IT’S A SMALL WORLD … AFTER ALL
(by Linda Machado)
October 20, 2010
I first remember hearing this song when I attended the 1964 World’s Fair as a child. In its lyrics “small world” meant that regardless of our differences, we all share much in common. I also remember the excitement of visiting as many of the international pavilions as I could drag my weary mother to; the excitement of learning about how people lived in those countries and tasting their very different food – the excitement of adventure.
I knew that I lived in New York, which was in the United States, which was on the North American Continent, and that on other continents people lived and spoke differently. I had this global awareness in 2nd and 3rd grade, and by 5th grade I could name all 50 states and their capitals and the capital of many of the countries in the world, not to mention being able to find all this on a world map. My teachers gave me this skill and my mother reinforced this skill at home.
As a teaching artist in Phoenix I’ve had the privilege, and challenge, of bringing ethnic art and culture to inner city elementary school students through the 21st Century grants which were designed to provide “academic and recreational opportunities such as band, drama, art and other cultural events for children and to provide life-long learning opportunities for community members.” My particular programs demonstrate and teach Flamenco and Spanish dance and incorporate the culture and history of Spain. In each program I ask the students if they know where Spain is. A majority of students respond “It’s in Mexico.” I then ask “Who speaks Spanish?” A majority of the hands go up. When I ask what country “invented the Spanish language’ – an overwhelming majority of students reply “Mexico.” These responses are largely from 3rd to 5th grade students.
A cursory review of after-school programming from one inner-city Valley school district shows that from 2006 to 2010 the percentage of afterschool programs that expose students to world cultures has dropped from 20% to 14%. While the number of programs – which are largely mainstream and/or entertainment-type activities - has doubled, ethnic and world cultural programming has decreased. It appears that programming is being tailored to meet the desires of the students - to be entertained - not their needs – multicultural awareness.
Arizona does have a unique set of cultural issues; however, after-school programs have an opportunity to introduce our children to the world outside their neighborhood through more ethnic/cultural programming and less entertainment/mainstream activities. Children get entertainment at home, but apparently not global awareness. And if global awareness is not being taught during the school day or at home for whatever reasons – valid or not – then let’s grab the opportunity to take this captive audience of future adults and transport them on a world adventure after school. And if not after school, then when? Because right now, our “small world” means something quite different for these children and it won’t get any bigger – not without an intervention.
This is a reprint of my article whose final and definitive form has been published in the TEACHING ARTIST JOURNAL 2011 copyright Taylor & Francis; Teaching Artist Journal, Vol. 9, Number 2, April-June 2011, p. 122
Ricardo de Cristobal is a Master Flamenco Guitarist and Flamenco Historian with over 50 years experience in the art form.