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Teaching culture: The standards as an optic on curriculum development

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Title:Teaching culture: The standards as an optic on curriculum development
Authors:Arens, Katherine
Date Issued:01 Jan 2009
Publisher:Heinle Cengage Learning
Citation:Arens, K. (2009). Teaching culture: The standards as an optic on curriculum development. The American Association of University Supervisors, Coordinators and Directors of Foreign Languages Programs (AAUSC), 160-180.
Abstract:This chapter offers an experiment in defining what it means to teach culture,
based on the Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century
(2006). Traditional postsecondary FL classrooms all too often define “culture” as a set of facts; the Standards suggest that culture may be profitably defined as a field of cultural practices, signifiers, and knowledge. In consequence, a curriculum
may be developed stressing how learning a culture means not only acquiring its knowledge base but also the strategic competencies needed to function within it. Defining culture as a pragmatic field structured like a language but functioning in more dimensions requires that any curriculum be targeted at a particular site or region within which a group acts and defines itself as culturally literate through communication, pragmatic practices (behaviors, institutional functions),
and a characteristic knowledge base.
To make this case, I first offer a rereading of the Standards to redefine
learning language as learning culture. I then provide examples of how such a
rereading of the Standards can be implemented to structure curricula fostering various forms of culture literacy. The experiment proposed here argues that the Standards apply to a more encompassing model for learning, especially for teaching and learning culture as a set of semiotic systems revealed in the pragmatic
choices made by members of a cultural community in a particular field of
culture. My experiment, therefore, challenges how the Standards have been read and implemented overall.

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