I could tell you how many steps make up the streets rising like stairways, and of the degree of the arcades' curves, and what kind of zinc scales cover the roofs; but I already know this would be the same as telling you nothing. The city does not consist of this, but of relationships between the measurements of its space and the events of its past...A description of Zaira as it is today should contain all Zaira's past. -Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Kids Day and India

Last Friday was bring your kid to work day at Pitney Bowes. It's all very fun, begins with breakfast and a magic show, followed by tours for the older kids, then a big outdoor picnic. I was a tour stop, "Let's Travel to India." They put the kids in groups by age, since some of the stops are better for older or younger ones...I ended up with groups ranging from about 8-13 years old. It was fun but exhausting.

I figured the point was more fun than educational, so pretty much I set up a slide show to talk about the fact that we invent stuff by understanding how people live and work, and asking what they knew about India. Answers: lots of people, cows...Showed them pics of cellphones, malls and offices and lots of things that look pretty similar in India as in the US, then pictures of things that look different. Fun to see their reactions. They all noticed the Subway in the mall, and they all recognized the well in the village and understood what it was for and that the villages don't necessarily have running water or consistent electricity. Some didn't believe the monkey wasn't in a zoo...

Tried to get them to think about what stuff they might invent for India (power lines and water pumps were popular answers, didn't necessarily expect them to think so broadly). And also talked about other countries they have visited. What was so nice though is how open minded most kids are. They were into seeing pictures of another country, could see the similarities and differences, but at the same time were somewhat unconcerned about the differences. I mean, they thought it was cool and interesting, but not weird or "why do I care."

I don't know...hit them with anthropology and other cultures at an early age and maybe we'll have less problems in the world? Or maybe they just liked the sodas and cookies in the back of the room.

6 comments:

Charu said...

what a lovely post, Alex! kiddie anthropology is such a good idea - and kids are usually more perceptive about the small things - and they have less stereotypical baggage that hampers their thinking and understanding...

gawker said...

What a great idea. I guess the kids were too small to have listened to Rush Limbaugh and his rants against multiculturalism.

gawker said...

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Charu said...

I read dregg's post and your comment on that - someone had left this comment on my blog a while ago - on my post on the Pears ads - wanted to share it with you -

"The first ad, ‘powerful enough to clean a black child’, reminds me of an incident from my childhood.
I am Anglo Indian and I have brown skin. I migrated to Australia in 1970, which was one year after the “White Australia (immigration) Policy” was abolished … needless to say, the general population weren’t used to seeing little brown skinned kids like me running around, but I managed, somehow, and I had many friends at school. One day, after I had been attending the school for 4 years, we had a lesson about Melanin and why some people have brown skin. After the class, my best friend came to me and said shyly
“I didn’t realise that you have more melanin in your skin … I just thought you were dirty!”

Dina Mehta said...

i smiled as i read your post Alex ... maybe 10 years from now i won't be faced with a blank stare, when i visit a supermarket in the US, and the check-out clerk looks at my credit card strangely and asks me where i am from - and when i say India, she looks blank and asks me to tell her two things that are famous so they can trigger India to her :)

its a wonderful idea to have a kid's day at work - and not only a fun-and-games thing - am going to spread the word here :)

Alex said...

It's funny, I always think skin color shouldn't phase people in the US since there is so much diversity, though I know that's not true (and in fact living in suburban Connecticut I have to admit my town is very white).

And being white, I can't claim to fully understand what it means to be "different." When I have been in Africa and India I know I stand out, and there is no way I can blend into looking like a local (whereas in Europe I can fake it until I open my mouth). It would probably be good for more people to experience spending time in the midst of people who don't look or think like them.