Pin It
Friday, January 13th, 2012

We Don’t Need Another Multicultural Hero. Or Do We?

By

With Martin Luther King Day just around the corner in the U.S., I’ve been thinking a lot about heroes, raising global kids and cultural literacy.

As an anthropologist, the topic of cultural icons—who they are and how and why they are honored—has always fascinated me. But it was only when I married a Turkish man and had kids that I really started paying attention.

That’s because I realized that, although I could talk a blue streak about famous American civil rights activists—people like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and César Chávez—I didn’t have much of a clue about comparable figures from outside the U.S., let alone from Turkey.

Growing up in the U.S., I know my kids will learn plenty about U.S. national icons, at least those who have been acknowledged by mainstream U.S. culture and enshrined in the national psyche.

And I know my husband and our Turkish relatives will get my sons up to speed on Turkish culture.

But what about visionaries from other cultures and countries?

Beyond learning about notable people in U.S. and Turkish history, I think it’s important that my children learn about other people around the world, and throughout history, who have championed human rights, tolerance and equality.

So, for the past several years, since my kids were born, I’ve been slowly putting together a list of the cultural icons who matter most to me. Not surprisingly, humanitarians, peacemakers and social activists top my list. People like the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela, Rigoberta Menchú and Albert Schweitzer. Each one, with the notable exception of Gandhi, is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Last year, I added the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and the Yemeni journalist Tawakkol Karman, to my family’s list of world changers. These three women were jointly awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

I try to make a conscious effort to teach my children about the world’s unsung heroes, too. People like Richard and Mildred Loving, the interracial couple at the heart of the landmark Supreme Court case, Loving v. Virginia, and the subject of a new documentary. Or the musicians and performers behind Music in Common, an international non-profit whose mission is to strengthen, empower and educate communities through the universal language of music.

Would you like to create your own pantheon of cultural heroes? Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Brainstorm your “top ten” list of important people from your own culture. Take a few minutes to travel down memory lane. Think back to your elementary and high school days. Who were the heroes, leaders and famous people you learned about? What cultural values do they embody? Are these values that you still embrace? Or have you outgrown them and need new sources of inspiration?

2. Ask your partner about important people in his/her culture. Focus not just on the “who”, but also the “why”. What did the person contribute to the country? What cultural values does s/he represent? Are these values important to you and your partner? Does your partner admire the person? Do you both think your children should learn about this person and his/her achievements?

3. Take note of the Nobel. Visit the Nobel Peace Prize website where you can learn about current and past winners and their achievements.

4. Acknowledge modern-day heroes at home and abroad. While it’s good for kids to know about cultural icons from the past, they also need to know about real-life visionaries today. Check your local paper for news items about local non-profits and people making a positive impact in your community. Or visit websites like Insight on Conflict where you can read profiles of 600 peace-building organizations around the world.

What about you? What’s your definition of a cultural hero? Who’s on your list of cultural icons? What ideas do you have for teaching your children about these influential people?

© 2012 – 2013, Justine Ickes. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:


The West's Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep

How the West sleeps is different from the rest

Family History

Who knew that becoming a mother merged our histories of loss and grief

10 Things Not to Say to Parents of Multilingual Children

Have you been guilty of any of these?

Are French Kids Better Behaved Because They are Spanked?

Should spanking be part of your parenting toolkit to have well behaved kids?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Freelance writer and instructional designer Justine Ickes specializes in travel, culture and education. Her work has appeared in over two dozen publications, including Babble.com, the Huffington Post, Language Magazine, Litchfield Magazine, New Jersey Monthly, Scholastic’s Parent & Child., and Up! Magazine. Read Justine’s blog at www.cultureeveryday.com and browse her instructional design portfolio at www.justineickes.com. Follow her on twitter: @justineickes

Leave us a comment!









Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!



A Children's Book for Raising Global Citizens

Every life is a story. It’s easier to understand someone when you know their story.

Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!
[…] Peru, 97 percent of newborns are breastfed, according to LLLI. In Culture Parent reported that 69 percent of Peruvian children are breastfed exclusively from birth to five months, and ou...
From Breastfeeding Around the World
Hi I was googling Islamic beliefs when I came across your post. We are American and our neighbors are from Pakistan I think. Our kids love playing together but their dad doesn't allow the kids to co...
From An Islamic Perspective on Child-Rearing and Discipline
Mother’s Day is the most perfect and accurate Occasion to express your Love and Gratitude towards Mothe...
From Holi Craft: Straw Painting
[…] Muslims fast for 30 days every year for Ramadan, which is one of the five pillars of Islam. Ramadan this year is happening during most of the month […...
From Ramadan: June 28-July 28
[…] Raising a Little Buddha – Part 1, InCulture Parent — Post by a Buddhist Minister about raising an enlightened child.  It starts with intimacy, communication, and community. [R...
From How to Raise an Enlightened Child — Part I
[…] Breastfeeding in Jordan, InCulture Parent — Not as restrictive as one might think. […...
From Breastfeeding in Jordan
[…] Best and Worst Countries to be a Mother, InCulture Parent – “The 2010 Mothers’ Index rates 160 countries (43 developed nations and 117 in the developing world) in terms of th...
From Best and Worst Countries to be a Mother
[…] Why Americans Value Independent and Competitive Kids, InCultureParent — Interesting look at how our values impact our interactions with our children (babies in particular). […...
From Why Americans Value Independent and Competitive Kids
[…] Multiple Fathers and Healthier Children in the Amazon, InCulture Parent — a fascinating look at cultures in the Amazon where pregnant women have sex with more than one man as a means...
From Multiple Fathers and Healthier Children in the Amazon

More Global Parenting