We live in a very diverse society, a true melting pot of cultures, customs, and beliefs. Now more than ever, learning to understand—and tolerate—how others see the world is the most important strategy in avoiding conflict, locally and on a global scale. There is perhaps no better time to begin these discussions than today, on International Day for Tolerance.
But what is tolerance?
UNESCO defines it as, “respect, acceptance, and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expressing, and ways of being human. It is fostered by knowledge, openness, communication, and freedom of thought, conscience, and belief. Tolerance is harmony in difference.”
Education is the most important and effective way of learning how to find that harmony.
Consider the diversity within your classroom or school. Where are students from? What customs do they observe? What is unique about their culture? This is a great opportunity to brainstorm the positive aspects of diversity and to ask students to define tolerance in their own words.
Now, create a classroom scrapbook or poster collage of student writing by encouraging each student to describe in detail a custom or tradition observed in their household. Whether it’s Tuesday Taco night, or taking part in Yom Kippur or Chinese New Year, this is a great way for students to help each other learn. Reflect on how diversity is demonstrated in the school—through music? Sports? What are other ways this diversity can be celebrated?
For a longer term project, extend this cultural investigation to your local community, your country, or even the world. Research a variety of cultures, identifying key ways in which they are different and unique. In what ways can students promote global harmony among these cultures? What is one thing you can do as a class or school? Why is tolerance so important now?
The answers to these questions may stimulate engaged classroom discussion and provide additional writing prompts.
How will you talk about “tolerance” in your classroom today?
~ The Teachers Media Team
Photo credit: “Header image: BY- Public Domain Pictures / Creative Commons“