Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Using Sociocultural Poetry to Build Civic Engagement: A Teaching Strategy for Consumer and Family Sciences

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Using Sociocultural Poetry to Build Civic Engagement: A Teaching Strategy for Consumer and Family Sciences

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Sociocultural poetry can be used in conjunction with an empathy model to assist family and consumer sciences students to do the following: explore the civic engagement concept, build cultural competence for the lived experiences of culturally diverse individuals and families, and help in the development of basic empathy skills that will enhance an awareness of one's civic self in relation to the world.

"Mama!" in a loud voice

I proclaimed. "For you! The world I've tamed!

I'm bigger than big!

Bolder than bold!

When I walk-my way

is paved with silver and gold!

So ask me mama,

about the places I've been and the people I've seen!

You need some money?

Hey it's yours!

My pockets are filled with green!"

The verses integrated throughout this article are from a poem entitled "Shelling Beans" (Ingram, 2000b). "Shelling Beans" is the story of a young man who discovers, through his mother's wisdom, what real wealth is and why it is important to remember the common and simple things in life. In this context, the common and simple things in life include being mindful that creating and maintaining active "people involvement" occurs through association and collaboration. Collaboration is a major component of civic engagement and is critical in building cultural competency and empowering "individuals and families across the life span to manage the challenges of living and working in a diverse, global society" (American Vocational Association, 1994). Baugher (2000) stated that "Diversity... is about diverse ways of viewing the world, diverse values, and diverse perspectives. Hopefully as we understand diverse issues, we also understand our common issues" (p. 13). As educators, we believe that poems such as "Shelling Beans" embrace the "we the people" philosophy that is a foundation of civic engagement. Although the basic tenets of civic engagement should begin in the home, we believe the philosophy should also be practiced in the classroom. Otherwise, students may not fully comprehend one of the core values of civic engagement which, we believe, is the engagement of all diverse populations in the "life of a community."

In this article, the process for using poems such as "Shelling Beans" is outlined. This schema is designed to assist family and consumer sciences students to further understand the civic engagement concept, build cultural competence for the lived experiences of culturally diverse individuals and families, as well as help in the development of basic empathy skills.

THE USE OF SOCIOCULTURAL POETRY IN THE CLASSROOM IMAGE FORMULA9

Although much has been written about working with diverse populations (Garcia and Zea, 1997; Garretson, 1993; Pedersen et al., 1996; Sue and Sue, 1990; Uba, 1994), teachers decry the dearth of classroom strategies that would help students "connect" with fundamental concepts of cultural diversity. Identifying methods that encourage students to relate to the lived experiences of others is integral to genuine understanding. Lived experiences are defined as being the stories and narratives that people share about themselves and their world (Ingram and Moule, 2001).

A new strategy for assisting family and consumer sciences students in understanding culturally diverse families includes the introduction of poetry, specifically sociocultural poetry into the classroom (Ingram, 2000a). Sociocultural poetry is defined as writings that address the social, cultural, and racial lived experiences of members of oppressed groups. The dual nature of these writings is significant for both the reader and the writer. Readers or listeners interact with text or spoken words and therefore are interacting with the writer's or character's lived experience. Empathy for the writer's lived experience can develop if the readers are willing to move beyond their own cultural comfort zone and resonate empathically with the feelings behind the words being expressed. …

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