The Western cultural market is widespread throughout the world, yet a contrario traditional cultures are very little known in the Western world.

 

In some continents, we meet children who are deprived of their culture in favor of the Western model; this can represent a risk for traditional cultures which risk being erased in the face of the great magnates in the world, especially in the movie industry. And even when Western culture reaches other countries, it does not adapt to local particularities, especially in terms of languages. In the specific case of Cambodia, it is rare for foreign films to benefit from dubbing that allows access to these films for all, and are only subtitled in Khmer. In addition, foreign literary works are very rarely translated.

 

In contrast, in tribal cultures, children do not have access to modern culture. This limits their open-mindedness in places they are not familiar with.