Cultural Policy: U.S. Should Learn From the International Education Community

ImageWhile many countries around the world have been actively developing cultural policy for decades, the United States has been slow to recognize the importance of having such policies in place.  It has only been in the last few years that the United States has paid any attention at all the developing of policy regarding culture. Perhaps they, while developing cultural policies, should learn from the example set by the international community.

What is Cultural Policy?

Before continuing this discussion about cultural policy, we must first identify what it is we are referring to when we say “cultural policy”. The Institute for Cultural Democracy (1995) refers to a policy as an ultimate purpose, combined with objectives and a means to meet the objectives, all organized explicitly in a coherent system.  One can then deduce that a policy regarding culture would be one that consists of an ultimate purpose concerning culture and with all that it might relate.  “Cultural policies are most often made by governments, from school boards to Congress and the White House, but also by many other institutions in the private sector, from corporations to community organizations. “Policies provide guideposts for those making decisions and taking actions which affect cultural life” (The Institute for Cultural Democracy 1995)

Purpose of Cultural Policy

            The purpose of cultural policy really depends on the contents of the particular policy.  Generally speaking, cultural policy is intended to guide efforts of a governing body, in the whole field of cultural development (Adams and Goldbard, 1978).  Adams and Goldbard (1987) would go on to suggest that the purpose of having such a policy in place is to stimulate the diversity and vitality of a culture, to increase cultural access and participation, to increase the cultural forms and styles, and to encourage creativity, invention, and artistic freedom.  It seems as though thoughts, regarding cultural policy, reflect an opinion that diversity is critical to the health of culture, and that the purpose of a cultural policy is to protect culture and ensure it’s survival in this critical time of globalization.

Recommended Contents of Cultural Policy

I would presume that developing policy on any topic would be a very difficult task indeed, given the different perspectives of different individuals.  The Association of International Educators (2006), for example, feels that cultural policy should promote international, foreign-language, and area studies, should create a comprehensive strategy to restore America’s status as a magnet for international students and scholars, should create a comprehensive strategy to establish study abroad as an integral component of undergraduate education, and should strengthen citizen- and community-based exchange programs. I believe that cultural policy should include versions of the above mentioned, however it should not be limited to only these concepts.  Missing from these suggestions, in my opinion, is any consideration for the promotion of economical growth, community based arts, cultural participation in community based activities, political growth and the responsibilities of the individual within a cultural diverse  community. A cultural policy should be holistic in nature, taking into consideration the viewpoint of various stakeholders that will be affected by the enactment of such a policy.

Adopting a policy on culture has proven to be a critical part of encouraging cultural diversity and maintaining it’s strength.  The problem is that in the United States developing cultural policy is a relatively new concept.  Perhaps the American government can look to other countries that have long since developed similar policy on culture, and learn from the positive example they have set.  The benefits of cultural diversity are incontrovertible, and the development of cultural policy would seem to be a logical step toward protecting and improving upon this valuable resource.


Adams, D. and Goldbard, A. (1987), A New Cultural Policy for the United States, Retrieved July 25, 2007 from

Adams, D. and Goldbard, A. (1978), Comprehensive Cultural Policy for the State of California, Retrieved July 25, 2007 from

Association of International educators  (2006), An International Education Policy For U.S. Leadership, Competitiveness, And Security, Retrieved July 25, 2007 from

Institute for Cultural Democracy, (1995). Webster’s World of Cultural Policy, Retrieved March 9, 2009 from


Written by Brett Petrillo


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