As a social studies teacher, culture is a big part of my school year curriculum. For some students, culture is a nebulous, slippery, ever-changing slope. What was culture 20 years ago is much different than what comprises culture today. Music, fashion, art and technology change so quickly from one generation to the next, with only a few items standing the true test of time.
What changes less is a culture’s identity or better yet, idyllic identity. For the United States, for better or worse, our best practices identity is wrapped into our ideals of democracy domestically and our attempt to portray ourselves as protectors of the weak and as a “global” police. While this image has taken many hits in the past few generations, at one time our during the “greatest generation” our national and international identity was at its peak or supernova. Perhaps no photo espouses the peak of American idealism of democracy, bravery and world power as the photo from the top of Mt. Surabachi during the battle for Iwo Jima in WWII. Arguably, the most famous if not the most powerful picture in United States history.
I would use this picture is to have students discuss, describe and create what makes a selected culture great, and basically how culture represents the people who make it up or does it? Also, what are the highest ideals or “supernova” elements of their own culture? What is good, better, best of their “home” culture and the rest of the world. What will stand the test of time. I could have video images of cultural montages from US history to add a dynamic element to the discussions. Students could create a list of what will stay and what will go and also to discuss what is the lasting impact of today’s culture.