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calbear

ROAR VBS program - please reconsider

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On 6/13/2019 at 6:36 AM, SKL said:

The stuff about out-of-context African culture / stereotypes is pretty stupid.  I would not use those parts.  Calling Africa a country is dumb, but if it was the only thing (they say it also refers to Africa as a continent), I'd treat it as a typo and just fix it.

I've seen the  letter group sent responding to this (but can't find it now) and they have changed that.    I don't know what the original text was, but it said something like there was one instance that could be mis-interpreted as referring to Africa as a country.   

The thing about slavery...I've heard of several instances where kids, as part of history in school, were asked to take place in a mock slave auction (in at least one only the black kids were "auctioned").   That hit a raw nerve for many parents.   I usually like the play-acting feature of Group's VBS (our church used it's Holy Land Adventures, which recreate Biblical stories living history style)...but I can see where imitating slavery could be over the line. 

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I think that the developers of this curriculum were probably making a very honest attempt to value part of the world that has often been pitied rather than honored in the white American church, but they failed to look at things through anyone else's eyes, to gather perspectives from those not like them. I hope they learn from this instead of becoming defensive. 

To the language thing, for anyone who can't see how it's offensive, maybe this might help. Imagine a group of kids elsewhere in the world learning about Americans and being told "in America they make this sound "th" where they stick their tongue through their teeth and blow around it. Let's make up an American name with this sound in it." Then a bunch of kids blow raspberries and believe they've learned something about those weird Americans who spit when they talk like babies. This situation is still not like the VBS situation described because most kids throughout the world know more about Americans than that and a good percentage will likely learn at least some actual English at some point. The American kids don't have that greater context and won't necessarily have their misunderstanding corrected at a later date. Instead, they get "African people are interesting but weird" as their take away.

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43 minutes ago, xahm said:

I think that the developers of this curriculum were probably making a very honest attempt to value part of the world that has often been pitied rather than honored in the white American church, but they failed to look at things through anyone else's eyes, to gather perspectives from those not like them. I hope they learn from this instead of becoming defensive. 

Perspective matters, doesn't it. In the Catholic Church, African priests see the US as a spiritual mission field. It is rare that we have belonged to a parish that did not have a priest from Africa assigned to it. (The US has a shortage of priests.)  We hear their real life stories all the time during their homilies.  They have a very different perspective on our life here and what our society values. 

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1 hour ago, xahm said:

I think that the developers of this curriculum were probably making a very honest attempt to value part of the world that has often been pitied rather than honored in the white American church, but they failed to look at things through anyone else's eyes, to gather perspectives from those not like them. I hope they learn from this instead of becoming defensive. 

To the language thing, for anyone who can't see how it's offensive, maybe this might help. Imagine a group of kids elsewhere in the world learning about Americans and being told "in America they make this sound "th" where they stick their tongue through their teeth and blow around it. Let's make up an American name with this sound in it." Then a bunch of kids blow raspberries and believe they've learned something about those weird Americans who spit when they talk like babies. This situation is still not like the VBS situation described because most kids throughout the world know more about Americans than that and a good percentage will likely learn at least some actual English at some point. The American kids don't have that greater context and won't necessarily have their misunderstanding corrected at a later date. Instead, they get "African people are interesting but weird" as their take away.

Your example re "th" (or how we pronounce "r" or "ng" or "sh" etc.) would not bother me at all.

Without seeing the video, it's hard to say whether it was a problem or not.  I am taking the OP's word for it as she has seen the video.  I don't think a mere observation on how another culture's language has sounds we don't use is wrong.  I would like for it to be balanced with the comment that we also have sounds most people around the world don't use and have not learned to say.

I come from a perspective that language differences are fascinating, not humiliating.  I guess if you come from a background where you've heard your language mocked, you might be more sensitive, but IMO that doesn't go so far as to ban all observations about language (or other cultural) differences.  If we don't expose kids to these things we perpetuate ignorance.

Again, the line between sensitivity and offensiveness is often unclear.  I agree with tapping into a more diverse team while developing and evaluating curricula, but that will only go so far in clarifying this gray area.

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On 6/14/2019 at 9:11 AM, HomeAgain said:

It reminds me of the old Videoscope movies TCM is playing lately.  Short clips, each focusing on a different part of the world.  The 1946 one on Australia had such lines as "look at how the whites have civilized this continent."  I'm sure it read fine at the time to their American company, but it seems rather tone deaf, doesn't it?

They were not teaching anything about African languages in this program.  They were pretending, but not really.  Let's rewrite their statement for North America:

You've had fun learning aboout animals you might see in North America and even discovering some of the cool people who live in North America, too.  People in different countries in North America speak a lot of different languages.  But one amazing thing you might hear if you visited a certain area in North America would be people talking with words ending in -o in their language.

Lead kids in saying -o for a few seconds.  Then show them the "-o Language" video.
Make your name including an -o at the end, and "introduce" yourself to kids using your new name.


Imagine your name ends in an o.  Introduce yourself to your Crew with your new "-o language" name. 

Play music while Crews talk, then turn off the music and allow a few kids to share their new names.

Do you see how silly and tone deaf it sounds?  How it mocks a culture by focusing on one aspect of a language to characterize it and the people?  How it gives absolutely no background and the kids walk away without learning anything except other languages sound silly to their untrained ears?  No?

 

I was wondering if I could share your comment  on by blog where I offer guidance to people using the Holy Land Adventure series by Group (not the series that includes Roar, but another one they do where different Bible stories are presented in a living history style format).   I also moderate two Facebook groups related to this (one that someone else started and I later became a moderator for, and another that I started after group started repeating Holy Land Adventure programs in stead of making new ones, for churches working to make their own similar style programs), and would share that post there.    The issues with Roar has come up (some people are using the Holy Land Adventure as a back-up program because of the problem with Roar, and others are confused as to what the issue was about.).  I thought this was such a good explanation. 

I would let them know it came from a comment on a discussion of this on another forum I'm in.   I would use your name or handle only if you wanted me to. 

Edited by goldenecho

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On 6/14/2019 at 10:50 PM, calbear said:

I think that if you are not a person of color, you may not understand the visceral reaction that POC with a mother tongue other than English would feel about the language aspect. I can tell you as a Chinese American, this vividly brought back the hundreds of times throughout my childhood when other children pretended to speak Chinese by saying "Ching chong chee." This was by and far the same reaction that was widely expressed in the Asian American faith communities when this aspect of the curriculum was brought up. So, I am gently going to say, perhaps if you are not a POC with a mother tongue other than English, you likely do not have the broader life experience of why using language this way is considered offensive and insensitive by POC. People mistakenly think they are honoring or celebrating a people's language by doing stuff like this, but I have to be honest in telling you that it is not perceived that way at all by POC.  

I doubt that any of you would have had my recent experience of going to a homeschool event with my son and a Korean American family for a Q & A with a World War II veteran and listen to him use the words "Chink," "Gook,"  "Jap,"and "Oriental" over and over and throughout the presentation. I think you can extrapolate what those stories sounded like. My great grandfather fought in WW1 for the United States, and this is what I have to listen to. Our family has been in the US for 5 generations. Despite that, I stayed seated with my son and respectfully listened even though I cringed every time I heard another racist term used. For those who don't know, these are akin to the n-word among Asian Americans. I still had my son shake his hand, thank the veteran for his service and for speaking and the organizers for the event. Not a single word from the organizers to either of us about recognizing what was wrong about his language. This is happening now. These are things are things that I live with every single day even in 2019. Every POC lives with experiences like these every single day.

ETA: I wrote this only in the interest of continuing to have an open conversation about this in the hopes of helping majority culture people understand and hopefully learn about a different perspective.

 

 

I was wondering if I could share your comment  on by blog where I offer guidance to people using the Holy Land Adventure series by Group (not the series that includes Roar, but another one they do where different Bible stories are presented in a living history style format).   I also moderate two Facebook groups related to this (one that someone else started and I later became a moderator for, and another that I started after group started repeating Holy Land Adventure programs in stead of making new ones, for churches working to make their own similar style programs), and would share that post there.    The issues with Roar has come up (some people are using the Holy Land Adventure as a back-up program because of the problem with Roar, and others are confused as to what the issue was about.).  I thought this  (what you said) was something that people needed to hear.  

I would let them know it came from a comment on a discussion of this on another forum I'm in.   I would use your name or handle only if you wanted me to. 

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20 minutes ago, goldenecho said:

 

I was wondering if I could share your comment  on by blog where I offer guidance to people using the Holy Land Adventure series by Group (not the series that includes Roar, but another one they do where different Bible stories are presented in a living history style format).   I also moderate two Facebook groups related to this (one that someone else started and I later became a moderator for, and another that I started after group started repeating Holy Land Adventure programs in stead of making new ones, for churches working to make their own similar style programs), and would share that post there.    The issues with Roar has come up (some people are using the Holy Land Adventure as a back-up program because of the problem with Roar, and others are confused as to what the issue was about.).  I thought this was such a good explanation. 

Ah, feel free.  I wish it was more insightful. 😄 I only took thoughts from upthread and rewrote them.

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@goldenecho Yes, you can. I will pm you my facebook posts which I have made public. Some of my comments I made above I didn't make on my page. You can attribute it to me. I know you are in my local area.

I think I will be rewriting my thoughts about this on my blog drawing in all my social media posts and comments on this thread.

Edited by calbear

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The problem that I have with the “click language” is that children are told practically nothing about the language before being asked to make up words in the language.

I think that presenting a new language is fine. Trying to imitate the sounds of a new language is fine. Trying out names in a new language is fine. However, inventing words in a new language while knowing practically nothing about the language is crossing the line. Why not have the kids try to imitate actual words and provide translations of the words?

It doesn’t matter whether or not the native speakers of the language hear it. The damage is done because the impressionable young minds start thinking that they have ownership of a language that they really know nothing about. I could easily see a kindergarten age child participating in that activity and telling other kids that he can “speak African” while making up random sounds. I could picture a an older bully taking the information from that “lesson” and making clicking sounds to tease someone from Africa.

Calbear’s example of people pretending to speak Chinese to tease other kids is a great real-life example of how hurtful the situation can become.

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This is supposed to be Vacation "Bible" School, and much of this material doesn't seem like it has anything to do with teaching the Bible, but that is a different topic.

It is probably going to depend on the individual teachers as to whether these things are going to be dealt with in a sensitive way or not. Providing non-offensive material is very important, but if the teachers are ignorant or unfeeling, it probably doesn't matter how good the material is. So teacher selection and training is probably the most important issue, in my opinion.

I, too, appreciate Calbear's example. I cringe because I remember the saying from when I was in school: "My mommy is Chinese, my daddy is Japanese, and I'm just a mixed up kid." This kind of thing is so cruel, but it was very mainstream and was not seen as a big deal. So the kids who said and heard these things are now teachers and should be educated about why this is a big deal and is hurtful. So I am glad that people are speaking up because I need more education and others' perspectives as well.

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So, update as my kids are finishing up another round of VBS, this time at our regular church (last week was our old parish). They did make bricks and were told the story of the slaves in egypt making bricks, but did not pretend to be slaves, and the focus was on how adding straw helped hold things together. (also, didn't realize they use playdoh for this I think, and my kid probably got glutened.)

No click language stuff this week (or last week). 

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On 6/18/2019 at 6:55 AM, Skippy said:

ppreciate Calbear's example. I cringe because I remember the saying from when I was in school: "My mommy is Chinese, my daddy is Japanese, and I'm just a mixed up kid." This kind of thing is so cruel, but it was very mainstream and was not seen as a big deal. So the kids who said and heard these things are now teachers and should be educated about why this is a big deal and is hurtful. So I am glad that people are speaking up because I need more education and others' perspectives as well.


I remember a ruder playground saying from my school days. "I am Chinese. I am Japanese. Dirty knees, look at these." The kids would pull the corners of their eyes up and down to make slant eyes at me and then pull at the front of their shirt (simulating breasts). 

I also dreaded Pearl Harbor Day. Kids would routinely throw clods of dirt and rocks at me and my siblings when we walked to school.

Edited by calbear
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Another thing that struck me was comparing the activities of making bricks while pretending to be slaves and jumping like the Maasai.

In the slavery example, the teacher is the Egyptian guard and the students are slaves. The teacher tells the students “Get to work, you slaves. Get over there to one of those sand-colored tarps and get busy mixing that mud! Get busy and mix that mud!” The teacher is then told to walk around the room urging kids to mix the mud faster.

In the jumping activity the article says “Children watch a decontextualized clip of som Maasai men jumping. Children are then required to jump for 30 seconds as high as they can.”

In the hands of an inexperienced teacher, these two activities could be similar. A well meaning but inexperienced teacher could easily tell the kids to get over there and jump, keep on jumping, and jump higher, with the same tone of voice and the same urging that was used for the slavery activity. The kids then basically learn that teachers are the boss and kids are treated like slaves. That both damages the student-teacher relationship and undermines how awful slavery actually is.

A skillful teacher could probably make a distinction between the activities, but most VBS teachers are just regular parent or teen volunteers who are not highly skilled in adapting activities.

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On 6/17/2019 at 12:32 PM, Kuovonne said:

It doesn’t matter whether or not the native speakers of the language hear it. The damage is done because the impressionable young minds start thinking that they have ownership of a language that they really know nothing about. I could easily see a kindergarten age child participating in that activity and telling other kids that he can “speak African” while making up random sounds. I could picture a an older bully taking the information from that “lesson” and making clicking sounds to tease someone from Africa.

Calbear’s example of people pretending to speak Chinese to tease other kids is a great real-life example of how hurtful the situation can become.

Exactly. Telling kids to "Africanize" their names by adding random click sounds is no different than telling them to add random ing/ang/ong sounds to "Asianize" them. So little Jimmy Martin and Hannah Petersen change their names to Jing Mang and and Hang Pong — what would be the point of that??? It teaches absolutely nothing about Asian culture, reinforces stupid stereotypes, and leaves kids with a completely warped impression of Asian languages.

The VBS activity is even more culturally loaded, because the video they show is of a Khoisan man wearing nothing but a loincloth and carrying a large stick, creating an impression that click languages are not just "exotic," but "primitive." Cavemen wear furs and go "ugg ugg," Africans wear loincloths and go "click clack," but we civilized people wear clothes and use real words! The whole thing is just mind-bogglingly insensitive. 

Edited by Corraleno
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