We are parents and educators committed to a just and equitable society. This blog is a forum to share ideas and resources to help us teach our children and ourselves about social equity issues.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Teaching tolerance

Hello Friends,

I want to point your attention to a wonderful website maintained by the Southern Poverty Law Center,  Teaching Tolerance. It is a resource for teachers and parents and describes itself as "a place to find thought-provoking news, conversation and support for those who care about diversity, equal opportunity and respect for differences in schools."  I subscribe to the e-news which comes out every other week or so with excellent links and short blurbs. One of my favorite links in a recent e-news was this one: Sorting People from the PBS, Race: Power of an Illusion website. The teacher describes using the exercise in her 6th grade class. Click onto the Sorting People link yourself and give it a try. You may be surprised at the results.

When I first started reading the Teaching Tolerance website, I was moved by the writing, but felt a little underwhelmed by the title. Mere tolerance seemed a pretty low bar, a state of disdainful acceptance and gritted teeth reserved for annoying things like long bathroom lines or mosquitoes. Surely we can do better than just barely tolerate each other? Then I thought about how the word is used in immunology in the sense of tolerance to allergies. I read a recent interesting medical paper in JAMA which talked about childhood food allergies and the idea that a window of opportunity existed in childhood to expose children to allergens and to promote food tolerance.  The keys for healthy food tolerance, according to this paper, were early, progressive (larger and larger amounts), and persistent exposure. Maybe the same is true for the development of empathy and our ability to perceive our common humanity. While I believe that the window of opportunity doesn't shut after childhood, I do not doubt that a commitment to social equity requires progressive and persistent exposure, learning, and reflection.

Cheers to all who continue on this journey,


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