Raising a child to be a global citizen
My first guest blog! An American on a British blog. Let me start warm up with some US-UK translation. Analyze (=Analyse), Color (=Colour), Lou (=bathroom, restroom, etc), flat (=apartment). Quick question: Why don’t you spell it bloug? Ok, now that’s covered, I think we’re ready to go!
What to write about on a guest blog? My little boy Jack (1-year old) and I have only been doing this blogging thing for a month or so now, since I’ve been staying home with him. And I have to say that although he’s the inspiration for much of what we write about, Jack’s not very helpful with the actual writing. His grammar’s off, and he has no sense of structure. His main contributions to the blog are grabbing the wireless mouse, unplugging the computer, and typing various combinations of aehfao;ehg;ahg jahsjdfhasd . So, when we sat down this morning to brainstorm about what to write in this guest blog, you can imagine that his input was not quite of equal contribution. Here’s what he wanted to say…”da da da da da da da mumumummumumumumum…pppppppbbbbbbsssssttt”. So, I told him I’d find a way to work it in. There ya go Jack.
But, I digress. When Tired-Mummy (that’s Mommy for any U.S. readers out there…really don’t know why all the extra U’s) asked me if I’d be interested in doing a guest blog, I thought it’d be fun to think about raising a child to be an international citizen. This world is changing so rapidly, melding of cultures, of languages, of food, of religion. Jack’s mom and I never really travelled outside of the country when we were growing up. And Chinese food was pretty much the only ethnic food we were exposed to (unless you count Italian). And we’re not even talking real Chinese food. You know the stuff they bring around on the Dim Sum cart and when they come by our table, and you ask what it is and they just look at you, shake their head and say “not for you”. Turns out Americans don’t usually like turtle and chicken-feet for Sunday brunch. No, this was Americanized Chinese food. Deep-fried General Tsao’s chicken, sweet-and-sour pork, and the like.
When Jack’s mom and I grew up and became scientists, we were exposed us to many great new international things. Food: Sushi, Thai, Ethiopian. Travel: to other countries for work and having foreign-people travel to the U.S. to work with us. Culture: Even cultures as similar as the US vs. UK have a great many differences—more so than just your fetish for extra U’s and your aversion to the letter z (=zed), let alone the differences among non-western cultures.
The world in which Jack is going to be an adult is going to be a very different one than it is right now and very very different from when we grew up. Like it or not, we’re becoming a more and more homogenized planet. It’s easy to see this happening in the U.S. You could be in the deserts of Arizona, the Mountains of Colorado, the plains of Nebraska, or the urbanized east coast. But 90% of what you see looks exactly the same. Green lawns of grass all cut to ½ an inch, houses built just a few years ago that all look the same and are the same shade of Taupe; Home Depot and Lowe’s to buy your home improvement stuff; Target and Walmart to buy everything else; TGI Fridays and Applebees for dinner. Seriously, it’s all becoming the same. And it’s spreading. I was on Crete last winter—pretty much as deep into the Mediterranean sea as you can go before you hit Africa. I was at a conference, looking for a really strong Greek Coffee (you know, the stuff that’s more grounds than liquid) to get me through an afternoon of very boring talks. Asked someone on the street where I could get a good coffee, and speaking very little English, he pointed me to the Starbucks across the street. Ugh.
We’re simultaneously becoming a more diverse international community—More types of people, more types of food, more types of culture and language in any one place—and a less diverse one—Starbucks and MacDonald’s on every corner, English being taught to kids in grammar school in most countries across the world. It might be argued that the increased connectivity in our society has on occasion caused increasing conflict. And one of the unintentional consequences of increasing the connectivity among cultures and languages and such is that some of those are lost as we move towards a homogenous global society (some languages and dialects are going extinct just like animals and plants do). However, I am hopeful that the increased internationalization of our society will ultimately decrease conflict. Humans are innately tribal. We support individuals that are part of our tribe, and sometimes fight with individuals that are parts of other tribes. As the global community becomes more and more interconnected, perhaps the differences that we see amongst one another will no longer seem like differences. If we’re exposed to those differences from early childhood, we can all become part of the same global tribe.
The children of today, our little Jack, Tired Mummy’s little Elizabeth and Alison, and all the other little kids out there are going to have to navigate this world in a way that we have never had to navigate it before. We want Jack to be exposed to diverse languages; we want him to be exposed to diverse foods; we want him to be exposed to diverse cultures and people. We believe that exposure at an early age will enable him to be a better global citizen in a world which will undoubtedly be a very different place than what it is today. And, maybe someday when we’re all at Dim Sum on a Sunday morning, he can speak Chinese to the servers, and we’ll finally get them to serve us that fried turtle—just to see if we like it.
Jack’s Dad (with a little help from Jack)
P.S., if you like what I have to say, we’d love to have you come over and visit us on our blog on occasion. We’re always looking for more followers! And, please tell your friends/followers!