Forget Politics and Teach Tolerance

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What happened in Charlottesville, Virginia should not be politicized. Many of us, including me, have made this despicable event about the president and what he said in the aftermath of violent protests of the removal of a statue.

Do I have opinions about these statements? Absolutely, but this isn’t the place to share them. Teachers, parents, and school leaders are better served with a discussion about how the events in Charlottesville can lead to lessons about tolerance.

But is teaching tolerance really a teacher’s job? You bet it is.

The attitude that we should stick to the curriculum is as archaic as the one-room schoolhouse. Educators can’t assume their students will learn tolerance at home; white supremacists had parents, and they obviously didn’t learn it.

We can’t be effective educators if we are ineffective at teaching humanity, and we can’t be humane if we are intolerant.

The Problem: humans hating other humans because they are different

This seems so obvious that I flinched at typing it. Still, if teachers ignore it, intolerance and hatred will fester.

Most educators are quick to condemn the actions of protesters in Virginia, but condemnation often ends with a flurry of barbs at the president and/or the perpetrators. Then we get to school, and race to our daily lessons.

The Hack: Teach tolerance

Sure, discussing racism and bigotry with kids can be delicate and risky, but when handled efficiently, it can unify your students and create an environment that is conducive to longterm learning.

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The key to success is to leave politics out of it. Discuss the actions of protesters and the impact of their actions. Reflect on history and similar events. Create plans to avoid hate and violence. When you focus on the dangers of hate and intolerance, much can be learned.

What you Can Do Tomorrow: Act now, while the topic is front and center

  • Tell students you want a productive discussion about hate and intolerance: Share facts only about what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017.
  • Be clear that statements by the president are not part of the discussion: Remind kids that they are welcome to their political opinions, but you want to discuss the impact of hate in our country and how to avoid it in the future.
  • Be emphatic that hating others because they are different is intolerable in your class, at your school, in your community, and in our society. There’s no acceptable pushback on this one. We must teach kids that hate is unacceptable.
  • Start planning: Invite students to create a plan of tolerance for your class and your school. This is the kind of grassroots effort that can make a difference on a grand scale later.

Pushback: There will be plenty of hurdles with a lesson on tolerance. Feel free to share your in comments and on our Facebook page, where this post is currently pinned.

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Author: Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes is a longtime educator and the Founder of Times 10, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series, the uNseries, and other books for teachers and learners. To connect with Mark follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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