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Why parents should take a more active role in promoting multiculturalism at home

I’m busy. We’re all busy. We are all busy because we are parents, challenged with the daunting task of raising children. This is on top of all the other responsibilities we have in our lives, which might be our careers, managing the household, caring for a loved one, and in my situation, working on completing my doctorate program. I shared this information for two reasons; the first is because this is actually a social scholarship assignment that requires me to initiate a conversation via social media (hence the inclusion of references), and the second reason is because I’m about to suggest we parents take on another responsibility – taking a more active role in promoting multiculturalism at home.

SEE ALSO: Creativity Chit-Chat: I need more input Daddy

As we are busy, I thought I’d offer some context to multiculturalism and how I am approaching this subject as a white male raising three other white males, and then structure the article via a few simple questions so you can pick and skim the article if time is short.

What do we mean by multicultural?

My boys are learning that the Soccer World Cup is a big deal, and I have an expectation that they support England over USA
My boys are learning that the Soccer World Cup is a big deal, and I have an expectation that they support England over USA

When we talk about culture, we could be talking about a few different things. Rather than extend the article into another topic, let’s assume culture to be something that considers behaviors, actions, and beliefs commonly associated with a group (e.g., English culture, white culture, European culture, etc.) or a time period (e.g., 18th Century Culture) (Mason, 2014). Furthermore, let us agree that culture is something that changes and remains complex.  It is likely that we belong to multiple sub-groups associated with a culture (Mason, 2014), for example I am White; I am a White European; I am a White European Male; therefore, I most likely have behaviors commonly associated with being white, but also being of European descent, and of being a male. You see how complicated this can be… I’m going to stop…. The point is raising my boys to increase their awareness of cultural norms other than their own, is moving in the direction of promoting multiculturalism. Rather than perceiving events only from a White European Male, I want them to accept or even acknowledge that this perspective is unique perspective they offer, but it will be different when comparing an experience through another cultural lens.

Ultimately, I want my three boys to develop a capacity to expand their perceptions and understanding of the world beyond the single cultural lense of their upbringing.

What do we need to know as parents?

Pedersen (2000) explains that a major challenge to promoting multiculturalism comes from the fact that us humans like to see things almost exclusively from our perspective; so we measure difference based on how it relates to what we consider to be normal; we measure correct or incorrect behavior based on what our parents (or teachers) taught us was correct or incorrect behavior. Unfortunately, these “rules of the game” (p. 23) become our norm before we develop the cognitive capacity to reflect, compare and even challenge our expectations of the world and its inhabitants.

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Many learning theories, most notably Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, highlight how influential parents are when it comes to the upbringing of their children. They sit quietly, making observations of or actions and behaviors, they construct knowledge about their world from the questions they ask at the dinner table, to the conversations they hear on the ride up to visit their cousins. Ultimately, our children will “group into the intellectual life of those around them (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 88), and that means we need to consider how we are socializing our children to participate in a multicultural world (or reflect on whether we are unconsciously limiting their perception and judgment of the world to one cultural perspective only).

On October 31st we dress up for Halloween, and going trick or treating. I don't spend many time reflecting on the origins of Halloween, its just something I did as a child, and am passing along to my boys.
On October 31st we dress up for Halloween, and going trick or treating. I don’t spend much time reflecting on the origins of Halloween, it is just something I did as a child, and therefore something I expect my children to do as well. What other cultural habits am I passing along?

Why is this important?

There are many reasons why promoting multicultural awareness at home is essential; for a start, we shouldn’t assume that schools can tick every single box when it comes to sharing information about different cultures (which is particularly essential for me as my boys attend parochial school). We also need to recognize the influence we have over how our children are being socialized. For example, if I never engage in actions associated with preparing meals in the kitchen, and my boys only see their mother engaging in these actions, am I inadvertently, though my actions, passing on this cultural pattern to my boys? Might it develop into an expectation of all women? Likewise, as we celebrate religious and national events within our culture (i.e., Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.), what meanings do my children interpret from these events? For example, as an outsider living in the U.S., it seems that the meanings given to Thanksgiving have now assumed more of a celebration of Americanism, as opposed to honoring a historical event. Therefore, my boy’s interpretation of Thanksgiving feels very much connected to freedom, religion, and thankfulness for everything this great country has to offer, as opposed to its colonial routes. I am not suggesting I destroy their perspective of Thanksgiving, but when older perhaps I could ask them what Thanksgiving might mean for a Native American’s perspective, or help them avoid the conversation I often have to experience each year.

PERSON A: Do you celebrate Thanksgiving on the same day (I’m assuming this is because they know of a country to the North that celebrates Thanksgiving on a different day)

ME: No, we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in England

PERSON A: Really, why?

ME: Because we’re not American

Ok, I’m not that harsh, I usually find a more respectful way to inform them that not everyone celebrates Thanksgiving.

SEE ALSO: Why parents have an important role to play in Media Literacy

Where might we start?

For this course, we are asked to read Joan Wink’s (2011), Critical Pedagogy: Notes from the Real World. What I’ve shared in this blog article would be referred to as a mess, and my challenge would be to identify something within the mess to address. I think a good starting place is to find ways to expose my children to other cultures, and then find ways to facilitate discussions through questions. For example, having them ask why I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, is an opportunity to expose them to the simple fact that Thanksgiving is part of American culture, and not something that should be expected outside of the Americas. Likewise, exposing my children to other cultural events could help generate questions about those events, and this might lead to exciting discoveries for me as well as my children. The key to promoting multiculturalism is raising my children to understand they will share likenesses and differences with people of other cultures (Pedersen, 2000); however, they must work hard to resist the temptation to limit their viewpoint and judgment to one perspective only.

For those interested, here’s a list of the citations used in the article above:

Mason, M (2014). Comparing Cultures.  In M. Bray, B. Adamson, & M. Mason (Eds.), Comparative education research: Approaches and methods (2nd ed., pp. 19-46). Hong Kong, China: Comparative Education Research Centre. 

Pedersen, P. (2000). The rules of multiculturalism. In A handbook for developing multicultural awareness (3rd ed.; pp. 23-41). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

Pedersen, P. (2000). The rules of multiculturalism. In A handbook for developing multicultural awareness (3rd ed.; pp. 23-41). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

 

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DadsforCreativity

I like to write. I love to parent. So why not share the occasional weblog?

A random blog article for the few readers that stumble across my articles or graciously liked the DadsforCreativity Facebook page. I haven’t written for two years! My absence is not because I have lost ideas on what to write or even lacked motivation. DadsforCreativity simply found itself lower down the priority list that we all must construct to survive our busy lives as parents, professionals, and wondering humans.

In January 2017, my even busier wife gave birth to our third boy. Wow. She’s been either pregnant or nurturing babies for almost a decade. The little guy, of course, created a disruption and is now sitting on my lap as I write this article. He has a pacifier in mouth, a cuddly toy, and yes an iPad (bad Daddy!).

During this period, not only have I been adapting to life as a parent of three children under the age of seven, but I also produced my second education documentary (check it out here), collaborated on a supporting application that helps facilitate a conversation about the future of schooling (download iOS or Android), and started a doctorate so I know a little more about what I sometimes find myself talking about – education technology and changing schooling.

Here’s a clip from the documentary – Class of 2032: Schooling for a Digital Culture. Examining how children interact with YouTube speaks to the opportunity and challenges of learning in the digital age. 

I share this information because it helps add links to the projects online (always good from a digital marketing perspective), and more importantly to provide a statement on a change to how I will approach my future works on DadsforCreativity.

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My favorite thing is parenting. I love my role as a father, and it will be my greatest accomplishment. Therefore, I’m going to continue to write from that perspective, and use my blog as a creative outlet to share my thoughts, ideas, and feelings toward parenting and using technology in the home to nurture the type of skills that we value in our young.

Occasionally I might share a study or academic perspective that I think is particularly relevant for informal learning environments (e.g., the home), but I will NOT be applying APA or offering citations. These articles are not going to find their way into a journal, and perhaps my most important readers will simply be my three boys, and God willing my grandchildren, and great-grandchildren many many years from now.

I’ve realized I like to write. I love to parent. So why not share the occasional weblog?

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My Trip to the Imperial War Museum: Talking to your children about War

I’m on my annual vacation to London, the place of my birth and a city that I consider to be fantastic – especially for day trips out with the family. As always I take advantage of the brilliant museums that are on offer for FREE! This year I decided to take my two eldest boys to the Imperial War Museum to see tanks, rockets, and one Harrier Jump Jet that is currently hanging from the ceiling – this blog article is about how parents might respond to the curious minds of our little ones, and what I wish I had known prior to my visit and talking to your children about War.

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My eldest had the opportunity to speak with someone who lived during WWII. This was a wonderful addition to the trip and gave him an opportunity to ask about schooling and whether he still had presents on his birthday (the answer was yes – but only one).

The blitz on London, war shelters, bombs, and tanks – it doesn’t take long for the curious minds of our little one’s to begin asking questions and making connections…

Eldest: ‘oooh Daddy, what’s that?’

Daddy: ‘that’s a rocket’

Eldest: ‘And what’s that’

Daddy: ‘that’s a bomb shelter’

Eldest: ‘why did people need bomb shelters?’

It wasn’t long until the bigger questions came my way – ‘Why did people drop bombs on other people?’ ‘Did this kill people?’, ‘Who were the badies and why did they want to drop bombs on them?’ the latter was particularly challenging!

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I wish I could say I responded to these questions successfully, but unfortunately I failed miserably and found myself encouraging more challenging questions that only dug deeper into the subject. After I returned home, I did some Googling on thought it would be nice to share some points I wish I had known prior to our visit.

See Also: Making Connections: ‘Daddy I need more input’

  1. Be Prepared, but don’t solicit – Given the media coverage of Syria or the occasional scaremongering that I think sometimes accompanies reports on North Korea or Iran, I think it’s helpful for parents to be prepared for some of the questions that might arise regarding War. One of the things I wish I had done was listen better, and respond to the question without expanding or introducing a topic. I probably introduced items that were too complex for a child of six. For example, I didn’t want my boy to perceive one particular country as the badie, so I found myself talking about the Nazi’s and this only confused him further. Ultimately, my desire to control the conversation meant that I didn’t afford myself the opportunity to see how he was processing the information and perceiving events from his perspective – and this is perhaps the main take away from my experience.
  1. Curious, Imaginative, and Sensitive Children will make connections – Making connections is a Creativity skill that we all value, but on this particular subject it will likely generate challenging questions. Again just be prepared and LISTEN more than you TALK. It’s important that we see ‘how’ and ‘what’ connections are being made with the information. We will then be more equipped to respond appropriately and avoid further confusion or untangle the weaves that they are making.
  1. Offer Love and Reassurance – When you engage in the conversation look them in the eye, get on their level, and offer them lots of hugs and kisses. If you feel the questions are getting too deep, I personally respond by saying ‘you’re too young to be worrying about these things’ but I always ask if he’s ok about me changing the subject and if he’s not I’ll take a few more questions.

I’m obviously still navigating through this topic so please feel free to offer some advice in the comments below. I also found a great article from the Guardian Newspaper that offers some suggestions on books/stories that help introduce the subject of war to children – or more specifically WWI. 


 

CE_FREEMOVIEV3FREE FILM on Creativity in Education

Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance, is a documentary film that explores Creativity in education. The film is available on Amazon or can be access for free by simply commenting below or subscribing here.

 

 

 

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5 Ways Parents Can Better Utilize YouTube for Learning

What if YouTube Was an Encyclopedia?

The Digital Age, which started to emerge soon after the rise of the World Wide Web, in the 1990s, unleashed a wave of technological innovation that has transformed how we consume and produce information. Many of these advances have, and are causing, disruption to the traditional methods of information transfer that exist within the traditional worlds of communication, marketing, entertainment, and education.

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YouTube, which is one of the world’s most popular websites, remains a touchstone example for many of the characteristics that now make up our Digital Culture – for it contains user-generated content that is consumed and shared daily from mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad. Furthermore – and perhaps more appropriately related to this article – YouTube is one of the first entry points to the World Wide Web, for many young children in possession of a mobile device – for this reason alone it requires our attention!

See Also: Making Connections: ‘Daddy I need more input’

I’m confident most parents can relate to the feelings of wonder as they witness their child as young as 18 months, begin to navigate through the platform. It doesn’t take long for them to learn how to independently locate their favorite unboxing videos, and use their finger to swipe, pause, and even turn up the volume of that annoying soundtrack that you’ve just turned down.

Using YouTube, I've watched my eldest seek out information about other countries in the world, and look for videos that contain maps, which he can copy on his own.
Using YouTube, I’ve watched my eldest navigate through the platform to seek out information about other countries in the world, and look for videos that contain maps, which he then copies.

Our little ones will soon discover that YouTube, contains an infinite amount of information. You can practically locate a video about anything you want. While YouTube was initially banned in many schools districts after it first came out in 2005, I now think that educators have become reasonably good at curating content using the platform, and for the most part have gained control of it’s use as a tool for learning within their classroom environment. However at home, and often before children enter Kindergarten, the access to YouTube for many littles ones appears to take place without the guidance of an adult, and for me this raises some issues when it comes to the information that our children are accessing prior to entering schooling.

It's really important to find ways for your child to express their understanding about topics they've explored on YouTube. In preparation for our trip to Naples, my eldest watched videos about Pompeii - specifically what made that particular eruption so devastating.
It’s really important to find ways for your child to express their understanding about topics they’ve explored on YouTube. In preparation for our trip to Naples, my eldest watched videos about Pompeii – specifically what made that particular eruption so devastating.

In order for parents to better leverage YouTube as a tool for learning, we must take more of an active role in how it’s used within our home, otherwise it will most likely remain primarily a source of entertainment, and this is perplexing given the treasure trove of educational resources that exist within it’s page. I am one of those parents who has concerns how much time my youngest spends on YouTube. I certainly consider it an issue if wakes up in the morning and immediately asks for his iPad. Equally it’s a concern when I wonder if it’s possible to take him on a 10 minute car journey without ‘having’ to bring it with me.*  BUT – and here’s for me a GREAT BUT – I wonder what I would think if YouTube were an encyclopedia? Would I be as concerned about the hours my youngest spends accessing its pages? You see, the way my eldest uses YouTube, is very different to how my eldest uses YouTube. My eldest’s use of YouTube, can in many ways be likened to  the use of an Encyclopedia, for he spends hours and hours of the week consuming videos about Volcanoes, DNA, Climate Change, Countries of the World, and the Solar System. This is the type of use that I want to promote on YouTube, and it’s a type of use that I feel develops as children begin to progress  beyond the unboxing videos that I referenced earlier.

How YouTube differs from an Encyclopedia?

Recently I shared a story about how my child uses Google Voice Recognition to locate video about Pangaea, “he was teaching me about Pangaea” I said, but he reminded me that this behavior isn’t that different to past generations. Ultimately, he’s seeking out information about topics that he finds of interest – what’s changed is the method to which he accesses that information. When he said this I could immediately relate  – I remember using my parent’s encyclopedia to seek out new information about similar to my eldest. However, as I went away and thought about it a little more, I soon remembered that while I would seek out information in my parent’s encyclopedia, I was ultimately limited to what information I could access based on my level of reading. I did not have the ability to access the massive amount of information that is now available to young children through YouTube – this would have required skills that I probably wouldn’t develop until high school (and I might add that with my Dyslexia it took me longer that the average child to develop these skills), as well as access to a library with a vast selection of books. The ease of access, the selection of videos, and the fact that a child no longer needs to be at an advanced reading level in order to consume content, has allowed our little ones to begin pursing information related to their interests at a much young age. And it’s this use of YouTube, that I feel offers exciting opportunities when it comes to learning and promoting Creativity (on  a very important side note – I still read A LOT to my boys and would never in anyway suggest that YouTube should be a replacement to reading!!!!!).

Of course there are issues to what I’m promoting. For starters the ubiquity of information, and it’s availability to children of all ages, brings unique challenges for parents and education. Have we really studied the consequences of preschool aged children learning about 1st and 2nd grade topics, out of sequence, and without the guidance of a teacher? Do we know how to evaluate one’s understanding of a topic when the information has been obtained through video? In addition, the information accessed within the classroom is usually vetted by the teacher before it is made available for consumption by the student, however the information that our children access on YouTube is non-vetted, and so there are genuine issues surrounding it’s accuracy, which if not addressed at some point in the future, might contribute somewhat to our growing culture of Fake News. Ok, I feel this article is getting too long, so let me conclude my point.

5 Ways Parents Can Better Utilize YouTube for Learning

YouTube can be used as a tool for learning, it doesn’t have to be all about entertainment. However, in order to progress beyond the mindless unboxing videos, we need to be more active as parents and encourage teach children how to use it for learning outside the classroom. Here are five suggestions on how one might make this happen:

 

  • Download YouTube for Kids, and hide or delete the YouTube app. Tools such as ‘Google Complete’, and the selections that come about after a search query like Green House Effect, will be geared toward children.

 

  • Sign into YouTube, and create a playlist of videos based on topics that are of most interest to your child. For example, a playlist on Volcanoes, will be helpful, and after your child has consumed them, a further selection of videos on Volcanoes that they haven’t seen will most likely appear next.

 

  • Teach children how to search use Google’s Speech Recognition, which is the little microphone in the search bar. My youngest is only two, and obviously struggles, but he’s still in his unboxing phase – I’m talking about children four and up.

 

  • Engage children in conversations about the content that they access, and keep an eye out for fake or bias content. They’re probably too young to evaluate the content by themselves, but it would be great if they at least develop a tendency to say ‘hmmm, Climate Change is made up by the Chinese?’ Mommy, is this true? (I might add that I haven’t stumbled across too many wild or whacky videos on YouTube for kids).

 

  • And perhaps most important – try and encourage your child to come out of the iPad to express their understanding of the information that they have accessed. This could be a conversation where you ask questions, it could be picture that illustrations their understanding like the one above, or it could be through the creation of videos as demonstrated below.

 

*The American Academy of Pediatrics, have recently changed their recommendation of two hours of screen time per day. They now recommend no more than one hour per day for children 2 to 5 years of age, For children 6 and older, parents can determine the restrictions, and it should be noted that homework conducted on a screen does not count. Finally infants aged 18 months and younger should no be exposed to Digital Media.


 

CE_FREEMOVIEV3FREE FILM on Creativity in Education

Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance, is a documentary film that explores Creativity in education. The film is available on Amazon or can be access for free by simply commenting below or subscribing here.

 

 

 

7_Ways_to_Cultivate_Creativity_for_ParentsFREE BOOK on Cultivating Creativity

7 Ways to Cultivate Creativity is a FREE eBook for parents who want are looking for ideas on how to cultivate creative thinking skills at home. Subscribe here to download the book.

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