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I have certainly enjoyed many "teachable" moments, but occasionally something happens in class that causes me to question whether or not tolerance can be learned from teaching about diversity.During the first year that I taught the course, I walked into the classroom and immediately sensed something had occurred.A young woman who appeared to be African American and sat in the front of the room was visibly upset with a group of African American women who sat in the back of the room. One of the women in the back said, "We wanted to know why she thinks she's better than us and won't sit with us." The other student replied, "I keep trying to tell you that I'm NOT African American.
As faculty, our challenge is not only to broaden student understanding of others, but to foster acceptance and appreciation which may or may not happen.
If this is the case, we may require new approaches.
Later in the semester, students write an essay defining their ethnic identity, in which physical appearance is a component, so that I can see whether or not they have observed and learned the distinctions about themselves and can express them in writing.
Despite these efforts, I occasionally have experiences that make me question whether or not students have learned this.
Maybe we are teaching tolerance while our students are learning about diversity.
Or while I thought I was teaching diversity in order for students to learn tolerance, I was in fact the one who was learning about the context of my students' cultural lives and learning about diversity and tolerance.
That is why it is imperative that children be taught that they cannot dictate what is “normal” because every person, including themselves, is distinctive in some way, and that is what makes the world so very interesting.
Whether you're looking for a text, a webinar or a grab-and-go lesson, these resources will help your students explore identity and diversity, recognize injustice and learn to take action.
Recently, as my lecture turned to Asian Indian immigration in the early twentieth century, I asked the students if they could explain the difference between Hinduism and Islam.
One student ably explained major elements of Hinduism. Then, I turned to the origins of the Sikhs, who had emerged in India in an area located between Hinduism and Islam. While I was explaining that in the wake of September 11, 2001, Sikhs were attacked and one was murdered because they were tragically and erroneously thought to be Muslims, another student began making joking asides about the drawings to his friend who had been making the previous comments.