Slopping The Cultural Trough

My grandmother spoke only Norwegian until she was eight years old. But starting around age eight, like a lot of second-generation Americans from immigrant homes, she switched to English. I remember her teaching us maybe a couple words – and I, like my dad, only remember her speaking it occasionally around Sophie Swenson, another Norwegian woman in the neighborhood.

They were in America. They learned English.

Later, of course, when I started learning Norwegian, I learned Grandma’s dialect, from Sør-Trøndelag, in the hill country near the Swedish border, was pretty much the Appalachians of Norway, and I may have dodged a linguistic and cultural bullet. Nonetheless, I grew up feeling just a skosh deprived – and that was one of the reasons I had for taking seven years of German between secondary and college – I figured in the back of my head it’d help me learn Norwegian one day [1]

I won’t say Grandma marinaded us in the old country’s culture, even without the language; life back in Tydal had been pretty rough. My great-grandfather, Ole Berndson, had two sons and two daughters, and all but the youngest son left Norway in their twenties and early thirties, bespeaking a pretty rough time of things in the 1880s. Grandma told stories of people living on tree bark soup when things got hairy, and that wasn’t unusual. Ole got his farm foreclosed not long after (by the anscestor of someone I’ve met online, and plan to visit one day when I do finally get there, God willing), leaving his son Bersvend to have to adapt, making a fortune as a lumberman. Here, all three married – my two great-great aunts to North Dakota farmers, and my great-grandfather to my great-grandmother up near Thief River Falls.

My Dad and I put most of this together ourselves – Grandma died in 1980, before either of us took on a huge interest in geneology. But she left enough hints so that we were able to get at least the broad outlines.

But I learned my cultural heritage – the parts that matter, anyway. Because I’m American.

And I’m thankful that I leanred it, rather than having it taught to me by a government bureaucrat.

Now, I’m not saying that to wallow in nostalgia, or to claim the old way is always the best.

But while I can’t speak for parents in a culture I neither much know nor understand, I’d have to think a Somali parent who actually cares about the place he moved to must be getting a little dismayed by this story:

There is a new effort underway at Minneapolis Public Schools to make sure Somali students know and understand their language and culture.

“There’s no shame in being bilingual,” said Deqa Muhidin, the MPS district program facilitator. “It’s an asset and we want them to celebrate that.”

Minneapolis does a noxious, toxic, rotten to the bone job of teaching kids the history and meaning of our own culture. Why the hell would any parent want that same pack of dullards teaching their kids – any kids – about their own?

[1] I was about one-third right. German and Norwegian share a little vocabulary, but almost no grammar, syntax and structure. As it happens, Norwegian is a little like speaking English, only with different words for just about everything. And a bizarre structure for definite articles just to make it interesting.

14 thoughts on “Slopping The Cultural Trough

  1. Teaching Somali culture, you say?

    That’s gonna be quite the task, telling Somalis about their heritage while avoiding the fact they are come from a country where the the average IQ is 68, where their kin turned the beautiful city left to them by Italy into, literally, a smoking garbage heap in 50 years.

    A people so vile, they are shunned by other African 3rd world shit holes.

    Love to audit that curriculum.

  2. Did you also have a Lena in the family? I am trying to figure out the origin of Lena and Ole jokes.

  3. Sociologist: “Somali-Americans in Minnesota have serious issues with criminality, drug abuse, lack of education, and radical Islam. Teachers, can you fix that?”
    Teachers: “No.”
    Sociologist: “Well, what can you do in the hours you spend with Somali students every day?”
    Teachers: “We can teach them anti-white racism and to celebrate their culture.”
    Sociologist: “Great, do that, then.”

  4. Just FYI, it is astonishing how little actual research there is behind the idea that sociopathic behavior is a result of low self esteem. It seems that sociologists assumed that there was actual psychological research behind an idea they wanted to back, for political reasons.
    The sociologists seem to have put the horse behind the cart.
    This tends to happen when you believe that corelation is the same as causation.

  5. Forgot to mention this, Mitch, but my mother-in-law’s family came from “Norvay” as her sister used to pronounce it. My wife and sister-in-law have been researching their genealogy for the last year. Their bucket list includes a trip to the Trondheim area, which is where their grandparents were from. Sadly, they are die hard true believers in the Biden cult. Must be my father-in-law’s Englander roots.

  6. I spent the final five years of my medical career working at an urgent care clinic. We took care of a large number of Somalis. Typically a family group came in for care of one or more. I can’t recall a single Somali child that was not completely bilingual. What’s this program for?

  7. MP
    Sociopath = Low-Self-Esteem is a myth.
    Ask any sociopath if they have low self esteem and they will in a heartbeat transform themselves into the most pathetic hard luck case in the cellblock and you can not but believe that all sociopaths have low self esteem. They are psychological shapeshifters of the first order.

  8. I thank God every day that of all the things I might have to worry about, running into a Somali isn’t one of them. Wretched people.

  9. Has anyone been to a Norveegin lutefisk dinner? My late girlfriend was one of those people. My option to not go was not an option. I knew that lutefisk tasted bad when we got to the end of the table of food, and she had a piece of lutefisk about the size of a dime. Yuck! I put the brave face on and ate the rather large piece that I scooped up. There really isn’t any reason to try that again.

  10. Allen: two items to survive lutefisk: lots of butter and copious quantities of Aquavit. Potent alcoholic beverage.

  11. Seems to me that mixing a potent alcoholic beverage with lutefisk would cause an explosion.

  12. My Grandmother grew up in Chippewa Falls, WI in a German speaking family. They spoke German at work, while shopping and at church. On April 6, 1917, the U.S. Congress declared war on Germany and after that date only English was spoken.

    Those who could not speak English, could not speak.

  13. I recall in the 90s when the term “Ebonics” made a resurgence because some educators proposed teaching black children in it– in effect, segregating them through language. They were too early with the proposal, there were still too many logically-thinking parents and policymakers that rejected the idea because it would set those children up with limited opportunities. Language can separate a people from opportunities in a foreign culture. I saw it in Germany with the Turks and later with the Serbs, Croats, etc. fleeing the break-up of Yugoslavia and the violence that ensued. What about those crossing the our country’s southern border? Even though Spanish has is spoken more widely in the South, in particular the Southwest, it is still a society dominated by the English language.

    Even as well-meaning as this program might be, it will likely help relegate Somali children to second-class citizens.

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