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Lesson Plans


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Peggy Woolsey (woolspeg)
Wed, 12 Feb 1997 19:46:53 +0800

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These are difficult considerations and all of us have to deal with them.
Here in Canada there is always debate on "cultural sovereignty." The
Disnification of culture is tough to ignore. The Disney corporation
actually does now own the Canadian Mounties--you can't use Mountie
references or images without copyright permission. I am not kidding! Our
government owned broadcasting system does a fine job of bringing Canadian
content of high quality to radio and tv. But many Canadians feel the
presence of mainly American cultural products is way too much.
Five years ago I taught in a Cree Indian school in northern Canada.
I used only art references from indiginous native peoples of North and
South America. I learned alot. And the kids seemed to be far more
interested in a natural phenomenon such as the annual return of the geese
than in cartoon characters or superheros from the south. Two years ago when
I taught at a school bordering a reserve near a "southern" Canadian city,
the kids were much more interested in regular old popular culture and it
was hard to pull them into projects with native references. It seemed to
make them very uncomfortable. One of the student's mothers told me in a
different context from the school that I should leave the native culture to
the native people and come up with spiritual and cultural symbols from my
own culture. I had to admit she had a point. I guess the formalist
qualities of the art of the native populations of my area are so compelling
that I view them on par with the best of non-native art. Perhaps this is
just an intellectualization, but those designs made from porcupine quills
speak to me about shape and geometry like no Mondrian could!

Culture is also shaped by environment. Perhaps the landscape we
inhabit, the habitat, the watersheds, the natural phenomenon we share,
contribute to a population in at least as profound a way as the personal
histories of the inhabitants. Perhaps this is more of a Canadian point of
view since our climate has tended to make us interdependent.

One last thought in this ramble. When genital mutilation of young
girls in some countries became well known in the last decade, many women
and men were outraged around the world. Legislation against the act in
countries like Egypt simply sent the practice more underground. Many women
in the West took a cautious stand, not wishing to add more western cultural
weight where it wasn't wanted. Recently I found a very touching book by
Alice Walker about a film made in Africa by Alice and a women's film crew
on the subject of genital mutilation.
The book, at least, (I havn't been able to locate the film) was so
accessible, and so heartfully written, that Alice Walker made the subject
understandable, something I thought impossible. This all makes me think,
how can we get more teachers into the schools who come from backgrounds
other than our own? PAW

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