Once upon a time at a book group on Borneo, a wise mum told me that raising globally minded kids is important, because they are the leaders of tomorrow. They hold the power to change mindsets for the future and make the world more tolerant and inclusive of diversity in all its forms.
With that in mind I have said, as a joke, that everyone should do an ‘Introduction to Anthropology’ course. A joke it may have been but actually, I think I’m on to something.
One of anthropology’s central concepts is Frans Boas’ cultural relativism,“the idea that a person’s activities or beliefs should be understood in the terms and values of their own culture, not someone else’s.”
How can we learn about cultural diversity? How can we gain knowledge and understanding of different cultural contexts? How can we raise globally aware children for a better future? Travel, yes, but that’s not an option for everyone. Here are some ideas on how to bring the world home.
Bring the world home through food
Do you have a well-stocked supermarket, or perhaps a shop catering to a minority community in your town? A variety of affordable restaurants? Do you like cook books?
My kids and I enjoy exploring different foods together, working out what we like, what we don’t like and what can be used in different ways. We talk about what people eat in different parts of the world, and how they eat. I have a vast collection of cook books; my current favourite is Itab Azzam and Dina Mousawi’s Syria – Recipes from Home.
Bring the world home through books
Reading is a wonderful way to learn about and encourage a diverse understanding of the world. In my house, we strive to find books from different countries, with diverse characters and role models represented. Here is a great list of books from around the world to get you started.
Bring the world home through maps
Several years ago, my mother in law gave my kids a globe lamp, now one of their most treasured possessions. They find their home on it, trace distances, memorize cities. Their knowledge of the world – and their place in it – has been enhanced by that globe and the many family conversations it has inspired.
Bring the world home through language skills
Knowing another language opens doors of communication. Even if you only know a little, you are armed with the tools to build bridges between you and others. Statistics indicate that over half the world’s population are bilingual. While raising a bilingual child is not without challenges, the rewards are great and support is readily available, for example here, here or here.
You don’t speak more than one language yourself? That doesn’t have to be a hindrance. Head over here for an inspirational interview with a monolingual mum raising her son to speak English, Arabic and Chinese, and here for her resources.
Bring the world home through your local community
“Children,” state Richard Weissbourd and Stephanie Jones, “learn empathy both from watching us and from experiencing our empathy for them. […] Demonstrating empathy for others, including those different from you,” they argue, might be achieved by “regularly engaging in community service or model other ways of contributing to a community.”
Perhaps getting involved in your community could mean you learn about someone else’s cultural background and traditions?
Last year, my family and I had the pleasure of attending an Iftar meal organized by the parent teacher association at our kids’ school. Through removing our shoes, sitting next to our friends on the floor, sharing food and listening to the Imam’s explanation of the importance of fasting, we all learned to appreciate Ramadan from a new perspective.
“We often fear what we do not understand; our best defence is knowledge”
(Tovok in Star Trek : Voyage)