Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Teaching Children Heritage without the Baggage

Yesterday I was in my car, listening to my new favorite NPR radio show, Tell Me More, when this excellent segment came on about how parents can teach their children about their cultural heritage without passing along the pain, sorrow, shame and sadness that often comes with history.

Tell Me More hostess Michele Martin, assembled a panel of mothers; An African-American mother, A Native-American mother and a Jewish mother who was the child of a holocaust survivor, to talk about the issue. It was a riveting discussion and while I didn't come away with a clear step-by-step guide for talking to my kids about slavery and the Spanish inquisition, I was given some quality food for thought. And I appreciated hearing the topic being given airtime. I think I was most impressed with the Jewish woman's comment when she said, her mother, the holocaust survivor, imbued her kids with a sense of their own strength. She always told them (and I'm paraphrasing) "Look, if Hitler didn't get me, nobody can." In a certain way, that has to play better than being a victim. It gives children a sense of pride. Imagine a kid saying, "My mother bested one of the baddest bad men around!"

If you'd like to hear the interview click on this link and then scroll down to where you see the headline, "Teaching Children a Painful History." I'd like to hear what you think.

I'd also like to hear how you approach this topic with your own family.


p.s (Photo is of artwork by David Behrens.)


Jade said...

Awesome blog post! Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I'll have to check that segment out. Its a blurry line when it comes to teaching our children history, especially history that involves minorities. My children are still young, 6 and 4, so for now, we just skim through history. I'll deal with the heavy stuff when they are much older and can grasp it better. Its alot to cover since my children are black, indonesian, Swiss, french and German.

I'm a huge history buff and I believe that if we truly learn our history we will realize we have more to be proud of than not. That's what I want to instill in my children, especially about being black in America.

Great post!!

LT said...

You're welcome!


It does get tricky doesn't it when your history is an amalgamation of so many different cultures, some of whom have been in conflict with others. You can't play good guys bad guys. It is so complex you wonder when will they be old enough to get it. I find myself telling my two boys stories of slave rebellions and talk about Black food culture to give them a sense of where they come from without it being a history lesson. And the Spanish stuff tends to come out when we travel to Spain. Of course we haven't tackled the Inquisition, or the pillaging of South and Central America...

BTW, just checked out your blogs and they are so great. I don't know why it took me so long. Good luck with the homeschooling and yes, you do have great hair.

Nif said...

I don't have kids, but I remember being a tiny history buff. One of my books from when I was 6 was about Martin Luther King Jr. It included lots of black and white photographs, including a memorable image of a black man being attacked by a police dog. The picture wasn't gory, but I wasn't stupid. I knew the dog could hurt that man.

When I was 7 I was a passionate reader of biographies. My book on Harriet Tubman included the detail that she had narcolepsy induced by being hit in the head with a heavy weight.

I think kids are tough, especially school-age kids. They're also bloody-minded.

kate said...

Thanks for this tip. As a mother and future teacher, I am very interested in this topic. I found you by clicking around at The Golden Papaya. I live in Spain and I'm looking forward to reading about your experiences here (I popped your book into my Amazon shopping cart for my next purchase, whenever that ends up being.)

LT said...

Thanks for reminding me that kids do love gore. My kids sure do. My younger son just loves to tell me how everything could be used as a weapon. Including his new electric toothbrush. Ouch!

Welcome to the Meltingpot. I'm glad you found us. You're not going to believe this, but I've been reading your ExpatMama blog since before you had your third child. I think I started following you from literary Mama. Is that possible? I hope you like Kinky Gazpacho. And we're still talking about a move to Spain...for a little while.