Assignment: Choose an artifact that to you represents America, American society, or American culture. Feel free to share an image and/or explanation in the comments here or in your own post.
When I began co-teaching the course, the artifact I chose was the book and album “Free to Be You and Me.” It’s a 1972 project created by Marlo Thomas. For the younger people here, that’s Rachel’s mother from “Friends”, and this project is one reason why that casting is so amazing in a counter-to-type way (read on).
“Free to Be You and Me” was a series of songs and stories for kids aimed at breaking down gender stereotypes. What a boy and a girl has to be like, want to be when they grow up, etc.
I chose this as my artifact for three reasons.
- The really interesting take on the ideas of freedom and equality and how they intertwine. Not being limited by preconceived gender roles is presented as freedom; this is the era of the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment)!
- The interplay between self-expression and banding together. My favorite piece is called “Atalanta”, a princess who enters the footrace with all the male suitors who wants her hand. In the end, it’s tie between Atalanta and Young John, who wants to be her friend, and they spend a day together before going off on their own explorations of the world.
- The money line in the title song: “There’s a land that I see where the children are free/and I say it ain’t far to that land from where we are.” The vision of freedom, the awareness the land of freedom isn’t completely here yet, but it’s not far and we could get there together.
This last point in particular is what I want to interrogate through the course of this year. That assumption, and whatever knowledge I need to gain and reflect on in order to assess how far it is.