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Could people give me any ideas in how communites ( ie schools, sport group etc ) influence our sense of identity?
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I think being a part of a group or athletic team where other people are dependent on you helps you learn about yourself. It helps to develop your strengths and to find your weaknesses. Being a part of a group also helps you learn to communicate.
We live in a "t-shirt" world. By that I mean we live at a time when everything we do, participate in, contribute to, support, cheer for, travel to, or watch shows up on a t-shirt. I'm not much of a t-shirt wearer, but as I look at what I have in the drawer I see sports teams, drama groups, summer camps, blood drives, work groups, schools, states, and who knows what else. Think of those you own. If you've "been there, done that, got the t-shirt," it's probably a community or group which has had some impact on who you are and/or what you do (identity).
I realize this question has several answers already, but I want to propose looking at this from the perspective of cognitive development and how we teach social studies in elementary school.
Between the ages of 12 months to 2 years a child is becoming aware of his own existence but is not necessarily very good at interacting with others. He is egocentric (self-centered). As he gets older, he begins to learn (by experience) that he is not in fact the only person in the world, and must wait his turn, share, etc. The development then moves outward in concentric circles as the child gets older and older so that he realizes he is part of something much MUCH bigger than himself. A typical social studies curriculum moves in much the same way. Lessons go in an order like this:
- my family
- my neighborhood (other families)
- my city or town
- my state
- my country
- my world
Generally speaking, as children learn in these steps of how they belong to many small communities which make up bigger communities they begin to develop a very basic sense of organization. This forms a framework for organizing learning in every other subject.
People usually join a group when they feel as if they have something in common with the group. If people feel that they are a part of a group, then they will likely identify with the views of the group as well.
Say for example a teenager joins a youth group at their local church. They are already a part of the general church group but now they are a part of the youth group. They identify and fit in with this group for many reasons. First of all, the people in the group are all approximately the same age. They more than likely share the same experiences and feel more comfortable with one another.
People also join groups because of a certain talent. If a person is exceptionally good at basketball then they may join a basketball team. If they are interested in losing weight then they may join a weight loss group.
To a very large extent, individuals define themselves with or against communitarian notions of the good. There is a tendency in human beings to be able to feel comfortable when there is a shared consciousness of experience. Communities such as schools, groupings within it, or other affiliations help to provide these shared experiences, these moments of communal consciousness. It is in these venues when our sense of identity becomes impacted by these groups as we define ourselves with our groups, and, more importantly, define ourselves against other groups. "I belong to ___________ and we cannot stand _________." This appeals to human consciousness on two levels. The first is that is shows a common experience being felt, affiliation being present and inclusion being implied. The second is that it defines itself against "the other." It is this exclusionary practice that might help to make the first condition be contingent on the second. Our sense of identity is profoundly impacted in such situations. As we seek to define who we are and what we do, it becomes akin to an experience peering through a key hole where we are limited in fully understanding our selves because we always seek to be understood "through the gaze of 'the other." In this case, communities play a large role in this process by serving as "the other."
Everyone has a need to belong to a group larger than one's own singleness. Becoming a member of a sports team strengthens one's sense of being and definitely influences one's sense of identity. The quarterback needs the running back and receiver in order to perform his job of getting the ball on down the field. Even though the quarterback is considered the leader in operations, he cannot do his task alone. He must rely on others, his team, to get the job done. Therefore, the lone quarterback is identified as only one part of the puzzle. The quarterback needs the other players to succeed. He then becomes a team player in his utilization of his team members. There is no one quarterback who can get the job done without the help of his teammates. Belonging to a community or team helps each individual understand his place in the community. There is strength in numbers. No one can go it alone. Not one great leader is remembered solely for his individual accomplishments. There is always a great movement behind a great leader. Although he or she may be leading the pack, it is the support of the pack that helps identify the leader as great.
Information about who we are is not only provided and interpreted by us but by the community in which we participate. Community influence our identity by virtue of belonging to it. Being able to say that we belong to a community is only one way to form our identity. Another way is a community can determine what one is good at and how he/she performs specific tasks: how we relate to others, how we and what we do to fullfill the communities goals. There are progressions of identity. It defines who a person is now and how they will change over time.Opportunities to move closer to center or to move upward in a community can be a powerful incentive to remain in a group. Thereby, influencing a change in identity over time.
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