Journal of Folklore and Education 2021 Reviews

By James I. Deutsch, Jennifer Barajas, Susan Eleuterio, Sarah McCartt-Jackson


Reviews of: Intercultural Education, Folklore, and the Pedagogical Thought of Rachel Davis DuBois, by Jan Rosenberg | Teaching Gloria E. Anzaldúa: Pedagogy and Practice for Our Classrooms and Communities. Margaret Cantú-Sánchez, Candace de León-Zepeda, and Norma E. Cantú, eds. | Memory, Art and Aging: A Resource and Activity Guide. Jon Kay, Project Director and Principal Investigator | Review of Digital Resources: Belouga, Oddizzi, and Touchable Earth

Intercultural Education, Folklore, and the Pedagogical Thought of Rachel Davis DuBois, by Jan Rosenberg
(Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019, xvii + 147 pp.)

James I. Deutsch is a curator and editor with the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington, DC.

Rachel Davis DuBois (1892–1993) was a pioneering figure who worked to promote better understanding among peoples of different faiths, races, and cultures. Although she did not identify herself as a folklorist, her contributions and legacy are especially relevant for folklorists working in education today, as Jan Rosenberg demonstrates in this highly useful volume.

As someone who has worked in the field of folklore and education since 1980, Rosenberg seems ideally suited to the task. Although she first encountered DuBois’ work following the completion of her dissertation in the mid-1980s, Rosenberg did not immediately pursue the topic in depth. She candidly admits, “I was prejudiced, feeling that folklore and education as folklorists were practicing it like I did in the 1980s/1990s was better than what Rachel was doing” (12). It was not until 2009 that Rosenberg “realized just how wrong I was. Rachel was an innovator who knew how to work the education system, and she understood the need to develop a variety of programs that would impact the students, adults, administrators, and community members as equals” (12).

Following years of additional research in primary and secondary sources, the published result is “an account of one person’s ideals, ideas, and practices aimed to develop critical thinking over a period of time” (6). One of the book’s highlights is seeing some of the parallels between the careers and contributions of DuBois and Rosenberg. As the latter explains, “FAIE [folk arts in education] as I do it mirrors in part Intercultural Education as Rachel ultimately saw it: as a means by which to encourage social justice in a pluralistic world through tight and respectful coordination” (73). Similarly, Rosenberg observes that “the work of the folklorist in the schools requires the wearing of different hats and the ability to use those hats at any given moment” (74), just as DuBois was extraordinarily versatile: an educator (teaching high school for many years), writer, social reformer, Quaker, and passionate advocate for interracial and interfaith dialogue, diversity training, pacifism, ethnic awareness, and intercultural education.

Intercultural education, as defined by Rosenberg, involves “celebrating through exploration ‘heaven on earth’ peopled with culturally different individuals whose heterogeneity possessed qualities of similarity that could be foregrounded in such a way that difference blended into homogeneity that didn’t threaten the individual or the group” (17). The syntax of this sentence—even knowing that the term “heaven on earth” comes from Quaker belief—may perplex some readers. It also exposes the book’s primary shortcoming: the lack of thorough copyediting and fact-checking. Moreover, several instances of quoted material and page citations are incorrect.

Nevertheless, the book’s benefits certainly outweigh these shortcomings. Folklorists working in education should find much value in DuBois’s insights and pedagogical methods, thanks to Rosenberg’s recognition of those assets and their intersections with contemporary efforts to promote folklore in education, folk artists in the schools, and folk arts in education. DuBois’ championing of cultural democracy seems especially prescient and pertinent at this time. Writing in 1941, DuBois observed that “the total defense of our democracy” requires “a recognition of the part each group has played in the building of our country . . . sharing with each other the best of our traditions, customs, and folkways” (107). Intercultural Education, Folklore, and the Pedagogical Thought of Rachel Davis DuBois animates the goals that DuBois sought throughout her life: “eradicating prejudice,” “building friendship,” and developing “a feeling that we are parts of all humanity and its accomplishments” (106-7).

Teaching Gloria E. Anzaldúa: Pedagogy and Practice for Our Classrooms and Communities. Margaret Cantú-Sánchez, Candace de León-Zepeda, and Norma E. Cantú, eds
(Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 2020, 341 pp.)

Jennifer Barajas is Associate Professor of Spanish and Linguistics, Bradley University.

Teaching Gloria E. Anzaldúa is a masterful collection of the myriad of ways in which educators from a variety of fields can incorporate the insights and ideas of Anzaldúa. From composition to philosophy courses, the authors present creative pedagogies that support all students, with a special focus on the cultural competence of our most marginalized students, and encourage educators to “do work that matters,” to use Anzaldúa’s own words.

Part I is organized into six chapters that propose interdisciplinary approaches to curriculum design and specific classroom strategies that move away from the idea that students should simply quietly receive knowledge. Instead, by introducing Anzaldúa’s concepts such as Nepantla (“a liminal space where transformations can occur” [18]), testimonios (personal narratives, typically from marginalized people), path of conocimiento (spiritual inquiry, the quest for knowledge beyond your own perceptions), and linguistic terrorism (discrimination based on your language or accent), the authors are able to challenge conventional ways of thinking. For example, in Chapter 5, Eli Ramirez describes an assignment in which students analyze the language used in varying situations within their own communities. As a result, “Students often take away a newfound respect for the beautiful power of language in our own lives and in society at large, realizing that as young adults they now are on the precipice of being able to demand, inform, and influence changes in the world” (84).

The eight chapters in Part II highlight current systems of oppression and recommend pedagogy and praxis that inspire students to answer the call for social justice. From classrooms in México to the United States, civilians to military students, and even by relating Anzaldúa to popular cultural icons such as Beyoncé, the authors demonstrate Anzaldúa’s multidisciplinary relevance. Students can produce compositions, poems, art, photography, and video reflections—just to name a few of the outcomes—while “asking the larger questions about race and class” (187). Indeed, in Chapter 11, García and Bleyer explain that by using primary materials from Anzaldúa’s collection, students without obvious ties to the geographical border “recognize the ways that others have been oppressed or, more profoundly, that they, too, have experienced this sense of borders in their own lives or family histories” (187). Thus, it is clear that educators, at the high school and university level, in disciplines such as English, Creative Writing, Languages, Art, Sociology, Women’s and Gender Studies (to name a few), will benefit immensely from the pedagogical ideas presented.

The five chapters in Part III offer decolonizing pedagogies, an approach that many educators across higher education are interested in integrating into their classrooms. For example, in Chapter 17, Wilson teaches about “oppression on both personal and social levels” (275) and shares detailed lessons and step-by-step action plans for the classroom. In these chapters we also see the use of pre-writing and free writing as ways to move away from standard edited American English to include students’ own voices and lived experiences.

Overall, the editors have incorporated the diverse work of wonderful scholars and included specific lessons and curricula into this collection that will serve as an indispensable guide for educators in a number of disciplines. Even those who have not read Anzaldúa’s works will be inspired to read and then incorporate her teachings into their classrooms.

Memory, Art and Aging: A Resource and Activity Guide. Jon Kay, Project Director and Principal Investigator
(Bloomington: Traditional Arts Indiana. 2020, 71 pp. Licensed under Creative Commons. Web version at

Susan Eleuterio is an independent folklorist and educator and adjunct faculty member in the Master’s in Cultural Sustainability Program at Goucher College.

This colorful guide, available both in print and as an online PDF, is a collaborative project of Traditional Arts Indiana (TAI) along with Indiana University’s Center for Rural Engagement, Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, Arts and Humanities Council, and Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology. TAI Director Jon Kay notes its purpose is to “leverage folk arts to improve the quality of life for older adults,” particularly by using “community-based, culturally appropriate strategies” to help address what William H. Thomas, MD, author of What Are Old People For? (2004. St. Louis: Vanderwyk & Burnham) has called the three plagues of aging: isolation, boredom, and helplessness. As a former high school teacher, I encourage classroom teachers along with those in higher education to look at this guide for inspiration and ideas for addressing the same plagues which have affected so many of our students during this pandemic year.

While the stated purpose is to provide examples of creative expression for individual older adults as well as caregivers, elder-care professionals, and community organizations, including activity directors in group settings, many of the narratives and exercises could be used intergenerationally by families as well as schools interested in increasing family involvement. Eight units are divided into Folklife and Later Life, Memory Art, Connecting through Music, Quilting and Community, Foodways, Generativity (described as passing on traditions), Daily Practice, and Show and Tell. Each unit features specific artists and practitioners along with hands-on activities that include things to consider and/or a list of materials needed. The profiles almost always include a link to a podcast, an interview, or a video to provide additional information and context about the highlighted artist, although links in the PDF are not live. The guide has good geographical representation of Indiana, including both rural and urban cultures, although I found it surprising that there were no Hispanic/Latino individuals included since these communities represent over seven percent of the state’s total population, especially in the northwest portion of the state.

Having worked with seniors for a decade as a volunteer workshop leader, I would have encouraged larger photos and less text and perhaps a place in each unit for users to write down their own responses immediately. The activities include suggestions for artists who hope to engage with seniors such as “Performing Music for Older Adults” and “Hosting a Music Jam,” as well as activities family members or senior center/nursing home activity directors can use, such as listening to TAI’s “Second Servings” podcasts to share memories of food. One particularly creative suggestion provides digital images of 85 quilts made by the Fort Wayne Sisters of the Cloth Quilting Guild to use for prompting discussions of colors, patterns, and images. (I would add asking participants if they still or used to sew, and if they have or had family quilts or other textiles.)

For those folklorists and educators interested in using this guide to create educational programs for seniors, I encourage using it in combination with Sundogs and Sunflowers: An Art for Life Program Guide for Creative Aging, Health, and Wellness, by Troyd A. Geist (2017), which not only references Jon Kay’s work on Life Story Objects and Life Story Review (both of which are included in this guide) but also provides data and research about the value of this work, particularly on the role of folklore and folk art in fostering what Geist calls “creative aging.” Together, these guides provide specific examples of how to engage seniors in documenting and celebrating their own lives and excellent examples of how better to connect them with their communities, including students of all ages.

Review of Digital Resources: Belouga, Oddizzi, and Touchable Earth
Touchable Earth.

Sarah McCartt-Jackson is an Independent Folklorist and K-5 Educator.

The concept of global citizenship has enjoyed resurgence through the recent pandemic, as schooling shifted to an online format and as students continue to grapple with a global issue. Global citizenship requires students to explore and understand global issues from multiple perspectives; foster belonging, understanding, and respect among different cultures and beliefs; understand their place in their community; and create actionable solutions for our world. The United Nations defines global citizenship as “the umbrella term for social, political, environmental, and economic actions of globally minded individuals and communities on a worldwide scale” and includes global citizenship within its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) (2021). Although the ways in which global citizenship are bound to folklore work are obvious, resources for those working at the intersection of folklore and education can be elusive. More specifically, digital resources in global citizenship for K-5 classrooms are rare and run the Goldilocks gamut between too much and too little, rarely hitting just right. Searching for digital resources for folklorists interested in using global citizenship to bring folklore into K-5 classrooms, I review three web-based resources: Touchable Earth, Belouga, and Oddizzi.

Two resources that offer a self-directed learning model are Touchable Earth and Belouga. In this model, asynchronous lessons are created for teachers to assign students based on student need and interest. The benefits of self-directed learning are that students learn at their own pace; students may pursue their interests; and teachers can track student progress digitally. As an educator, I find drawbacks to this model. Having students choose their own topics can hinder the student’s exposure to new topics, thereby expanding the student’s knowledge gap. Moreover, accountability for online-only learning is difficult at best. Both Touchable Earth and Belouga are websites (Touchable Earth also claims to have an app that I was unable to locate and download on any of my devices) whose primary goals are providing curriculum rooted in the United Nations’ SDG. I use “curriculum” loosely because the quality and type vary.

Touchable Earth was founded in 2012 by a New Zealand attorney. Interestingly, the site’s People page does not list anyone in education. The primary goal is “to promote tolerance in gender, culture, and identity.” It does this through free videos “where kids teach kids about the world.” Students start exploring by choosing one of nine geographic locations on the home page. This takes them to a series of videos ranging from 10 seconds to 4 minutes featuring young people speaking on a topic. Students can click through the videos or use the dropdown menu to navigate to a specific topic: Friends, Culture, Facts, Family, Play, and School. Although the format might appeal to young people, the short videos give the viewer barely a glimpse of the culture featured. The kids-teaching-kids model has advantages, like developing empathy and interest, but lacks important hallmarks of effective lesson planning such as pacing, scaffolding, and delivery. With its spare “curriculum,” Touchable Earth doesn’t live up to its lofty goal of “developing critical thinking skills essential to a lifetime of learning.”

Similarly, but more robustly, Belouga offers lessons based on the U.N.’s SDGs in which students learn about topics via video and create actionable plans as global citizens. Founded in 2017, Belouga provides lessons about topics like climate change, design thinking, and STEM through an online classroom that can be used in real time and asynchronous lessons that consist of scrolling through text, photos, and videos. Free registration includes limited lesson plans for teachers, although the “lesson plans” are simply videos with some accompanying text, while registering at $14.99 per month allows access to the library of units and video conferencing software for live lessons and connecting with other classrooms throughout the world. The lessons are short videos (3-10 minutes) narrated by students and young people. Again, while this kids-teaching-kids model can be engaging for students, as an educational tool it has its aforementioned drawbacks. Additionally, the videos have no scaffolding or suggestions for connections to other topics. This means an elementary student who is interested in food and farming might click into that category and end up watching a video on advanced genetics. The Deep Dive Series, however, are multi-episodic and do scaffold with an ordered playlist.

Although Belouga provides the actionable step of global citizenship that Touchable Earth lacks, both websites are limited in their global scope as far as locations and cultures go and in their content.

A more complete resource for the educator (although maybe not the folklorist) in K-5 classrooms is the website Oddizzi. This website focuses on global citizenship through the lens of geography, and its mission is “to put geography back on the map.” This resource is subscription-based, and costs £125 per year (about $173) after a seven-day free trial. The subscription includes downloadable teacher materials such as lesson plans, assessment grids, presentations, reading packs, and interactive quizzes. Unlike the previous resources, the lesson plans are rich in detail and content and are separated by grade levels. The plans are standards-aligned, although U.K.-centric. Students and teachers can “Explore the World” through six topics: Places, Physical Features, Country Close Up, Food and Farming, Weather and Climate, and Global Knowledge. At least one content entry is listed for each continent, with “Country Close Ups” featuring Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Greece, India, Mexico, St. Lucia, Scotland, and England. “Close Ups” are divided into topics: Getting There, Compare Facts, Landscape, Climate, Animal Life, Plant Life, Living, and Tourism. Although the website offers comprehensive lesson plans that I appreciate as an educator, the website is text-heavy with stock images that often do not enrich the topic. Moreover, although teacher materials are arranged by knowledge/grade level, the website is not. Overall, the website accomplishes its goal in bringing geography into the classroom digitally, but it does not overtly address global citizenship.

In our search to expand our digital resources for folklore in K-5 classrooms, the benefits we reap primarily depend on our goal. In other words: To find the just-right resource, you first need to define your just-right purpose. Are you looking to create a workshop for K-5 students that introduces them to Chinese folk music? Are you trying to figure out new ways to connect live with students across the world to showcase an aspect of folk culture? Or are you simply looking for a quick way to help students develop their own interests? In a world glutted with apps and websites, tracking down the just-right fit for your purpose is overwhelming at the least. But at its best, the journey could end with a folklorist helping to create a resource on global citizenship that’s just right for folklorists and educators alike.