If people of different cultures are to get along better, it may be necessary for them to "stretch" their values, a Kansas University communications professor told city employees Wednesday.
Dorthy Pennington, associate professor of African and African-American studies and communication studies, spoke informally to about 20 city employees at a brown bag presentation at city hall.
Pennington, who said that one of her main research interests is intercultural communications, related a story about a former student, a young black man who is an editor at a major metropolitan newspaper. "John," she said, would like to be promoted within the next 1 years.
Although John thinks his promotion is realistic, Pennington said John has noticed that usually only those journalists who are sociable are promoted.
John is not prone to casually dropping into his peers' offices, Pennington explained. Instead of meeting for drinks after work with other newspaper employees, John spends his time doing community volunteer work, Pennington said.
WHEN JOHN asked her for advice, Pennington said she told John that he might need to "stretch" his values a little to accomplish his goals. She encouraged him to become more social.
Pennington, who has led training sessions about cultural diversity for the Department of Defense, said all cultures incorporate general thinking patterns.
"I would maintain that for every cultural group or subcultural group, you could indentify a sense of a values, a whole set of values, for them," she said.
Pennington said she has closely followed the city's relationship with local Native Americans. She outlined basic differences in the values of Native Americans and the dominant white culture here.
AMERICAN Indians, she said, attempt to live in harmony with nature, while the mainstream culture tends to want mastery over nature. Native Americans value mythology, she said, while the mainstream culture values science.
Native Americans express concern for the present, she said, while the mainstream culture usually is concerned with the future and planning for tomorrow. Along those lines, Pennington said Native Americans work to satisfy their present needs while the mainstream culture works to get ahead.
For Native Americans, time is infinite, and for the mainstream culture, time is regarded as a commodity, Pennington said. And while Native Americans approach tasks with cooperation, the mainstream culture is steeped in competition, she said.
PENNINGTON told the city employees that it is important to understand other cultures' values. To get along in today's multicultural society, it is sometimes necessary to stretch one's values to incorporate some of the values of others, she said.
For example, she said Native Americans aren't very aggressive. But they need to be more assertive in some instances, such as in job promotions.
"Cultural diversity is always negotiable," Pennington said.