The Second Goal

Today, on the Fourth of July, I arranged a special class to teach my students more about the United States.

It’s part of my responsibility as a Peace Corps Volunteer to promote a better understanding of America to host country nationals, or as what we PCVs call the Second Goal.

To be honest, I am not very good at this. In casual conversations, I try to correct factual errors – the U.S. is not in Africa – or debunk stereotypes – most Americans do not live like Jay Z and what you see in movies is grossly dramatized – but I am not very thorough in my explanations of the U.S.

Most Basotho, particularly my students, see the U.S. for its riches and hip-hop artists. One of my students described it as heaven because everyone is rich. It’s hard to delete those images because no matter what I tell them they’ll never truly understand the U.S. Comprehension is additionally difficult because there are so many working parts of America whereas in Lesotho everything is straightforward. They have a traditional dress, food and song and they all belong to the same ethnicity. The U.S. is much more complex. Some areas have extreme cold while others have unbearable heat. One area is urban and the other rural. Many ethnicities and languages make up the U.S. that it feels wrong to state traits of the typical American. Does such a thing exist anymore?

Still, I want my students to understand a truer America, so I used our scheduled English class time to talk about as much as I could. I showed them the flag, explaining the 50 stars and 13 stripes, and sang the national anthem. I showed them pictures of different animals found in the U.S., the countries’ military forces and various cities and towns. I played them country music and rock ‘n’ roll and then a video of fireworks that my mother sent me this morning. I also used clips of movies to portray baseball, Las Vegas and the New York City skyline. I briefly explained how the U.S. won its independence and that slavery was legal and led to a civil war. I told them that it can be hard to find work in the U.S. and explained that some are even homeless. I showed them photos of destruction from the recent Oklahoma tornadoes and said that some teachers and students have died because one student brought a gun to school. While Lesotho may be a friendly country to the U.S., I told them, there are those who do not like Americans.

I wish I would have described many don’t live with their entire families, like here in Lesotho. Some people don’t know their neighbors and that you can’t just pop into someone’s house at anytime and expect bread and tea.

Spending the day sharing my country – the good and the bad – with my students seemed like an appropriate way to celebrate its independence. I am glad that my students are interested in the United States and I want them to believe that it is a good place, because that is what I believe and I am very honored to serve my country in this way. But I also want them to understand that just because it is different from their own country doesn’t mean it is better.

*Note: I know that it seems like I have been posting a lot lately and I apologize for filling your feeds with these updates. Most of these posts were posted a month ago and scheduled for the future and I’ve lost track of what runs when so I end up posting multiple times a day. Then I have days when I absolutely need to write and it seems silly to hold on posting. So it may seem like a lot but I hope that you enjoy these posts, no Today, on the Fourth of July, I arranged a special class to teach my students more about the United States.

It’s part of my responsibility as a Peace Corps Volunteer to promote a better understanding of America to host country nationals, or as what we PCVs call the Second Goal.

To be honest, I am not very good at this. In casual conversations, I try to correct factual errors – the U.S. is not in Africa – or debunk stereotypes – most Americans do not live like Jay Z and what you see in movies is grossly dramatized – but I am not very thorough in my explanations of the U.S.

Most Basotho, particularly my students, see the U.S. for its riches and hip-hop artists. One of my students described it as heaven because everyone is rich. It’s hard to delete those images because no matter what I tell them they’ll never truly understand the U.S. Comprehension is additionally difficult because there are so many working parts of America whereas in Lesotho everything is straightforward. They have a traditional dress, food and song and they all belong to the same ethnicity. The U.S. is much more complex. Some areas have extreme cold while others have unbearable heat. One area is urban and the other rural. Many ethnicities and languages make up the U.S. that it feels wrong to state traits of the typical American. Does such a thing exist anymore?

Still, I want my students to understand a truer America, so I used our scheduled English class time to talk about as much as I could. I showed them the flag, explaining the 50 stars and 13 stripes, and sang the national anthem. I showed them pictures of different animals found in the U.S., the countries’ military forces and various cities and towns. I played them country music and rock ‘n’ roll and then a video of fireworks that my mother sent me this morning. I also used clips of movies to portray baseball, Las Vegas and the New York City skyline. I briefly explained how the U.S. won its independence and that slavery was legal and led to a civil war. I told them that it can be hard to find work in the U.S. and explained that some are even homeless. I showed them photos of destruction from the recent Oklahoma tornadoes and said that some teachers and students have died because one student brought a gun to school. While Lesotho may be a friendly country to the U.S., I told them, there are those who do not like Americans.

I wish I would have described many don’t live with their entire families, like here in Lesotho. Some people don’t know their neighbors and that you can’t just pop into someone’s house at anytime and expect bread and tea.

Spending the day sharing my country – the good and the bad – with my students seemed like an appropriate way to celebrate its independence. I am glad that my students are interested in the United States and I want them to believe that it is a good place, because that is what I believe and I am very honored to serve my country in this way. But I also want them to understand that just because it is different from their own country doesn’t mean it is better.

*Note: I know that it seems like I have been posting a lot lately and I apologize for filling your feeds with these updates. Most of these posts were posted a month ago and scheduled for the future and I’ve lost track of what runs when so I end up posting multiple times a day. Then I have days when I absolutely need to write and it seems silly to hold on posting. So it may seem like a lot but I hope that you enjoy these posts, no matter when they run. Thanks for reading.

Advertisements

One thought on “The Second Goal

  1. I think ot was a great way for you to celebrate the 4th of July, you showed your pride in America while also educating them !

Discsuss, please

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s