Every year, in each class I’ve taken, someone has asked their teacher or fellow classmate why they should care about the content they are taught. It’s easy to feel apathetic and unenthused about something that could never possibly affect your life. In the classroom, it is vital to expose students to ideas and concepts that illustrate new cultures, situations, and ideas in order to expand the pursuit of knowledge. Without culture, we lack the very things that define us.
In the Spanish classes at Episcopal, we learn poems and songs. We analyze products of culture. We connect them to events so we understand the cultural implications they have, not only on the place from whence they came, but on us. The connection between the things we’re learning and humanity’s bigger picture makes us more self-aware. This empathy is an impetus to engage us in other languages, such as Spanish. Learning the background or importance of a topic gives us the opportunity to no longer trivialize our work. When trying to understand massive cultural themes, it is helpful to pose a simple question: what evidence does this piece give about the quality of life in a particular country? A short story about financial hardships in Colombia can segue into a discussion about the effect that violence has there. When students have real evidence and examples, challenging or complex conversations become more ‘genuine'. Culture is not only a lens that magnifies the world, but it is a mirror that reflects the commonalities that connect each and every one of us. To know that someone across the world can understand our challenges and passions creates a fire of curiosity that cannot be extinguished.
Martine Cruz ('17)