The Unites States of America is a country that is rich in history and culture. In fact, it has been said that the country could perfectly form an international community. This is because the country is inhabited by almost all cultures and people of the world. Some of them are natives of the country but others migrated into the country long time ago either through adventure or curiosity. Still, others like the Africans found themselves in America through slave trade which saw millions of Africans taken to America as slaves in early 15th century by European explorers. The explorers had migrated into the country to venture on natural wealth and land of the Native Americans. Unfortunately, for the African slaves, the color of their skin could for a long time determine if they were to live as free citizens or as slaves for life. This paper aims at discussing the history and culture of the Africans in America while exploring concepts like their background and common activities with other races as well as ways of addressing culture in schools.
According to Holloway (2005), the history of Africans in America is not a short one. It stems up way back into 15th century when European explorers, who had earlier migrated into America, ferried millions of Africans into the country as slaves. Later, other races like Hispanics, Middle Eastern, and Asians were taken into America either as slaves or immigrants. Today, the country is still the most preferred country to migrate to with millions of people from different cultures and nations migrating into the country each year. This has resulted into a mixture of different cultures in many international schools within the country.
Holloway (2005) further notes that African Americans are special group of people in America because the color of their skin made them to be easily identified. This is why this group of people has been marginalized for a long time with many of them always viewed as slaves to serve their slave masters. This view negated the fact that Africans in America were people with capabilities like any other race and, therefore, they could positively contribute to the development of the country. Holloway (2005) notes that much has been done since then, but the notion still persists in some states especially in institutions of learning, where young children from African American families are discriminated against their color of skin, not only by teachers, but even fellow pupils of races which consider themselves to be superior.
Holloway (2005) observes that African American pupils are susceptible due to their historical background and other natural features like skin color, accent, and their culture. Additionally, Smith & Johnson (1999) observe that for a long time African Americans have been associated with criminal activities and gang formations which have tainted their image with other races. Coupled with less economic endowment, it is assumedly believed that Africans in America cannot attend international schools. Given this fact young African Americans in international schools are likely to be misrepresented, misunderstood, or ignored in America when it comes to equal treatment in early childhood programs (Smith & Johnson, 1999).
Since this race of people in a diversified community is susceptible to misrepresentation when it comes to early childhood programs, it is important that teachers engage them not with a special treatment but with care to stop the misrepresentation. Holloway (2005) suggests that staff of international schools should be exposed, first, to a special form of training so as to prepare them to deal with such cases as prejudice and discrimination. Quintessentially, in schools where children of age 3 and 5 are learning together, it is common to find race discrimination and bullying. As a result, children from marginalized races are always exposed to a number of misrepresentations. Holloway (2005) has argued that this partly stems from the fact that children from “superior” races may not be aware that any form of discrimination against any one on the basis of race, skin color, gender or any of such factors is outlawed.
In this regard, staff in the international schools together with the students can help other students to appreciate the culture of their colleagues by exposing them to their cultures. These will help them to appreciate the importance of correlation in a country that finds itself with a global community of people. Grieshaber & Cannella (2001) point out another way of ensuring that children from African race are respected during early childhood. It underlies in the emphasis on the practice of other people’s cultural practices. This can be actualized in food cooking, sports, architecture, and practice among others. This exercise can be done routinely, or may be on a weekly basis where the culture of each race represented in the school is appreciated.
Similarly, Grieshaber & Cannella (2001) noted that incorporating practical lessons in the teaching process of pupils in class from different races will help pupils to appreciate the background and cultures from other communities. For instance, Grieshaber & Cannella (2001) suggest that teachers should embrace formation of groups in class where pupils from different races and gender are grouped together and guided in learning stories about their cultures and practices.
In addition, it is possible for teachers in schools with students from diverse cultures to form interactive activities such as games where pupils get to interact. This provides them with the needed opportunity to appreciate the capability of each one’s culture. In situation where some students cannot speak the English language, the teacher should encourage other pupils to act as guides for those who do not know the language. Similarly, teachers can organize field excursions where pupils are taken out in the field so that they can get exposed to cultures and practices of other children in the same class.
Vivian Gussin in her book, A Child's Work: The Importance of Fantasy Play, notes that it is important for teachers of first grader to expose children to activities that will not only help them to grow with a strong self-esteem but also be able to appreciate other people. In her writings she observes that the first grade education has continued to lose its status as the starting point for formal learning in the United States. She claims that today’s program is different from the initial effective one, where the teachers could be present just to watch how the kindergarten children were playing. She argues that such teachers had a great influence on the growth of children. Another common characteristic of teachers’ attitude to children, which has so far been explored, is the gender disparity. She also notes that teachers should encourage intermingling of children of different genders so as to ensure that even those from different races and gender get to appreciate each other.
A study conducted by Smith & Johnson (1999) found out that culture identification in standard curriculum in schools is important. The same is noted by Grieshaber & Cannella (2001) who refer to culture as the custodian of our human society. They argue that identifying different cultural practices will ensure that people from different races in an aggressively diversified society are protected from being swallowed up and appreciated. It is imperative that better ways, even the use of technology are marshaled up to help in preserving the cultures of races that are threatened with extinction. This can also be done through sports such as drama and music festivals. Numerous studies have shown that another way of addressing culture in international schools is by providing experts to talk to children on various cultural topics. This is because of the fact that it is impossible for any teacher to have knowledge of every culture represented in an international school. Similarly, children will appreciate more a talk about their culture in a setting where the presenter is an expert on children behavior.
The subject of early childhood in an international school can be elusive if not well handled. This is because an international school is composed of young children with prejudice and views against others which may be difficult to control. Unlike older students young children tend to pick up every bit that seems offensive to their fellows and this can easily be learnt from friends or from the media. I recommend that the school make use of Vivian Gussin Paley’s book on The Importance of Fantasy Play, Patricia Cooper’s The Classrooms All Young Children Need: Lessons in Teaching from Vivian Paley, and David Bjorklund’s Children's Thinking: Cognitive Development and Individual Differences in instructing children from different races and culture at the school.