Reflection: Trust and Respect The Demographic Transition - Section 3: Discussion


I put the picture of a depression-era white family front and center in this lesson to show that white Americans tended to have large families in the past, as would be predicted for a society in the transitional stage of the demographic transition.  This topic of family size is a sensitive one amongst my predominantly Latina/o students as they perceive stereotypes about large families often directed towards them.


To get students to critically consider and discuss such a personal and sensitive topic, I needed to talk about my own family, to discuss that my father's family were immigrants and that my mother's family had 6 children.  In my mother's case, she was child 5 out of 6 and was the first in her family to get a college degree.  Once I mentioned this fact about my own family, a student replied, "that's like my family".  When I asked her to explain what she meant to the class, she said she had 3 older siblings in their twenties and thirties (all born in Guatemala) and two younger siblings for a total of 6 children (with the younger three born in the U.S.).  She also said she was on track to become the first member of her family to graduate from high school (which she did just weeks later... congrats!).

This courageous student provided a great entry point to discuss this idea with the rest of the class.  I then asked the class if anyone planned on having 6 children like this girl's family and my mother's family.  Exactly none of the students said they had plans for any more than 4 children (with the majority saying 2 or 3).  Students were a bit sensitive about discussing the "why" of the fact that many of their families are larger than the American average, settling on a "that's just how Latinos are" explanation.  When I brought their attention to the fact, again, that they themselves were not planning on having large families, I asked what that meant in the context of the demographic transition.  I allowed a bit more of a discussion and finally students and I agreed that like my family a generation before, they have more educational and economic opportunities than their parents, and one way or another, have absorbed a cultural perspective that has disposed them to having smaller families.

All of this is to say that in those situations when the teacher and students come from separate cultures, the topic of differing cultural viewpoints is not "off limits", provided it's discussed with absolute respect for all parties as a baseline to the discussion. 

  Asking students to be vulnerable only works when you're willing to be vulnerable too
  Trust and Respect: Asking students to be vulnerable only works when you're willing to be vulnerable too
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The Demographic Transition

Unit 4: Populations
Lesson 10 of 10

Objective: Students will be able to describe the causes and effects of populations going through the "demographic transition".

Big Idea: As economic and educational opportunities increase, the populations of developing nations go through somewhat predictable stages of growth and affect the environment in different ways.

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