Speaking of kids and childish things, it turns out that blood drinking is natural. At least, so elementary school kids are being taught in Philadelphia:

“Why,” asked one third grader from the Independence Charter School, “do they drink blood?”
Her question, directed at Herman Bingham, a board member of the East Africa Resource and Study Center, contained a universe of incomprehension.
It’s not that the eating habits of nomadic peoples in northern Kenya seemed ghoulish. Rather, they just made no sense at all.
Bingham, giving a talk and conducting a tour of the center, had heard it before. He kept it simple.
“Because it’s nutritious,” he said, “and because they don’t slaughter their animals.”
Fouzia Musse, a dynamic board member born in Somalia, took over from Bingham.
“Let me tell you about the blood,” she said to the children gathered around her, amid the artifacts on the first floor of the center in West Philadelphia. “It is natural. The food you eat is transformed into blood.”
And she went on with a mesmerizing description that American city children understood completely.

(The same teacher elsewhere extols the value of juju healers in helping rape victims. Former slaves are believed to be among the best healers, and popcorn and coffee aromas are said to excite the spirits.)
I don’t have a problem with kids being taught that Masai warriors and other East Africans drink blood. It’s a fact, and there are reasons why they do it. But I’m a little concerned about the science behind teaching third-graders (or anyone, for that matter) that blood drinking is “natural” simply because “the food you eat is transformed into blood.” While it’s true enough, isn’t food also transformed into every type of cell and tissue in the body — including human waste? Or is critical thinking something to be discouraged?
I’m no expert on the Masai or other blood drinkers, but I’m hardly the first to question whether “natural” foods like blood have really helped them achieve what we in the West might condescendingly call quality of life:

If calcium were in fact an overriding factor in determining health, freedom from disease, and longevity, the Masai tribe in Africa would have some very elderly elders. Interestingly, while they consume exhorbitant amounts of calcium (the mainstay of their diets is a mix of cow blood and milk), they have a life expectancy of only 45 years.
Just for kicks, I contacted the Centers for Disease Control and asked if I were to travel to Africa to visit with the Masai, what diseases would I need to be innoculated for or protected from. Here’s an abbreviated list:
* Cholera
* Influenza
* Filariasis
* Anthrax
* African tick typhus
* Chikungunya fever (explosive urban outbreaks have occurred)
* Echinococcosis Leptospirosis
* Lyme disease
* Malaria
* Meningitis
* Black plague
* Tuberculosis
* Intestinal worms
* Rabies
* Typhoid Fever
* Yellow Fever
That’s quite an impressive list for a population consuming several liters of calcium rich food every day. Maybe calcium is not the great protector Barefoot promotes it as.

Not that I’m into judging anyone’s quality of life, mind you. But are all things “natural” necessarily desirable? Aren’t disease and death at least as “natural” as drinking blood?
Never mind that. Let’s continue, with a lesson about family values:

“Africans know everything there is to know about community and family,” he told the children. “That’s what holds it all together… . They’ve mastered their environment by keeping their eyes open and taking care of their goats and sheep and camels.”
The children listened with complete attention to Baumann’s description of the 115-degree desert heat, the lack of water, the portable housing, the camels, and, yes, the bloodletting.
But the high point of the visit came when the children were turned loose among the objects crafted by people halfway around the world.
About a dozen boys and girls immediately crawled into a portable hut, assembled from grass and sticks, that had served as desert housing.

While the kids might have just as immediately crawled into a pup tent, I’m curious about the logic of a statement that any group of people knows “everything there is to know about community and family.” Does this mean that everything they claim to know is necessarily right?
For example, there’s no question that Somalians know a lot about how to perform female genital mutilation:

The most extreme form of female circumcision entails the female genitals being mutilated, whereby the clitoris and sometimes the labia are removed. Thereafter, the vagina is also more or less sewn up. The mutilation of girls is often carried out by inexperienced people, who use dirty instruments such as pieces of glass, razors or sharp stones which are often re-used without being sterilised first. This increases the chance of HIV infections.
The effects of genital mutilation can result in death. At the moment that the mutilation is carried out, all kinds of side effects may occur such as intense pain, bleeding, shock and damage to the organs surrounding the clitoris and the labia. After the operation, urine may be left behind which may cause nasty infections. Complications which frequently occur are long-lasting infections, recurrent bleeding, abscesses and small benign tumours on the nerves which can result in discomfort and serious pain.
….In Somalia, circumcision of the clitoris and sometimes the labia as well is not punishable by law. According to women of Nagaad, the Somalian umbrella organisation with 32 members, it will take a very long time to change cultural views on this matter ? not only among men but among women as well. The age at which girls are circumcised is being lowered all the time. Children who are sometimes no older than six are operated on by private doctors or traditional healers. The circumcision ceremony usually takes place within the family circle.
European summer holidays
?In Somaliland (the northern part of Somalia that declared itself independent in 1991), an estimated 98 percent of Somalian girls are circumcised. But no-one talks about it?, says Asmara Abdelsaksam, chairman of Nagaad….

[NOTE: The lowest estimate of the percentage of Somalian women who have been mutilated is the U.N.’s figure of 90%.]
Holy cow! That’s even more gross than drinking blood! And as young as six?
Is my unenlightened cultural bias showing? Perhaps I should recognize that children should be taught to get over these Western cultural hangups, and learn to be, er, daring!
Should I, like, get with the program?
OK, just for today I’ll stick with the lesson in culture:

“This is very stimulating,” he said. “Some children are very daring. Some hesitate. They are so honest. Their attitude is ‘Let’s find out more!’ It isn’t ‘Oh, that smells funny’ or ‘That smells different’ or ‘I don’t want to have anything to do with it.’ ”
Then he told the children the same thing.
“Your questions are great!” he said. “Just keep asking!”

I have no problem with the “just keep asking!” part. Well, as long as they don’t ask about what happens to third-grade schoolgirls in Somalia.
Actually, considering that only seven percent of Somalian girls receive primary education, it must truthfully be acknowledged that very few schoolgirls are sexually mutilated. 90% of 7% would be only 6.3% of the total elementary school-aged population.
(Another example of how right wing, culturally bigoted bloggers exaggerate?)
Well, to show how fair I am, I’ll bend over backwards and remind readers of the argument for female circumcision: it’s done to enhance the status of women. (More here.)
Enhance the status of women? Obviously such lessons on advancement of the status of women should be taught at an early age.
(So should the notion that the West is inferior to cultures of blood drinkers who circumcise eight year old girls…..)