Everyone has seen on television or read in newspapers about how schools are changing their curriculum to tailor more towards helping students pass standardized tests. With this emphasis shift, teachers are less likely to educate students about mythology, let alone mythologies from other cultures. Students are missing out on a great opportunity to learn about diversity in cultures. Not only can English teachers use world myths as a learning tool to explain different cultures, but science and social studies teachers can use it expand on their subject matter.
English teachers focus their curriculum on Roman and Greek mythology because most of the time they are the only cultures represented in text books. The mythology from around the world can serve to teach students about the values and influences of other cultures. This is particularly important in the world today, since globalization has brought foreign cultures much more frequently in touch with each other than ever before. Myths address themes that are part of the common needs of all humans and thus reflect upon the experience of mankind across a large segment of time and the planet.
Myths contain a strong wisdom that comes from the communal experience of humanity across thousands of years. “Mythology is the code that contains the record of the journey of those earlier generations; it is the depository of the archetypal wisdom they have left behind. ”(David Elkson). Cultural diversity enriches the entire world. It could provide insights and perspectives which students might never be exposed to, and it could provide them with the opportunity to discover, learn, and understand the world they live in.
Not only can English teachers benefit through the use of myths as a reference, but science teachers can as well. Societies throughout history have employed mythology as a means of explaining the unexplainable. It might be hard to believe but mythology could help students grasp many astrological theories. The concept of the cosmos starting from chaos as the source from which the universe was formed originated in many ancient cultures. The Hindus developed a rather sophisticated theology to understand the creation process on such a level hat scientists today have borrowed their philosophies in the field of the theories of origins such as the Big Bang Theory. The story of “P’an Ku, Creator of the Universe” starts off, “In the beginning an egg – like that of a chicken – contained the entire universe. Within the egg was one chaotic mass. Heaven and earth were identical. And all was always dark, for neither the sun nor the moon existed. ” (Donna Rosenberg 328). At the point before the big bang, all of the matter and energy of space was contained at one point, the proverbial egg in the myth.
Another example of the thought of the Big Bang Theory can be found in the first paragraph of “The Creation of the Universe and Human Beings. ” “In a time long past, before Heaven and earth came to be, there was only chaos. The universe was vast, obscure, and barren. For there was only a great, gaping expanse of desolate space – without light, without form, and without life. ” (Rosenberg 325). Both of these examples can help students visualize the darkness of the universe just before the giant explosion, the Big Bang.
Along with astrological themes, biological themes like evolution can be seen in many myths. The thought of all life developing from a single ancestor could be hard to fathom for a student taking biology. This evolutionary thought can be seen in the African Myth “The Origin of Life and Fire. ” “And the beetle created all the insects that fly through the air, crawl on the earth, and swim in the waters. ” (Rosenberg 516). The beetle that Bumba vomited up represents the single ancestor from which all insects descended from.
Finally, Social Studies teachers can show, from myths, how societies develop, thrive, crumble, and rebuild in a repetitive cycle. “These ancient mentors surround us in a great circle and through mythology share their wisdom, helping us understand what is happening and how to deal with it. ”(Elkins). Helping students to understand the conditions, causes and consequences of developing societies is an important tool for them to use later in life. Myths address the deepest psychological needs and motivations of the human race. When those who are evil hurt those who are honorable, then Zeus will destroy our iron race, for we are unfit to inhibit the earth that sustains us. ” (Rosenberg 92). That line came from the Greek myth “The Ages of Man,” which Zeus keep rebuilding human society, but with each generation and the development of technology, their values slowly deteriorated causing their civilization to crumble. This interpretation of history as a repeating cycle of Dark and Golden Ages was a common belief among ancient cultures and can serve as a good learning tool for students.
Students need to understand the cycles in history of mankind and societies so they can make sure that history does not repeat itself. The Spanish philosopher, George Santayana, said it best, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. ” (Todd Hagopian 325) Regardless of country or culture, age or education, humans have a need to understand why, and to explain the unexplainable; it is through the telling of myths that human beings understand their commonalities. Through the study of myths, students can see similarities in cultures and scientific discoveries that are a piece of their everyday lives.