Finally Making America Great

    All people are different but is everyone accepting of those differences? Today in America more and more the answer is appearing to be no. Immigration is one of the most controversial topics to  discuss and yet you see it everywhere. Plans by the President to build a wall, the news shows a constant stream of stories about people being attacked or mass deported. Families are being separated. Children screaming and crying as their parents are ripped away. Xenophobia is the fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.  In recent times this fear has grown and become more radical. Places of worship are bombed and set on fire, unfortunately many turn a blind eye and ignore the struggles of the people around them. Part of the reason for this is many adult Americans were taught a one sided version of  history and the world. Most of the time in school other countries and cultures are only mentioned in historic wars and times of strife. In addition to this malicious groups spread misinformation to try and skew many of these already biased views in a negative way. If the learning of biased and incorrect information could be stopped at an early age adults would be armed with the ability to know that these groups are spreading hateful information and not fall into their traps. Cultural Anthropology, which is a branch of anthropology that deals with human culture especially with respect to social structure, language, law, politics, religion, magic, art, and technology, should be taught to students in middle school in order to not only teach them about other types of cultures and people, but to also show them how to view human variation in a way that will benefit them as they live and interact with an increasingly connected global environment.

    Part of the problem with many of these biased opinions and views of the world is that often people feel their opinions were made solely by themselves but this is not quite correct. From the time that they’re born until long after people are influenced by their environments. Parents raise their kids a certain way and instill different values that they themselves value. Some parents pull back on controlling everything their child does in order to encourage them to become more independent. Others lead their child along for a much longer time to ensure success in the future. During these years, regardless of parenting style, cultural norms as well as society favored constructs are presented and learned at schools. This process is called socialization and much of it happens at schools. This makes schools a good place to start teaching students not to hate and fear “the other” out of ignorance.

    Anthropology is the study of humans and human variation across time and around the world. The subfield of cultural anthropology specifically teaches about world ideas, cultures and societal constructs. Not only do anthropologists in this subfield immerse themselves in the cultures they study, when they present their research it’s part of their job to make sure the stories and accounts they’ve collected are directly representative of those people. This helps lifts the biased American cultural lens. In this process it becomes clear how different groups view the body, the mind, and religion as well as customs and why they live the way they do. Teaching about these facts disperses misconceptions based solely on comparing the modern American and other modern cultures with no context of history and factors that would lead to a different way of life. Once attaining a certain age many people feel like they know and understand all viewpoints and feel that they are superior or that there is some kind of cultural hierarchy which places one above the other. Trying to teach these things to adults would most likely be taken dismissively or even as an agenda to spread a narrative instead of the truth.. In order for a class to effectively inform students in a way that stays with them in the future, the age of the student has to be young enough to not have cemented opinions but old enough to be expected to pay attention to important concepts ideas. Keeping those requirements in mind, a Cultural Anthropology course would work best at the middle school level.

    At a time when  many other important subjects are being taught, a Cultural Anthropology class fits in well with middle school curriculum. Science at this level starts to teach students about important life processes. The subject matter for a Cultural Anthropology course at this level would be open for engaging a class and keeping their attention while teaching them at the same time. In addition to just talking to about cultures around the world, variation in culture on a local scale could also be discussed. People differ from each  other in the same country and community as well as outside. Everyone comes from a unique family who has their roots planted somewhere that’s not uniform across all students. Showing that even in an American classroom, everyone comes from a different culture would be a good way introduce the concept of human similarity and diversity. Subjects other than science taught at the middle school level make it a time of learning new and exciting concepts and ideas.

    Some objections to teaching this course to middle school age students might stem from the fact that the course would not only teach about customs and cultures from other parts of the world. This course being a Cultural Anthropology course would mean that it would also teach about race, gender and sexuality, religion, immigration, and other topics that are a part of the human experience. The myths and misconceptions about these topics would also be debunked and students would be expected to engage in discussions about them. The subject matter of a course at a middle school level would not contain any information that might be too mature and the course would have a school board approved curriculum. Despite this many parents might still have a problem with these topics being taught, believing them to be inappropriate or dismissive of religious teachings. However the goal of this course would be to teach proven fact, not opinions and arm students with knowledge to make their own decisions about these subjects. It would never attempt to disprove or belittle religious beliefs. Controversial topics would be approached sensitively.

    Taking into account not only the subjects that are taught in middle school but what kind of time it is for students makes teaching this course at this level an advantage. In this time of their lives students are changing. They are maturing and finding themselves not quite children anymore but barely teenagers. While showing them what children their age do around the world live life but discussing the way this and many other societies view the concept of growing up. Due to advancements in the internet and the pattern of kids discovering information younger and younger, many students might have questions or ideas about topics discussed and the class would be built to answer those questions. The subject encompasses so many concepts that aren’t normally discussed with students their age.  Not many 11-14 year olds are asked what they think about what is going on in the world around them. Other classes aren’t built to encourage the questioning of what’s being taught but to truly understand the subject the students will need to wrestle with what they do and don’t know. What makes sense to them based on what’s been taught. Ideas aren’t meaningful unless their made meaningful. A student won’t appreciate and accept that what makes them different from a 13 year old in China and 12 year old in Argentina is neither good nor bad and that their cultures are equal until they understand why those cultures are different and why those difference even came about. Having discussions about misconceptions of gender and sexuality might make a student that much more aware of who they are and what it would be like to have some thing that is inherent from birth and can’t be changed be attacked simply for existing. Students engaging and talking about race might just help them later in life when they are faced with incorrect information encouraging them to think the world is divided in ways that it biologically isn’t.

    These students all over the country growing up with this knowledge might just decrease the amount of hate, fear and ignorance that has been growing in the past years. Creating generations who at least understand the problems with the way information was taught before could create a generation of people ready to move America in a new age. Americans being able to intelligently discuss problems with people from other countries with at least an idea of why they have differing opinions might also bring up the country’s reputation with the rest of the world. Making Cultural Anthropology a course in middle schools might seem like too simple a solution to the problem that has been created by decades of hate and fear escalating in this country but arming futures of generations with knowledge of how to approach and fix problems that in theory should be simple but have long twisted legacies of pain would be a gigantic first step in leading America down a path that would might finally make it great.

                                                                                  Works Cited

Stanley, Grant, et al. “Implementing the Opening Minds Curriculum in a Secondary School in England: An Alternative to the One-Size-Fits-All National Curriculum?.” Curriculum Journal, vol. 23, no. 3, 01 Jan. 2012, pp. 265-282. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ976847&site=ehost-live.

Cheung, Cecilia Sin-Sze and Eva M. Pomerantz. “Parents’ Involvement in Children’s Learning in the United States and China: Implications for Children’s Academic and Emotional Adjustment.” Child Development, vol. 82, no. 3, 01 May 2011, pp. 932-950. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ928913&site=ehost-live.

Holm, Kristiina, et al. “Relationship of Gender and Academic Achievement to Finnish Students’ Intercultural Sensitivity.” High Ability Studies, vol. 20, no. 2, 01 Dec. 2009, pp. 187-200. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ870498&site=ehost-live.

Shanklin, E. (1998). The Profession of the Color Blind: Sociocultural Anthropology and Racism in the 21st Century. American Anthropologist, 100(3), 669-679. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.chaffey.idm.oclc.org/stable/682045

Paredes, J. A., & Bonney, R. A. (2001). Anthropologists and Indians in the New South. Tuscaloosa Ala: University Alabama Press.

Kehoe, A. B., Doughty, P. L., & Peske, N. K. (2012). Expanding American Anthropology, 1945-1980 : A Generation Reflects. Tuscaloosa: University Alabama Press.

Kumar, Revathy, et al. “Shades of White: Identity Status, Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Xenophobia.” Educational Studies: Journal of the American Educational Studies Association, vol. 47, no. 4, 01 Jan. 2011, pp. 347-378. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ933993&site=ehost-live.