The imprint of culture on a child

NASA Blue Marble

{image credit}

Culture was imprinted upon me from a young age. Not only was I the product of a culturally mixed marriage, I also spent some of my earliest childhood years living overseas in a country that was culturally diverse, eating different foods, seeing people of different backgrounds, hearing different languages.

When I returned to Australia, I was made aware of my “difference” by less understanding children. But I also remember being embraced by friendlier children despite my difference. Kids just want to be accepted for who they are. For that matter, so do adults.

A week or two back something jogged my memory about a show that left a deep mark on me as a child. It was called “Big Blue Marble”. The two theme songs and opening credits were etched onto my mind then and I still recall them now.

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This multi-award winning show ran for 9 years of my childhood into my teens and was possibly the first show explaining and showcasing multiculturalism to children. As I’ve written in an earlier post, talking about difference and diversity, is just as important, if not more so, that being randomly exposed to it and hoping it will sink in. For those of you too young to remember it, or for those who never watched it:

“Big Blue Marble was a half-hour children’s television series that ran from 1974 to 1983 in syndication. Distinctive content included stories about children around the world and a pen-pal club that encouraged intercultural communication. The name of the show referred to the appearance of Earth as a giant marble, popularized by a famous photograph of the same name taken in December 1972 by the crew of Apollo 17.”

(Source: Wikipedia)

Through the show, I remember learning about different countries, cultures, foods, clothes, ways of living, language and the value of cross-cultural friendships through their pen pal club. I even signed up for a pen pal myself but lost touch a long time ago.

No other show I know of came and comes close. Sesame Street and even Yo Gabba Gabba might touch on themes of kindness, acceptance and understanding, but kids don’t live amongst monsters, friendly though they may be, and I think it really helps to contextualise diversity in real life settings, in addition to teaching underlying values.

I’m a strong believer in the adage, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I want to teach my children to be accepting and embracing of others no matter their background and to start these lessons now, even though they are only 1 and 3. However, child appropriate resources are hard to come by, though I’ve sourced a few.

If only a show like the “Big Blue Marble” existed today!

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Anyone else remember “Big Blue Marble”? Does a similar show exist for the tween/teen age group and I just don’t know about it? Anyone else suggest good cultural diversity resources?

Related Posts

“I’m not racist, but…..” – Nature or Nurture?

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20 thoughts on “The imprint of culture on a child

    • I think we need this type of programming for the young more than ever before too. Just don’t know if anyone would care to do a modern remake. I’d promote it wildly if they did!

    • Don’t know if you’ve had any luck tracking this down since you last commented, Kirrily. I haven’t found anything further. I guess I’ll have to keep an eye out on other sorts of resources for my girls. I’ll keep sharing what I find on the blog, when I find it!

  1. I never heard of this show!
    I like the idea of it though. It’s interesting; do you feel we are more accepting of other cultures now than we were? I personally think so, but Darwin is a very multicultural society and I’ve grown up with it.

  2. I never heard of this show too…Lil Pumpkin will grow up in a multicultural country, but even then, she will look like the majority of SIngaporeans – Chinese. There are still many races e.g. Malay, Indians, Caucasians that though are represented in Singapore, are still a minority. One of the reasons why I like her to travel more is so that she’ll get out of her “comfort zone” and really experience different cultures and norms. Hoping that with a broadened world view, she will feel comfortable even when she’s part of the “minority”.

    Ai @ Sakura Haruka

    • The show may not have been shown in Singapore, though it was shown internationally. By virtue of living in Singapore and having the various languages and cultural festivals, the idea of cultures, plural, is embedded in minds from young. That is already a broader view than here where English is still dominant, as is the sense, in the mainstream, of our country’s ties with “mother England”. We need to really broaden our view here. Shows like the Big Blue Marble would be excellent because they reach children when they are young before many have formed any prejudices and are willing to be open to any person.

  3. I don’t recall Big Blue Marble, which is strange as we fall in the same “age group”.
    Interestingly though, I was listening to 702 yesterday to pick up the twinlets and a professor who’s Head of Cultural Studies at the University of SA was talking about how learning a foreign language also enabled you to be accepting and aware of “intercultural diversity”. Basically saying that even if you only studied the basics of one another language, it will equip you with a deeper sense of tolerance, understanding and sensitivity for ALL cultures.

    She also used the example of our relationship with China at the moment. Research shows that Mandarin is the most spoken language after English here in Australia. But she was strong in her opinion that we (as Australians) can’t take it for granted that, as our trade relations improve, the Chinese people will be willing to learn English, making it easier for Australians to communicate with them. At the moment, we’re in danger of being too complacent. (Then she expanded to say that this was relevant for all our Asian neighbours).

    We still need to make that concerted effort to know their culture and their sensitivities. Hence, the emphasis on teaching foreign languages (especially Asian ones) early in our schools…

    • I think the professor is so right. By assuming the world will learn English, we have already placed western culture on a pedestal as the dominant one. In a country like Australia, I think we are more than many at the risk of being complacent. Even the US, Canada and the UK (though maybe not so much rural parts) are more open to other cultures and languages by sheer volume. The US has a Spanish wave, Canadians are urged to know French and the UK, being close to Europe is more likely to learn those various languages that we are. I think Australian’s still feel very “white” and too different from our Asian neighbours. We are more likely to feel we align to western countries and Europe than Asia. I’m sure it’s a deeper issue than that but those are my “off the top of my head” observations.

  4. Remember it and LOVED it! :) Thank you for the jog too. I remember watching it overseas in the 70′s (did I see it here in Australia too?) and wanting a pen pal so badly. I haven’t played the clip yet (first I’ll finish this comment, but I do remember the last line and tune …Big Blue Marble in spaaace :)

    As a Melbourne girl, I may have grown up with as many cultures as anyone can. It keeps changing too (my husband read the paper on the Census report today eg, more people in Australia speak Indian and Chinese than Greek and Italian.) Loved this post, I’m a sentimental fool. Thank you.

    • Oh! You are the only person so far who seems to remember the show! Woo Hoo! I watched it in Australia as a youngster though it was screened globally.

      I found outer suburban Melbourne not too diverse as I was growing up but I could see an obvious change in the mid 80s, when we moved back from overseas. The country is generally so diverse now, though visually, we are still quite a “white” society. All it takes is a trip to Canada, the USA or the UK to notice the difference. Because of that, I think seeing someone very visually different in Australia still does reveal the ugly parts of some people. I wish it were not so. Now I’m singing Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder’s “Ebony and Ivory” in my head! I’m both a sentimental fool and an eternal idealist! (refer to my comment in your recent post!)

  5. I don’t remember it, but it definitely sounds like something that should still be around. My girls don’t watch much in the way of television but I’m pretty certain there’s nothing like Big Blue Marble on. It’s a shame, the Little Un especially would love something like this.

    • I so wish it were around, Jayne. Even if we could buy a DVD or BluRay set, it’s quite dated…..though that could be fun in itself for a history lesson on the mullet haircut, pen pals, cassettes, etc!

  6. I don’t remember it either, but it sounds fantastic. I grew up in rural Victoria, which was apparently the most homogeneous area in all of Australia… After returning here after 20 years of being in London or Melbourne, it is a shock to the system. And so dull. I am looking forward to getting back to Melbourne permanently, though as you said above we are still way behind a city like London.

    • It was a fantastic show, Lee. Being in the city and, for me, living in the past and now working amongst people from so many cultures, countries and nationalities, I do forget how homogenous other parts of Australia are. What seems more natural to me truly is scary for others. Well, I hope you do get the chance to move back to Melbourne. I’m more likely to see you then when I visit my family! :-)

  7. As someone who grew up in several countries & continents (incl Europe, America, Middle East & Asia) and sort of came from a mixed background too (my mother’s Chinese, my stepfather – who I lived with since I was 6yrs old is Lebanese)…I can really relate to this post.

    I went to a lot of different schools in different countries and although many were supposedly “international schools” – there was still plenty of scope for children to make fun of those “different” or in the minority. I also went to a small town, WASP American primary school for a while and boy, did my accent (British at the time) and looks really stand out at first!! But as you say, there are also always kids willing to embrace you, however you sound like and however you look. Although it was tough at the time, I actually think my schooling across several different cultures & countries has helped me to grow up more adaptable & open-minded about others.

    Sadly, I never knew about this show – but I wasn’t in Australia in my childhood! That’s one continent that was missed off my list – ha! Ha!

    Great to meet you at Blogopolis last Sat – so nice to have some blog friends in Sydney! :-)

    Hsin-Yi @ ChinosandChopsticks
    ps. if your kids like animals, they might enjoy checking out Honey’s blog! (www.bighoneydog.com/honeys-blog )

    • Oh, it’s taken me a while to get to this. Lovely meeting you at Blogopolis too!

      This show was broadcast globally but it sounds like you might have been moving too much to be in the “right place at the right time”! Ha Ha! You must feel so enriched with all that cultural exposure. I haven’t experienced as much as you but even the little I have does feel like an enrichment.

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