On second thought, maybe the title for this post should be “Trying to Understand Cultural Differences.” This is something I’ve struggled with for a number of years. I visit Thailand yearly. My oldest son lives there. I’ve innocently made a number of cultural faux pas, funny mistakes to relate when I get home. I’ll never figure out why Thailand is a third world country when I see so many parallels relating to what we do in the US. But that is for another post.
What has stood out more recently is the difference in what I saw young people learning in Peru with what the 5th grade students I taught last week are learning. Our tour traveled to five villages in Peru that are reviving their ancient weaving traditions. Children as young as 4 or 5 were handling yarn and watching their elders work. The many tourists snapping pictures could easily have reinforced the importance of their work. Teenagers were doing complicated traditional backstrap weaving and multi color knitting both far beyond my skills. Everyone in these villages comes together once a week to work on their textiles. They wear their traditional clothing. It is a feast of color.
My students last week live in an isolated rural town similar to the towns we visited in Peru. They were wonderful, gentle, cooperative kids. They’d never heard of many of the processes we tried. One or two said they’d tried knitting. Each one wove on a floor loom and by the end of the week they had woven six yards of cloth. They struggled to wind a warp around a piece of cardboard and figuring out the over under process was difficult. A few were able to learn the pick and pick pattern.
Although I didn’t visit any schools in Peru, I’ve noted the obvious difference in the hand skills of the elementary school students I teach since my days as a classroom art teacher in Atlanta. The Peruvian children I saw are growing up in a country with a strong cultural heritage. I don’t bemoan the fact that our kids lack hand skills. We are teaching them something else. I’m just struggling to define what cultural heritage we are passing on to our US children in this comparatively younger country.