Monday, August 15, 2011

Social Studies

I am lucky HB works in a job where he interacts with belongers and down-islanders on a more regular basis than I. It is through his connections at work that I get a lot of my knowledge of BVI culture and custom. Most recently, one of the children of HB's co-workers was showing HB his Social Studies book, and was kind enough to let HB bring it home to show me.

Published in 2003, the text is written by the BVI Ministry of Education, and is intended for use at the third & fourth grade level. Reading the book, there were several sections that stood out to me, and provided a snapshot of island life, culture and attitude around the year 2000.

Near the beginning, there are three stories from island children, sharing how they experience the BVI. While all three were charming, Mary's story, being the most detailed, was my favorite.

This brief passage on using herbal ingredients to provide remedies for various ailments intrigued me. HB has told me that anytime he has an illness or injury, his co-workers recommend plants to help cure him. Basic botany and herbal remedies, absent in a US curriculum, are second-nature to a BVIslander, having learned about it in school.

As I perused, I was surprised a few times by the general knowledge implied by the Activities sections. The photo above shows the entire text regarding earthquakes. The activities section asks "What are four things you should not do during or immediately after an earthquake?". This information cannot be found in the text, so presumably this is something the children are expected to already know, or that is to be discussed in class by the teacher.

The passage on recent immigrants seemed oddly selective in its specificity. Why are Arabs called out in a separate paragraph in the text? Why are Chinese and Portuguese separated out in the population table, but not Canadians or Japanese?

Finally, perhaps the most amusing line of the book, from the introduction to Chapter 3 on natural resources. "An inexhaustible resource is one that does not decrease or become used up as people use it. Rock is an inexhaustible resource."

Reading this sentence aloud to HB, I visualized Bill & Ted banging their heads and playing some mean air guitar.

It is only later we learn, disappointingly, that the authors are referring to stones and minerals, not rock-'n'-roll music. How much more exciting would the latter be?

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