Teaching Cultural Diversity to Our Children

It’s not our kids’ fault that they are culturally anemic.  Of all the nurturing, growth-enhancing, robustness-encouraging assets Montana boasts, wide reaching cultural diversity isn’t one of them.  I am not discounting the important presence of native tribes like the Crow, Sioux, Kootenai and Blackfeet and others, by the way…I’m part Seminal Indian, after all.  But when it comes to widespread, international culture, Montana falls flat.

That is one of the main reasons Andrew and I took advantage of the opportunity to come to the San Francisco Bay area:  so our kids could come to understand a little more about the great big world out there.

In the past five weeks, I have eves-dropped in on conversations spoken in Korean, Chinese, Japanese, German, Russian, Italian, Spanish, French, Punjabi, and Flemish (does it really count as eves-dropping if you can’t understand what they’re saying?)  We have walked the open markets in Chinatown and ogled at decapitated fish heads, fresh-caught eels, duck, chicken and pig carcasses where our kids’ impending “yuck” declarations were preempted with explanations from dear old mom and dad about how different people around the world eat different foods than us.

This past Friday, our daughter’s elementary school (where she is easily apart of the minority race) held a Multicultural Potluck Dinner.  First through fifth graders and their families were welcomed to come in traditional regalia, and bring a traditional food item to represent their culture.  (We brought ground bison meatballs, assuming folks down here wouldn’t get too excited about sampling Rocky Mountain Oysters.)

At the conclusion of the meal during which we sampled Indian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Peruvian and Spanish fare there was a talent show–started off by an amazing belly dancing performance by an elementary teacher from a neighboring school.  A group of Korean children performed several traditional songs, children of Polynesian background shared a couple of hula dance routines and a fashion show was held to  highlight the beautiful costumes worn by so many.  (I had suggested we dress our three kids up like a bull, a horse and a cowgirl, respectively, and act out a rodeo roping event…but we opted to just wear our cowboy boots and call it good.)

Yesterday, while leaving church, our eldest noticed a sign outside the building which was written in Spanish.

“What does that say, Mom?”
“Oh, it’s written in Spanish, honey.  It explains where the Spanish language church service is and that there is also care for children during the service.”
“You mean, people who speak Spanish come to this church?”
“Yes, there’s a whole service for those who speak Spanish as their primary language.”
“Well, shouldn’t they be living in Spain, if they speak Spanish?”

A long conversation ensued about how people can live almost anywhere they want around the world, no matter what language they speak…and that the San Francisco area is a perfect example of that.

Andrew and I were beginning to wonder when our kids would notice the cultural diversity around them…perhaps now it will start to sink in.


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Filed under family, Kids, Living, Religion

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