Today we played a few little games aimed at getting out our first impressions when we hear the word “America.” First, students paired up, and for one minute, took turns finishing this sentence: “When I hear the word America, I think of…”
Next, students took turns at the board, getting only 30 second intervals to draw images to show “America.” Even though the artwork was fast and furious, the results were striking. Some images were not surprising, such as a flag, bald eagle, or even George Washington:
Others were not shocking, but much less positive. Several students drew guns, beer, fast food, and even obesity.
It got even worse, when we saw “raw sewage,” “too much money,” and racism up there too:
Not everyone agreed on these negatives though. Some felt that our diversity is a strength:
There were other disagreements too. Is a Christmas tree representative of America?
What about symbols that Americans have borrowed from other cultures? Even though we associate tacos with Mexican food and fortune cookies with Chinese food, are those American symbols?
We had a little time for debate, but one subject we avoided going into too deeply was politics. It was clear that there would be a lot of disagreements if we got discussing this one. But do Obama, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Jeb Bush symbolize America? Absolutely. We also discussed how in some countries around the world, people can be prosecuted for speaking out against the country’s leadership, but in the United States, we are allowed to say our perspectives freely.
Overall, everyone seemed to leave the conversation with some new ideas about what it means to be American. We also discussed how “America” can refer to more than just our country, but many places in North and South America. What symbol would you have drawn?