Culture in the Future
As we have discussed in this chapter. many changes are occurring in the United States. Increasing cultural diversity can either cause long-simmering racial and ethnic antagonisms to come closer to a boiling point or result in the creation of a truly “rainbow culture” in which diversity is respected and encouraged.In the future. the issue of cultural diversity will increase in importance, especially in schools. Multicultural education that focuses on the contributions of a wide variety of people from different backgrounds will continue to be an issue of controversy from kindergarten through COllege.In the Los Angeles school district, for example. stUdl’;i”~speak more than 114 different languages and dialects. Schools will face the challenge of embracing widespread cultural diversity while conveying a sense of community and national identity to students (see “Sociology Works!”). Technology will continue to have a profound effect on culture. Television and radio, films and DVDs. and electronic communications will continue to accelerate the Howof information and expand cultural diffusion throughout the world. Global communication devices will move images of people’s lives, behavior. and fashions instantaneously among almost all nations. lncreasingly, computers and cyberspace will become people’s window on the world and, in the process, promote greater integration or fragmentation among nations.
Integration occurs when there is a widespread acceptance of ideas and items-such as democracy, rock music.blue jeans, and McDonald’s hamburgers-among cultures. By contrast, fragmentation occurs when people in one culture disdain the beliefs and actions of other cultures. As a force for both cultura! integration and fragmentation, technology will continue to revolutionize communications, but most of the world’s population will not participate in this revolution. From a sociological perspective, the study of culture helps us not only understand our own “t061 kit” of symbols, stories, rituals, and world views but also expand our insights to include those of other people of the world, who also seek strategies for enhancing their own lives. If we understand how culture is used by people. how cultural elements constrain or further certain patterns of action, what aspects of our cultural
heritage have enduring effects on our actions. and what specific historical changes undermine the validity of some cultural patterns and give rise to others, we can apply our sociological imagination not only to our own society but to the entire world as well (see Swidler, 1986).