The “Iceberg” of Cultural Assumptions

Todd Fry and Robert Principe

Mr. Fry, executive director of Merrimack Valley Sandbox Initiative of the Deshpande Foundation and formerly director of the Boston Center for Community and Justice, read aloud a poem entitled, “the old woman eating,” by David Hernandez:

Times like today
the only voice
she hears
comes with
the mashed potatoes
and coffee
at the restaurant.
75 winters already.

From Roof Top Piper (Tia Chucha Press, 1991)
The ensuing hour-long discussion proved a valuable reminder that even as few as 21 words can evoke a broad range of responses and emotions based on each individual’s life experiences and cultural paradigms. The same diversity is at play, of course, in every classroom discussion and in social interactions in the school community.

Mr. Fry also shared an illustration entitled, “How Culture is Like an Iceberg,” that showed how nine-tenths of people’s cultural assumptions are hidden deep beneath the surface and are invisible to others. In the inclusive classroom, teachers must always be attuned to how only the “tip of the iceberg” is visible and continually monitor what’s under the surface in their daily interactions with students.

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