Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

"I define culture as the dominant values and beliefs that influence decision-making," writes Tony Bates, and to be frank, this is where my thinking diverges from his in this article. Oh sure, culture might include values and beliefs, but it's much more likely to include songs and myths, customs and folkways, shared jokes, jargon, and perspectives on like. And sure, culture might influence decision-making, but decision-making is really such a small part of life, and even where we're making decisions, they are much less likely to be informed by reasons and rationality than people suppose. The difference between Bates' view of culture and mine, maybe, is the difference between the culture at Eton and at the neighbourhood pub (that's perhaps an unfair comparison, but is intended to be evocative). Thus where Bates encourages mutual respect, I encourage conviviality, where he talks of openness and respect of diversity, I seek its active embrace. Etc. What Bates describes, I think, is the pre-existing dominant culture, but it's one I find more oppressive than enlightening.

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada
stephen@downes.ca

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Last Updated: Feb 25, 2021 8:57 p.m.