5 Reasons Why We Should Teach the Value of Cultural Heritage to High School Students
Autumn Battista, Student, Fitchburg State University
Cultural heritage is something that all human beings share; wherever we come from there is a culture that follows us from that place. No matter where you grow up, where you go, your culture will always be something you can take with you. Cultural heritage can come in many forms: tangible, intangible, and natural. Tangible heritage consists of artifacts like sculptures, paintings, manuscripts, etc. Intangible heritage consists of oral tradition, rituals, and performing arts. Natural heritage consist of cultural landscapes and geological landscapes, any type of landscape that is naturally formed. It is very important that we protect our cultural heritage so our future generations can continue to look upon their past as we do. I believe it is very important that we teach our high school students the value in protecting their cultural heritage. The importance behind the types of cultural heritages in a student’s life should be relevant in their education. Speaking in terms of literature, I believe that students should be exposed to literature and oral stories from the past that connects to their culture today, whether it be reading Beowulf or Sylvia Plath; students can connect to the characters in this literature by studying further into where the content they are reading came from and how they connect to it in their modern lives. When we think about cultural heritage in the classroom, we might not be sure how to take on such a large topic especially in a classroom setting. I put together a list of reasons why we should teach our students to value cultural heritage inside and outside of the classroom environment.
- Understanding Means Appreciating: As human beings, when we understand something, we value that thing; and when we value something, we will protect that thing and we will strive to learn even more. It is important for students to be taught about cultural heritage because, through a proper understanding, a student will be able to connect and appreciate cultural heritage and they will be able to apply it to their own life. If a student is taught the general definition of cultural heritage, they may not understand the concept, but through connections of their own cultural heritage and research and a deep understanding, a student can look at their place in the world and compare it to the grand scheme of things, understanding how big our world is, but how connected we all are as human beings through our culture. Appreciation is an important part of teaching cultural heritage, and when students fulfill learning expectations that are set to have students experience cultural heritage, rather than just understand the concept and the term, I believe an important appreciation can begin to root in the student’s mind.
- Students Will Be Inspired to Connect to Their Culture: There is nothing better than knowing your students are inspired and connected to what they are learning and researching. When students feel emotionally connected to their coursework, they often times feel more inspired to be creative and put a great deal of effort into their work. When teaching the importance of cultural heritage, students can easily be inspired by thoughts of their own culture, where they come from; perhaps they are adopted and grew up in a home with a different culture from where they were born, then that student could explore into their birth culture and understand more about themselves in the process of researching. Cultural heritage is deeply personal, but it is also a connection we all share; through connecting with your culture you connect more with those around you. Many students find they share similar cultures with their peers, or they may find a peer who is from a place they want to know more about. This connected learning opens doors for sharing and exploring the world while never really leaving the classroom. Also, as a teacher it is important to allow students the opportunity to connect to their culture because at home they may not have the opportunity to connect with parents about this topic, offering information and research databases for students to dig into a culture is important because it allows a student to thrive and grow, while still learning something they are passionate about.
- Our Future Will Benefit from the Teaching of Cultural Heritage: If we teach cultural heritage to high school students, they will immediately begin to gain appreciation for their culture and the culture of the world around them. Students may have found themselves pondering in the past where we all come from, what those people before us were like, what did they eat, what did they do for fun? These types of questions guide students to look inward and also look forward. As human beings we don’t want to be forgotten once we are gone; students will be inspired to create and learn as those from the past did before us. Our future generations will benefit from learning this information because they will be able to carry forward with them the cultural heritage that they love and cherish, they can carry forward concepts, ideas, literature and beliefs that they have learned from those before them. These traditions can carry on as long as we remember to teach them, learn from them and create something of our own to connect with them. All history has sad times, things we feel ashamed of and bad about, but by learning and understanding the past we can be sure to protect the future from making the same mistakes over again, and by doing this we can protect people from being hurt when they shouldn’t be, we can rethink our past decisions, try to understand what went wrong, and then move forward into the future and do things a new way.
- We Connect to Each Other: When students learn that they share more than they originally think we do, they often feel less alone. It is a scary time being a teenager in high school, and as an educator it is important to remember that students want to connect with us and they want to connect with their peers. It can be difficult for some students to find common ground with those around them, and of course this leads to bullying and other issues amongst groups of teens, but through education there can be a link that brings students together. The idea of learning about the world and our past makes us feel nostalgic, and it makes us want to connect with those around us. When you realize how much you can learn from another human and how much you have to offer, you feel like you have a purpose. Many teenagers don’t feel like they have a purpose. This can lead to mental illnesses and other issues among teens, but through connection with culture students can both share and feel they are understood by those around them, even if they decide not to share but they are present for a discussion. Specifically, if a student is new to a town they might not understand the general culture of the new town or city they have moved to. It could be helpful to offer a lesson on cultural heritage in the school’s town or surrounding towns, and this could then lead students to connect to their new home in a more secure way. Through teaching about culture and human beings, we often find that we share a common ground; and we often find that there is much more to share with one another than we originally imagined.
- We Can Work Together to Protect Cultural Heritage: Unfortunately it is common for cultural heritage to be destroyed, specifically in terrorist attacks and during war-times. Although there are laws in place to protect cultural heritage in many parts of the world it is not always secure and safe. In the Middle East cultural heritage is often destroyed by explosions and specifically ISIS has destroyed historical and religious sites to strip people of their culture and their identity, leaving them lost. It is important to teach students that cultural heritage is in danger because, as they are the future, they will likely feel that they want to help preserve the past. It is an important feeling when you are able to stand up for what you believe is right; it is empowering for students to feel passionate towards their culture and it means more people are there to help ensure monuments and natural cultural heritage are protected for future generations to enjoy. The idea of having something important to you, that defines you, destroyed by someone who simply wants to strip you of everything you love is a very terrifying one. Students who understand cultural heritage will feel the need to protect it and make sure that it carries on for their children and their grandchildren and so on.