“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” The line from Maya Angelou’s poem “Human Family” sums up the most important lesson of global cultural awareness. No matter where we live, we all share the same basic human characteristics. All culture learning should present our differences as varying strategies for meeting our common human needs.

India - wedding.jpg


A teacher shows the class a photo of a traditional wedding in India. The bride’s red sari and necklace of flowers becomes the focus of the discussion, and soon all anyone can talk about is how strange it is for a bride to be wearing a red (not white) dress, and wearing flowers around her neck (not holding a floral bouquet).


We see differences more readily than we see similarities. In this case, students saw something that seemed strange to them, and, because they hadn’t been prepared, the strangeness was all they could see. Naturally, it took over their discussion.

Next Time

Before showing the photo, the teacher explains that a Hindu wedding ceremony involves special clothes (especially for the bride) and displays of flowers, just like a Western wedding ceremony. The teacher asks students to look for bridal clothes and flowers when they view the photo. In the discussion, students note the differences, but also acknowledge the similarities in how we celebrate a wedding.

Growing Proficiency

Practice using images, sounds, and artifacts from world cultures in your teaching. Whenever you teach cultural content, stress the similarities to establish a context that makes sense of the differences.