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Is Every Culture Equally Valid?

By Kathy von Duyke
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #17, 1997.

Shivering in the rain forest, plus missions a la geography.
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Kathy von Duyke

Multiculturalism conveys the idea that all people have dignity and that every culture is valid in all aspects from diet to religion. Why would anyone disagree with such a "nice" view of the world? In light of the fact that classrooms are bent on teaching multiculturalism and globalism, we must ask ourselves if the social indoctrinators of our time are in pace with God's view.

PBS programs and popular geography magazines use pictures to touch us with the multicultural message. But pictures are not a critical look at a culture. Because our eye is engaged, we think that we are seeing the whole picture. In fact, we are given carefully contrived photos and video clips. Pictures compel us to accept, not think. Pictures do not look at the ideas behind a culture and tell us how they have shaped that culture.

If cultures are just "perfect" as they stand, what need is there for the light of Christ? In fact, it is an affront. But, if we think beyond the well-prepared photos, might we find something less than Utopian in the "untainted" tribes?

Is cannibalism just another eating-orientation? Are animistic religions a form of "tuning into nature?" Christians are blamed for imposing their guilt-inducing religion on a free people, who are then shamed into giving up their worship of nature. Never do the anthropologists suppose that these pagan beliefs also cause fear and superstition, abuse of women and children, and wasteful use of nature's resources. Tribal groups are grateful to be freed from such bondage.

In Operation World the author notes that one of the forces fighting missionary work to the tribes in Brazil are anti-Christian anthropologists. (This book offers a great look at the religious struggles in countries around the world, while offering reasons for prayer and lots of neat statistical information to sort through.)

What right do the anthropoplogists have to keep certain tribal groups from joining the intellectual information of the world at large? This is really an evolutionary and degrading mindset. It is as if they view these tribes as a species of animals, rather than a people who would like to realize there are other humans and ideas on the planet.

Missionaries are often blamed for destroying a peoples' culture. Yet often the native groups themselves recognize the need for a cultural change. They know that their people are prey to larger groups if they aren't able to understand what cultures around them know. Many tribal groups have been taken advantage of by fortune-seekers who overrun their land and abuse and annihilate the people.

Geography with Missions in Mind

National Geographic lists five themes which should all be followed in the course of a good geography curriculum.

  1. Location: By Latitude and Longitude
  2. Place: Know some of the physical and cultural features of an area.
  3. Human/Environment interactions: What natural resources are in a country and how have the people used them?
  4. Movement: How does that country connect with others?
  5. Regions: Look at countries in the context of the whole region.

We used the following resources to meet these goals:

  1. Mapping the World by Heart, and Geography Songs tape (region by region). As an alternative you could use the GeoSafari board, but use them more fully by tracing the maps and labeling countries before quizzing the board.
  2. Guides to History by Kathryn Stout. This provides an excellent outline to use for learning about any culture in any time period. Use it on one country per region. I added the following concerns:
    • What religious organizations are present in the country today?
    • What are the missionaries' needs?
    • Does our own church support anyone there?
    • What social problems does the country currently face? What are God's answers to these problems?
  3. These ideas in the Guides to History are fleshed out by library books.
  4. Though National Geographic thinks of issues like transportation and phone lines, I think in terms of missionary organizations and prayer lines. You Can Change the World, the little kid version of Operation World, is a wonderfully interesting and compelling book giving us information on just enough different countries from different regions.

  5. The relief organization Food for the Hungry has a curriculum on several countries which could be used in lieu of the Guides to History. You will be well grounded in the key principles of modern missions with Food for the Hungry's curriculum, as well as being given the ultimate hands-on opportunity of supporting a child from that country. You will be deeply moved by their video and song tape.

Organizing Framework

The World Map was our organizing framework which we filled in region by region. I want my children to come away with a framework of geographical places so they have a "mental net" to catch future information about any country (from news reports, missionary organizations, etc.) that may come their way.

I also want them to have an appreciation for other cultures; the human face of a culture. I like library books that show us costumes, tell folk tales, give us recipes to try or tell stories or biographies of the culture. Another big treat is finding art books from the culture as well as music and language tapes. Most libraries now carry video tour guides so you get to see the land itself, famous buildings, and natural features. This human face is important because even though we may critically examine the ideas of a culture, we do not want to lose sight of the dignity of the culture and its people.

Lesson Plans

Begin by teaching the basic vocabulary of geography and the names of the seven continents. We did this by making a dough map of each region and following the directions in "Mapping" to learn about Longitude and Latitude and other basics. Then, we basically followed the same format each week for six months. I read a missionary story from the region aloud to the children. They traced, shaded, and labeled maps of a region every day; on the first day of the week they copied place names, but on subsequent days they wrote in names from memory, only looking as needed.

Begin researching a country in the region being mapped using the Guides to History doing a section a day. Do a short biography on a missionary from the country, one current and one from the past. Work on some sort of display for each main section. (i.e. a bowl of rice after researching food or a traditonal costume.) Check the news or the Internet for current events on that country. Sometimes on Friday evenings our children prepar food from their country and we watch the travel video to go with it.

My younger children learned all the continents and traced map puzzle pieces. They also made clay maps when the older children did, and took part in food-making events and video nights.

Culminating Events

These sorts of celebrations become an important way to target children's work and allow them to enjoy learning from the work of other children. They can wear costumes, offer small dishes of native food, and display other projects they have made. Our family participated in a missionary fair at church, but you might be a part of a geography fair or a progressive dinner, in which each home or room represents a different country. Consider also participating in a Geography Bee or an essay contest.

Coming from a secular background, I never heard of missions except in a brief, joking, and negative way. My children are growing up with missionary heroes. Geography was never meaningful to me; but to them, it is a reason to pray and give and maybe go.

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