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What We are Learning about Humanity, through Cultural Art

What We are Learning about Humanity, through Cultural Art Posted on November 1, 20163 Comments

We haven’t really been able to find a history course that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to implement,

Or one that the kids enjoy.

Which is why for the time being I have decided to focus on Cultural Studies… which basically explores the things that influence us as individuals or as part of a community.  It can cover the things that are a result of a shared collective experience or as a fragmented piece of society.  There are so many mediums we can use to explore the nature of our changing world around us and the way we handle those changes.  Movies, books, music, poetry, art -you don’t have to wait until you get to college to investigate!

Here are a few of the ways we are learning more about ourselves;

I introduced Neko to The Matrix because he made several quotes he had heard from his fellow gamers but it was weirdly timed because he didn’t have a clue what it really pertained to.

The three movies set up an excellence platform to discuss the struggles between our individuality vs our humanity, the different philosophy that drives the characters, and several strong references to mythology/religious symbolism.  It allowed us opportunities to ask if a a society could be enslaved and not know it?  Is it moral or immoral to remove someone from the safety of a social system or to push our idea of freedom on them? As a warning or a reminder, the 2nd movie shares strong messages about sexuality. Not interested in watching all three of The Matrix movies? Try Equilibrium.

The Witches is a book that explores the deceptive appearance of others. On Ronald Dahl’s website you can find a fun lesson plan to discuss this. Other cultural themes include challenging the idea of a woman’s beauty and why people wear masks to hide their flaws.  Matilda is another good one if you want to explore abuse of power by adults or institutions. Both books touch on being self-reliant in the face of obstacles and succeeding with the support of loved ones.  

Our library hosted an Edgar Allen Poe reading last week.  While it was fitting for Halloween it was a great opportunity to talk about death/loss, and how we deal with it.  It creates a good foundation to talk about how his works continue to influence and inspire. Watch: The Tell Tale Heart – 1953 narrated by James Mason

One of my favorite traditions around this time of year is watching The Halloween Tree!  I’m a fan of Ray Bradbury and I thought this movie did a good job of presenting different cultural traditions and starting a discusion about what other cultures believe and celebrate. See a preview: The Halloween Tree

Currently Neko is reading aloud The Wizard of Oz.

So far it’s been interesting to see what Hollywood changed!  

In all honesty I never read the first book, but I did read the 2nd & 3rd book.  I noticed our library has 14 of L. Frank Baum Oz books, but I was told that there are 40 altogether? I might want to make this my Goodreads book challenge for the next year!  Although it’s a longer series of books, I’m hoping that we will be able to at least read and use the first book to talk about how it represents the 20th Century American values, the first American fairy tale’s influence on the American culture, and why the book was banned for portraying a woman in a strong leadership role.

Most of our focus was on selecting material that was naturally occurring, fun, and something the kids enjoyed.

I like to keep an eye out for opportunities for our family to experience and understand others.

In particular I’m looking for material that shows how differences were resolved or how people were influenced in a way that changed their society.

What cultural resources can you suggest we use this month? Why?


3 thoughts on “What We are Learning about Humanity, through Cultural Art

  1. What a wonderful idea! It encompasses history, civics, sociology, and ethics (to name a few) in a really interesting way. I may have to try something like this once our history cycle ends and my kids are a little older.

    I’m not sure if it’s exactly what you’re looking for, but are you familiar with ‘Johnny Got His Gun’ by Dalton Trumbo? It’s a fascinating stream of consciousness narrative that explores war and society, including how societal expectations can limit a person’s choices.

    1. I am not familiar with that one! I’ll check and see if our library can get it. If for some reason I have to choose, would you recommend the book or the movie more? Thank you for your suggestion!

      1. I’ve never seen the movie, but the book is written stream-of-consciousness from the point of view of a man who has lost his arms, legs, hearing, sight, ability to speak, ability to smell, and ability to eat. He can’t even tell whether he’s awake or dreaming. I can’t imagine a movie doing this book justice. has used copies for sale for under $4 with free shipping in the US, if your library can’t get it.

        I first encountered this book in 10th grade English class at my high school. Almost 30 years later I still have that same copy, and I make a point of rereading it at least once every 5 years. It’s that good.

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