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Sunday, May 31, 2009


In one session of LIBRARY class, I assigned my Junior High School students to read TA-NA-E-KA, a short story written by Mary Whitebeard. My main reason to choose this story was I myself enjoyed reading the story. There are some reasons why I love it; first, the main character was a smart girl that could outsmart her cousin, Roger; second, TA-NA-E-KA as a ritual ceremony for Native American people who enter teenage period is very interesting; I opine that it will be a plus point for my students to know new kinds of ritual ceremonies from other cultures. That my students are also around the same age as the two main characters in the story, hopefully, will make them understand how difficult it is for Mary and Roger to undergo such an ‘extreme’ experience. Besides, I expected that they would not consider it as something too ‘far in the sky’.

The fact that most of my students are Chinese Indonesians whose parents perhaps do not really introduce them to the ‘indigenous’ cultures made me open my eyes that they do not think it important to maintain traditional ceremonies. This is my conclusion after reading their answers to the question “What is your reaction to the way Mary participated in Ta-na-e-ka? Is important to maintain traditional ceremonies? Or perhaps it was because they are still very young to understand that it is important that we maintain our cultures.

Here are some answers of my students to the abovementioned question.

Cheating. She borrowed money for evading bad food.
Sometimes it is. But not if we are in danger; survival first, and culture is next.

My reaction to the way that Mary participated in Ta-na-e-ka is surprising.
In my opinion it is in between important because even though the traditional culture practice is yucky but as the young generation, Mary needs to preserve traditional culture which has been passed down from one generation to another generation.

I am surprised because she is only a little girl but she is brave to live outside her house and survive in the forest.
It is a bit important to join maintain traditional culture practice because we can give this knowledge to other people and if we get situation like this, we are already prepared.

I was surprised that Mary didn’t really participate the tribe’s activity she was supposed to do honestly even though she said she was brave to do that.
In my opinion it is sometimes important but sometimes not because if we want to learn the past history of the Ta-na-e-ka culture and ritual. Somehow, it is disgusting when we are told to eat grasshoppers.

My reaction to the way that Mary participated in Ta-na-e-ka is quite impressive and surprised because she was so smart.
In my opinion it is not important because sometimes it is very dangerous.

My reaction to the way that Mary participated in Ta-na-e-ka is quite surprised and interested. Well, it doesn’t come to my mind that Mary would do such a thing. And it was exciting.
In my opinion, traditional cultural practices are done depending on the age and time. If it is no longer necessary, then it becomes less important to maintain

I feel that Mary is smart but she is also cheating the way of Ta-na-e-ka.
Yes, I think it is not too important to maintain traditional cultural practices because some people don’t really want it. Only people who want it should take it.

My reaction to the way that Mary participated in Ta-na-e-ka is: she is smart and brave.
It is sometimes important to maintain traditional cultural practices because it is hard to do and it is not really important.

Well it is good that Mary participated in the Ta-na-e-ka but still she should follow her cousin, Roger, to live in the wild for five days, not eating hamburger and milkshake and live in a good place. Even eating grasshoppers is disgusting, it is more natural to the culture if she doesn’t want it that way, she should refuse it hard from the very beginning.
In some culture it is important to follow / participate in the culture, but it is not always, because sometimes the culture that made our ‘people’ unique.

I got no reaction how Mary participated Ta-na-e-ka.
Not really for me. Sometimes I think it is important but sometimes I also think it not really important because it is boring while some are boring but very appreciated it so I take it as an important thing.

I was kind of shocked and … well, she was smart on using the restaurant but she should have done what her cousin, Roger, did.
It is important to maintain traditional cultural practices but it is sometimes ok if you want or do not want to do.

I think it is okay to do what Mary did because they were supposed to survive and they did.

With the Ta-na-e-ka, what is the use becoming a warrior? You’re not gonna make money and it certainly isn’t going to help you look for a job, so I agree with what Mary did.
It is not important to maintain a tradition that has existed for far too long to continue. It is absolutely primitive and out-of-date.

What Mary did was wrong but it was because she did not want to participate in it at the beginning. She thought that practicing Ta-na-e-ka was not important.
I think it is important to maintain traditional cultures because it is what makes our family special and different from others.

I wouldn’t want to participate in such a practice.
It is not really important to maintain cultural practice if it involves pain because it will not really help people except in spirituality.

I will support her to do Ta-na-e-ka that way.
I think it is important to maintain traditional cultural practices because culture is the main idea to develop the personality of someone.

Mary survived Ta-na-e-ka in her own way by living in the other’s house. I think she is smart.
We should have our tradition but we shouldn’t do it in the way that makes us difficult.

If I were Mary, I would go out of that place and never join something like that.
I think it is not important to maintain traditional cultural practices because that is just an old tradition.

Additional information:
I did not do anything before and after the task to read the short story; such as to have pre-reading discussion to lead the students to the topic, or post-reading discussion to find out their reasons why they came up with such answers. I haven’t done anything either to analyze the result.

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