A Glimpse into the Meaning of True Cultural Diversity

Tonight I attended a wonderful presentation by Professor Mima Dedaic’s Intercultural Communication class at Maury Elementary’s Multicultural Night, to showcase the diversity of the community in this quaint Alexandria school.

My invite came in the form of a request to film the proceedings, including the 17 very distinctive and engaging presentations done by fellow CCT’ers as part of their midterms for CCT-755.

So in between keeping the tripod upright and safe from being trampled by curious little bodies, I was able to witness a very special event which brought cultural participation to life in this intimate school community.

Meanings of cultural diversity come alive when they’re shared directly, and that is precisely what transpired at Maury Elementary this Wed evening.

While ohhing and ahhing at Juliette Arnaud’s video of a sparkling Eiffel Tower, and Hazal Yolga’s beautiful slideshow of photos from Cyprus – “it looks like Spain!” remarked one little girl, the students were also treated to games, dances, and Chinese butterfly paper cutouts (courtesy of Li Nie). In between presentations, which were grouped regionally, each grade performed a continent-themed song.

A vivid Odyssey of the Mind performance transcended boundaries of both history and culture, enacting ancient Egyptian superstitions about cats (and baseball, you had to be there) with a thoroughly modern twist.

What struck me during the course of this mirth-full cultural menagerie, was the eager willingness of youngsters to play and explore with cultural boundaries. During Yoon Joung Lee’s presentation of Korean children’s games and Lauren Samhoun’s Lebanese dance lesson, enthusiastic participants literally rushed the stage to get in on the fun. At CCT, we may take cultural boundaries as a given; the fact that our program fosters cultural interdisciplinarity is a rarity in itself.

However, for young children, everything new and different is inherently exciting, but at the same time, equally accepted. And as tonight’s performance showed yet again, they are a living, powerful reminder how little these cultural differences matter in the end. As Hope Huynh emphasized during her presentation on different accents and cultural modes of speaking: remember that who you are matters, but at the same time no language, dialect, or cultural nuance, is more important than the rest.

Tatyana Varshavsky

Tatyana Varshavsky earned her BA in Sociology, with a minor in Communications and Media Studies from Tufts University in 2003. She is a former Master’s candidate at Georgetown University’s Communication, Culture, and Technology Program. After several years of soul searching, she has come to realize that she belongs in the civil society/nonprofit world. She is interested in the complex interdependent connections between media, culture, and education, and hopes to use her continuously developing professional and academic experiences in facilitating as well as documenting change and progressive reform in those areas. She is currently a research intern with Center for Inspired Teaching, a DC nonprofit dedicated to social change and improving education by investing in teachers.