What do we know about cultures?

Lance wrote:
Careful…many traditional language teachers dismiss the “culture” in TPRS novels because it’s not packaged like a history survey course. I’m glad your community buys into it, but it’s not an easy sell for a lot of people.”
Careening of Lance’s comment, I’d like to give a picture of American’s concept of culture. My wife attended a human relations camp as an adult advisor. When she had gone many years earlier, each camper on culture night had to join whatever ethnic group they belonged to except the Whites (so defined), who just had to sit and watch the skits as each ethnic group of 16 year olds tried to present their “culture”. She changed that tradition by insisting that each camper could join whichever ethnic group they wanted; so a Chinese kid could go to the Hispanic group, etc. (for younger teachers, in the 70s there was nowhere near the acceptance of ethnicity there is now nor recognition of ethnic diversity). When I came to the camp the next year, I insisted on another change (some people think my wife and I are obnoxious): that the White kids, so-called, should present. That raised the question of what “White culture” is. I quickly identified at half or more White kids who had very distinctive ethnic backgrounds: Greek, Ukrainian, Norwegian, etc. They knew songs, dances, poems, recipes, and ceremonies. It was great and an eye opener for lots of people who thought of “White” as an ethnic group. For those who could not or would not identify an ethnic group for themselves, we had a Heinz 57 group and their skit was to all get under a big tarp, like a blanket, bump around under there, and then burst forth saying, “We don’t know who was under there, but WE are the result!”
Re lack of identity, one little girl refused to identify but something about her made me go back to her. Finally, she broke down, literally, crying, and said her family was a mix of Croatian and German and every family gathering was almost a blood bath and she hated everything about “ethnicity”. So she gave a stirring performance as to how America allows people to leave all that crap behind if they want to.
It’s been my experience over the years that most Americans need a LOT of education about culture. Teachers doing tprs can easily include culture, but they have to know it first. Even native speakers often do not understand their own culture and something that needs explicating.

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