Sunday, December 29, 2019

How can we counter hate in the classroom?

I grew up in the sixties when there was a considerable emphasis on love, not hate. Martin Luther King, Jr's words were in the news daily, hippies and yippies were protesting the war in Vietnam, leaders were challenging people to serve one another.

My dad would share news articles with us nightly. At the dinner table, we discussed peace, protests, prejudice, religion, and more. Our teachers prompted similar discussions. I grew up hopeful about positive growth and change.

At my junior high, I met students from many religions and cultures. I also had teachers that represented many religions and cultures. Their words further educated me. The books I read and discussed at school provided me with a broader foundation of understanding of people all over the world, and later my friends and family members who traveled and worked abroad provided me with more education about this. After that I had the chance to travel some and learn even more.

I have always been intrigued and interested in the great diversity the world holds, and I have always been struck by the fact that amongst all that diversity, we mainly hold many same values and truths when it comes to family, children, the environment, and justice. While some may strike out against those who are different from them or for their own fame and gain, I still believe that most people around the world want the best for all--most want to build a just, peaceful, and fair world.

Sadly, in the recent past, there has been an uptick in hate crimes, hate speech, and prejudice. The world over has elevated leaders who are self-serving hate mongers rather than peace-loving, just leaders. Unfortunately, we see this in our own country as President Trump and his cronies lead for a few rich folk in hateful ways rather than lead for all Americans with win-win direction, action, and solution. Hopefully this is an overcorrection that will be righted soon. Impeachment is the first step--all Americans must stand up and work for next steps to rid our country of such me-first, hate-spewing leadership.

In the meantime, educators everywhere can work against hate in the following ways:
  • Find ways to represent all voices, lifestyles, cultures, races, and religions in the curriculum. Use video, literature, expert visitors, field studies, and research to broaden students' exposure to the diversity our country and world represents.
  • Look for ways to highlight the contributions good people from all walks of life have brought to our world--don't just share the stories of well-represented groups, but instead make sure you share the good stories from underrepresented groups.
  • When hate shows its ugly face, deal with it right away in educational ways that share the facts, background stories, and related information. 
  • Invite family members to tell their stories and share their cultures with the students--that's a great way for the entire community to learn about the diversity that exists.
Educators play an important role when it comes to promoting peace rather than hate. What ways do you deal with this in your classroom and school environment? What other ideas do you have?