Friday, June 24, 2016

Cultural Literacy


I've been busy trying to shore up the details of my trip to Vietnam this summer including a layover in Singapore. The following is about one of my favorite students of all-time, Asian or not, and some of the struggles our international kids face in school. It is from June 1, 2006.
Her name is Joy and she is from Taiwan. Joy was a student in my fifth period sophomore Bible class at Westbury Christian School in the year that ended last week. She is a wonderful student who struggles, like many Asian youngsters, with the inconsistencies of English. Joy, as befits her name, is unfailingly happy and decorates her quizzes, memory verses, and tests with drawings. Every class is unique with its own personality. We had a tradition in fifth period this year. When anyone was celebrating the remembrance of their coming into the world, Joy would sing Happy Birthday in Mandarin. It was a big deal: I even had requests from students in other classes to let Joy serenade them on their special day. (One side note is that in the Mandarin version, the person's name is not mentioned. This might save you social discomfort should you be in this situation and find it odd.) By the end of the second semester, most of us could fake it, sort of like when you almost know a song in worship but don't take the time to open the hymnal and it isn't flashed on the screen. Something interesting happened close to the end of the term. I am not sure why but I asked Joy if she recognized the name of a certain well-known American. She was obviously puzzled and shook her head revealing that she did not. The non-Asian students laughed and without prompting, burst into song. Their tune of choice was identical to the celebrity Joy was clueless over: John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. Come on, it's sing along time!
John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.
His name is my name, too!
Whenever we go out, the people always shout,
"There goes John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt!"

Da da da da da da da.

Someone told me they had that song stuck in their head the rest of the day. It's a meaningless song with no listed composer but every child who grows up here can sing it. Joy, a very intelligent and driven young woman, cannot. I don't remember learning it- I just know it. So much of our intellect is formed by absorbing what we are exposed to. Coaches have their own vocabulary as do people in every business or interest. Sometimes, we forget that not everyone shares the same knowledge. After playing basketball games at John Cooper School last season, the coaches were sitting together in a McDonalds. Sam Ruiz, Kevin Duncan, and I were discussing a young man's shot selection. My assistant, April Cusic, was mystified. April, who has little basketball background, believed we were talking about inoculation. (I better clarify myself: shot selection refers to the frequency with which a player attempts to put the ball in the basket.) We laughed but it's understandable. I have to request a translation when discussing computer issues with our tech staff at WCS. So many of our students are bilingual, in a wide assortment of languages, without any effort on their part. They speak two languages fluently because they exist in two different language universes and without realizing it, have soaked up both vernaculars. It should be the same with the knowledge of the holy (to quote the title of my father's favorite religious work that isn't The Bible.) Clarence Kelland, in speaking of his dad, defined modeling of behavior: "My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it." That is what I believe our Heavenly Father encourages in those who have the responsibility of being flesh and blood moms and dads. (Teachers to a lesser degree qualify for that trust.) I don't think it is only teaching children what the word of God says. It is synchronizing the qualities and characteristics we glean from the scriptures with our daily walk. Undoubtedly, they will assimilate what they witness from the cradle. Just ask my buddy, John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. You know, we have the same name!

Applicable quote of the day:
"Cultural literacy constitutes the only sure avenue of opportunity for disadvantaged children."

E.D. Hirsch, Jr.

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

www.hawleybooks.com
E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

3 comments:

Jon said...

i think in that song it should be jon not john.. hahahaha

hallmark said...

You hit on something that is very important as you often do.

Luke 6:45
"The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."

Not only do children learn "John Jacob JingleHeimer Schmidt" but also every part of our culture in which they are immersed, good and bad. Television is full of evil ideas that are being stored in peoples hearts although there is very occasionally something worthwhile, just as one example of cultural immersion. So where can a parent allow their children to be freely immersed in the culture without coming away filthy in heart? Only a couple of places come to mind, church, of course, and a place called Westbury Christian School comes to mind. At WCS I've seen many, not just a few, but many men and women, that bring the best and cleanest of culture and spirituality to hundreds of young people. It's a joy to know that close to 600 children for 9 months a year for the biggest part of a waking day are exposed to the culture of WCS. The school and it's faculty and staff do not guarantee a graduate with a pure heart but at least the ideas are stored up to be drawn from in future years. The overflow of these childrens hearts has to be improved from immersion in the culture of WCS.

hallmark said...

You hit on something that is very important as you often do.

Luke 6:45
"The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."

Not only do children learn "John Jacob JingleHeimer Schmidt" but also every part of our culture in which they are immersed, good and bad. Television is full of evil ideas that are being stored in peoples hearts although there is very occasionally something worthwhile, just as one example of cultural immersion. So where can a parent allow their children to be freely immersed in the culture without coming away filthy in heart? Only a couple of places come to mind, church, of course, and a place called Westbury Christian School comes to mind. At WCS I've seen many, not just a few, but many men and women, that bring the best and cleanest of culture and spirituality to hundreds of young people. It's a joy to know that close to 600 children for 9 months a year for the biggest part of a waking day are exposed to the culture of WCS. The school and it's faculty and staff do not guarantee a graduate with a pure heart but at least the ideas are stored up to be drawn from in future years. The overflow of these childrens hearts has to be improved from immersion in the culture of WCS.