sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

December 15, 2011

How Not to Raise a Global Kid

Parents magazine is reliably full of bad ideas.  The latest one is their take on multicultural education: How to Raise a Global Kid.  Lets take it from the top:

The names on the classroom door say it all: Saynab, Jexus, Victoria, Abdullahi.

That’s the author, Elizabeth Foy Larsen, gushing over something called “an authorized International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme”, or a non-profit multicultural education curriculum, which, according to Larsen, has “obvious” social benefits and prepares kids for “the global future”.   Larsen tries to suggest that the names  are cosmopolitan, but it really sound like an average day at an upper middle class Bay Area playground.  If we are to trust baby naming trends documented by the Social Security Administration (and I don’t see why not), it’s not just the Bay Area, it’s the whole country.  American parents give their kids exotic names.

Larsen  interviewed Jennifer Manise of another non-profit, the Longview Foundation.  Manise opined that “We are citizens of the world. To understand that is helpful.”  and gave her expert opinions on how to raise a “global kid”.

While I don’t think Manise used the word “citizens” to literally mean that we all have global citizenship, I second some of the suggestions, like pinning maps on walls or talking about foreign travel.  There are some cheesy ones, though.  Among them:

Find festivals.
From the Chinese New Year (on January 23 in 2012) to Italy’s Feast of San Gennaro (celebrated each September), the United States is packed with ethnic celebrations that welcome the general public, says Manise. “Having a chance to see arts and crafts and hear folktales, music, and language is a wonderful experience for the entire family.”

Those can be fun, but the educational value of such events is questionable because they are less authentic than the most touristy intersections of the home country they suppose to represent.  Festivals take a few traditions, rip them out of context and put them on display.  They don’t give the viewers an idea of what the life in the mother country is like and rarely introduce the viewer to the highest achievements of the civilization in question.

Make it personal.
“One of the unique aspects of American culture is that almost all of us came from somewhere else,” says Manise. Talking about your children’s background and your family’s journey to the United States helps kids connect to the concept of a larger world community.

Funny, a cousin of mine forwarded me a Russian chain email about a Russian immigrant whose American-born daughter wanted to see the country where, she says, she would had been born.  His first response was “Honey, if we’d stayed in Russia, you would not be born at all.  There is no way we could afford another child.”  While discussing family history is a good idea, an honest conversation will likely highlight something unflattering about the country of origin.  Just a word of warning to Parents readers who might incidentally find out that most people in this world are not citizens but subjects.

This one is a big don’t:

Embrace world music.
If you haven’t already, update your playlists to include music from around the world and watch international pop music on YouTube with your kids. “As kids become accustomed to musical diversity they adjust naturally to the various sounds, which in turn makes those sounds feel less ‘foreign,'” says Homa Sabet Tavangar, a global-business and education expert and mom of three daughters. She wrote her book, Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be at Home in the World, as a way for families to incorporate an international outlook into their daily life.

For goodness sake, unless by “international pop music on YouTube” the experts mean 1960s French pop, stay away! And lay off American pop too.  Instead, try a little classical here and there.  Case in point: embrace the great American tradition of taking the kids to see Nutcracker in December.  It’s a Russian ballet based on a German story, a double bingo.  As for didgeridoo, sitar and other exotic instruments, the kids will figure out them out on their own — if they need to.

Use soccer to go global.
Tavangar suggests picking a team to follow based on your heritage, your child’s friend’s heritage, your family’s favorite type of food, or the language you want to learn to speak. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association website (fifa.com) includes an interactive world map to help you learn about all the teams and member countries.

OMG, this is so white people!

Make birthday parties global.
When you can move beyond the princess and Star Wars themes, try ones from global celebrations including Bastille Day, Cinco de Mayo, Earth Day, Chinese New Year, the World Cup, and Olympic Games, suggests Tavangar.

Considering that Cinco de Mayo is not a major Mexican holiday, at least not in Mexico, and Earth Day is 1970s Americana, the list is a bit ethnocentric.  More troubling is the fact that the International Olympic Committee coddles dictators, from Nazi Germany to Communist China.  But at least our children are not invited to celebrate the Paris Commune.

Watch a foreign film.

“A 3-year-old can have a warm croissant and see the ‘star’ of The Red Balloon travel through Paris,” says Tavangar. A 7-year-old can watch The Cave of the Yellow Dog, from Mongolia. Other classics include Japan’s My Neighbor Totoro and The Secret of Roan Inish, from Ireland. Tavangar recommends renting subtitled movies instead of dubbed versions, if possible. “Read the movie to them as you would a book,” she says. “That way they are also hearing the language.”

Before popping in that DVD, a prudent parent probably needs to make sure that her child will not be bored senseless by The Cave of the Yellow Dog.  I recently wrote about a Soviet film I loved as a child.  While I still find it charming, on nostalgia grounds, I seriously doubt my American children would be smitten.

My alternative suggestion:

Learn American history.  One can not truly appreciate other cultures without knowing his own.  Foreigners will not respect us if we are unable to articulate what makes our society great.  And no, “multiculturalism” is not the correct answer — because it doesn’t explain why we are free and prosperous people and leaves the impression of insecurity and self-loathing.

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9 Comments »

  1. I’m old enough to remember when this whole “multiculturalism” fever began in the 70s. At the time it started out as not a bad thing – learn about other cultures. Certainly nothing wrong with that. But now it’s morphed into not only are all cultures equal, but bad, evil r-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-cist America is the worst.

    If the multiculturalists are so keen on other cultures, well, then go live in an Arab country or Russia. They’ve forgotten that by being born in America and being American citizens they have won the World’s lottery.

    And soccer? Don’t get me started on that evil sport. Every year liberal sports reporters talk about the beauty of soccer and how it’s the world’s sport and only in stupid racist America do people not like soccer.

    Well, as an American I’d rather have root canal with no anesthetic than watch a soccer game.

    And that concludes my anti-soccer rant of the day.

    Comment by Infidel de Manahatta — December 16, 2011 @ 1:08 pm

  2. Like, the other commenter here, I remember when multiculturalism first edged its way into our society and, yes, into the classroom — even in private Christian schools. At the time, I was teaching in a private Christian school owned and operated by a retired WW2 military officer and his wife. They were conservatives and wonderful people.

    Those early “international” days were harmless enough. We had an international-foods day and some international music in our end-of-year pageants. Of course, back then, our “international days” consisted of mostly European material — with just a dash of activities from Asia. Nothing whatsoever from the Islamic world as we Christians back then rightly viewed as Islam as yet another form of paganism.

    Overall, of course, in that Christian school, we focused to teaching — and teaching American culture and history, at that. Let me tell you, the children were well grounded in American patriotism from youngest (kindergarten) through oldest (high school). Everyone learned ALL the words to our National Anthem and recited the Pledge of Allegiance first thing every school day. By middle school, each and every student could recite the Bill of Rights word-for-word. A school requirement!

    By the mid-90s, I was working in a secular private school. The multicultural push was full speed and had an entirely different flavor, that of kumbaya. Long gone was love of America. I left that school after my one year because I decided that I couldn’t participate in their Leftist indoctrination. I’ve taken one huge hit financially, but I sleep at night.

    Comment by Always On Watch — December 17, 2011 @ 3:35 am

  3. Ha you wouldn’t have been born at all… this type of truth smacks in the face of “global citizen” BS. So people growing up in poor, oppressive nations pretend to be Americans and now Americans are supposed to pretend to be poor living in oppressed nations?

    I liked your article… I liked the silly BS being preached by Liberals to their parents.

    Comment by Harrison — December 17, 2011 @ 9:52 am

  4. […] How Not to Raise a Global Kid […]

    Pingback by Sunday Links: Trans Siberian Orchestra Edition » Conservative Hideout 2.0 — December 17, 2011 @ 10:19 pm

  5. Nice post. How did your niece’s Nutcracker performance go? We went to a small travelling performance right here on base. It had little in the way of stage settings/props, and canned music, but the boys loved it.

    LOL re international pop. If folks think American pop is bad, well try some international. “Proud to be an Albanian” comes to mind.

    The big problem I notice with the multi-culti stuff, is the way they inherently hide the bad parts, and basically equate their everyday lives with ours. I can’t remember which third world country was featured in a 3rd grade story last year, but it was ridiculous. I stopped the homework process to get on the ‘net and show my son what a cesspool the place really was, unlike his reading books’ description.

    cheers!
    Lin

    Comment by nooneofanyimport — December 18, 2011 @ 4:28 pm

    • I’m glad your sons enjoyed Nutcracker. I don’t know where my head was that I didn’t notice that you said that you went already.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — December 19, 2011 @ 2:15 pm

  6. Infidel,
    “But now it’s morphed into not only are all cultures equal, but bad, evil r-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-cist America is the worst.”
    Ha-ha.
    I have a nagging suspicion that you’ve never had a root canal done without anesthetics. I had. 😉

    AOW,
    It sounds like the Christian school pretty much got it right. We have to teach our kids about our culture to start with, and next about civilizations similar to ours. All this talk about “global future” notwithstanding, the next generation will be doing business with our traditional partners more than other parties. And sure learn about everyone else too, just keep in mind that the knowledge about Australian Aborigines is probably not going to come handy.
    I don’t think foreign cultures are taught properly in most schools. We have a charter school in our school district that bills itself as focusing on multiculturalism. But multiculturalism is not a scholarly discipline, it’s an ideology. Anthropology is a scholarly discipline — or cultural geography, or history — but I’m pretty sure they are not studying that.

    Harrison,
    FYI, in that story the father takes his grown American daughter to Moscow. They have a few adventures meeting people (some good and some bad) and at the end attend a small gathering at his former co-worker’s place. One woman tells him that so-and-so is a really nice guy, albeit a Jew, and nobody blinks an eye.

    Linda,
    Yelena is in love with Tchaikovsky and the Nutcracker. She asks us to place the score for her, and dances to it, and she has me read the story to her. She now wants to take ballet (if she took after me she is not going to be any good at dance). I hope she keeps liking classical, though.
    What about you? Did you take your boys to see the Nutcracker?

    Comment by edge of the sandbox — December 18, 2011 @ 10:52 pm

  7. The most reasonable way (to me) to become a “citizen of the world” is to first become a responsible citizen of your own country. In understanding how to better serve your country, you’ll also better understand the impact it has on the world, and therefore you’ll form opinions that don’t involve aping minor holidays and highlighting colorful costumes.

    I’d rather have young adults come to an understanding of the impact of a violent drug war on a country as opposed to whacking a pinata, for example.

    Comment by Jim Fister — December 19, 2011 @ 9:37 am

  8. wow see my latest post ! Happy Monday my friend~!:)

    Comment by Angel — December 19, 2011 @ 10:48 am


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