Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum
Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum
Cultural exchange involves contrasting the political issues of one community with those of another. Often, students are asked to look at a single political issue as it is articulated in numerous communities For example, teacher Sandra Childs asks her class to compare the politics of beauty in China to those in Jewish, African American, and Hispanic American communities.
Teachers can begin cross-Cultural exchanges by introducing students to a political issue as it arises in one text. Teachers should choose texts that describe unfamiliar political situations which raise immediate political issues. Childs, for example, introduces her students to the "beautification" practice of foot-binding in Chinese culture; foot-binding is not practiced by the students, but it raises the political issue of normative beauty, which most students face every day.
Once students are introduced to an unfamiliar cultural practice, teachers may ask students to look at historical or other primary texts that illuminate how these practices came to be supported by communities. Teachers should be careful to explain how these practices arise from particular sets of circumstances; it's important that students recognize how cultural practices can be created and how they can be changed.
Teachers may then ask students to brainstorm a list of practices -- from any culture they know about -- that reminds them of the practices they've been studying. Next, teachers may break the class into small groups of four or five and ask each group to read a text that addresses the same political issue by questioning a different cultural practice. For example, Childs asks her students to look at personal essays about nose jobs or dieting in order to point out how other communities deal with the pressure to be beautiful. Teachers may ask each small group to prepare a brief presentation, comparing the cultural practices they've studied in detail. Then, as a group, the class can discuss how different cultures might deal with the same political issue. Teachers should ultimately guide the conversation to the students' own choices; students should reflect on how the political issue at hand has affected their lives, and how they can work to make positive changes.
By looking at political questions across cultures, students begin to see how their own political situations are constructed and how they can be changed. Moreover, students are better able to understand and, in some cases, accept unfamiliar cultural practices because they see how these practices have counterparts in their own worlds.