Some thoughts

Lately I’ve been thinking a good deal about culture. This is partly because I’ve been avoiding thinking  good deal about school and how I can’t remember the last time the kids and I connected over any bit of information or idea. So anyway – I know nothing about how to think of culture in general, or the culture I’m in in particular, which is making this task difficult for me. And probably useless. Nevertheless…

I had a house guest Monday night, a woman who works with the job center in Bethel. She was here to introduce the high schoolers to the state job center’s web site, so that they would be able to look for jobs more easily when they’re ready to. Some of the things she said surprised me, as did the assumptions she held. Like that a person looking for an ordinary kind of job would need a job agency or internet to find it. Sure, they come in handy, but really? And that she was shocked any high school would not make certain that every student knew about their local job agency, how to find positions online, and so on. As a teen I always figured I’d ask somebody once I was ready to do something about it. So she came over to my place for the night, and we ended up talking about culture. Because whatever culture it is these kids are part of (part Yupik, part lower class American, I suppose), doesn’t put much emphasis on academic learning. But the American government does. So they’re required to go to school for thirteen years in order to get a decent job. Or so they’re told – I have no idea if that’s actually true. Just imagine – thirteen years of something you don’t like, and don’t see much point in! But she was also talking about how the Yupik people are losing a lot of their culture. I would add that they’re not replacing it so much with Western culture in the sense I would mean it, but rather with the culture of Americans in poverty – rap and TV and junk food and disrespect. It’s not good stuff. So these teachers come in here and wonder what it is we can DO. Because it’s a pretty sad situation. But we don’t know, of course. We try to teach, and some kids want it, though the majority don’t, and they try to ruin it for everybody else. I don’t know where I’m going with this. I’m out here in Tuluksak, five hundred miles from a city, teaching classes I don’t believe are necessary to teenagers who mostly aren’t buying what I’m selling. And half the time I don’t have something to teach anyway – they’re surprised that I would lose my train of thought and run out of things to say when it’s an elective they have no interest in. And there I am, back to teacher talk again. *sigh*


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