JUSTeach Newsletter

February 2004

"Tolerance is a Virtue" - Ways to Promote It in our Classrooms 

     Many secular and even Christian groups have struggled with, or even dismissed, the calls to tolerate or embrace diversity from various sectors of our society in recent years.  But, it is vital to remember that Tolerance is a virtue upheld in our Scriptures: 

                        “I urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,

 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for

 [“bearing with” in some versions] one another in love, being diligent

 to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  (Eph. 4:1-3)           

     For February, with inspiration from the celebration of "Black History Month," we offer practical classroom suggestions for promoting tolerance, acceptance and even celebration of our differences -- to help our students and all of us to better accept and love the "neighbor" or "other" who is different. 

In gratitude for your teaching and for the different gifts of God’s Spirit given each of us,

 Mary Jeanne Lindinger-Olsen

Associate for Parish Outreach

 The following activity is adapted from Peacemakers: The New Generation (A “How To” Guide), by Mary Fox and Claire M. Perez, a manual for Grades 6-8 featured in the August 2003 on this page.

 “Wall of Prejudice” 

Materials:  Boxes (empty milk cartons or shoe boxes) - one for each student, permanent markers,  paper to wrap around the milk cartons, tape.

Purpose:  To examine the consequences of prejudice.

  Remind the students that prejudice is a judgment made about a person or thing without full knowledge or examination of the facts.  Ask for some examples, such as, “I don’t like people who shout when they talk,” or “I only like people who wear clothes from The Gap®.”

  Form two groups.  Give each student a box and a marker.  Instruct the students to compose a typical remark spoken in prejudice as follows:  1) one group should complete the sentence, “I don’t like people who …” and 2) a second group should complete the sentence, “I only like people who …”

  Have the students write the sentences on their boxes.  Both groups bring their boxes to a designated line, one group sitting on each side of the line.  Taking turns, they read their sentences and place their boxes on the line, building a wall.

  With the children still sitting on each side of the wall, discuss the following questions: 

  • If you really believed what you wrote, would it be easy to be friends with this wall between you?
  • Which is the stronger barrier, the boxes or the attitudes written on them?
  • What would it take to remove the barrier?   (e.g., change in attitude)
  • What can a Peacemaker do?   (e.g., educate others)

Give the students time to reconsider the prejudiced statements they wrote on the boxes.  Ask them to come up with a more informed statement to replace the one they put on the box.  For example, “I like her but have a hard time with her shouting.”  And, “It doesn’t matter where people buy their clothes.”  After a few moments invite them to take turns coming to the wall, to make their new statement and remove their box.  When all the boxes have been removed, cross the line and offer a sign of peace.  If possible, share a treat together. 

“Tools for Tolerance” from Tolerance.org  

·         Ask a person of another cultural heritage to teach you how to perform a traditional dance or cook a traditional meal

·         Learn some sign language

·         Speak up when you hear words of prejudice.

·         Research your family history and tell the class about your heritage.

·         List as many stereotypes as you can – positive/negative – about a particular group.  Are these reflected in how you act?

  • Read books with multicultural themes.

Resources Recommended in Teaching Tolerance Magazine: 

  1. Looking for a simple way to introduce equity issues to students of all ages and genders?  Racism Explained to My Daughter ($16.95) breaks ethnocentrism down into bite-size question-and-answer pieces that children can digest easily.  Available from The New Press, 450 W. 41st St., New York, NY  10036, (212) 629-8802.
  1. Express Diversity! ($75) is an easy-to-use interdisciplinary curriculum to promote students’ awareness of disabilities.  Some of the materials included are a bulletin board kit, a timeline of disability history, Braille alphabet cards, art activities, an instructional video and a challenge card game.  This valuable resource provides activities that enhance self-esteem, communication and inclusion.  (Adapts for K-12)  Available from VSA Arts, 1300 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC  20036, (800) 933-8721.
  1. The “Trivial Pursuit”-style game Diversity Works ($18) is a fun way to enhance cultural appreciation as students strive to answer questions and spell the word “diversity” using letters on the back of each card.  The questions have three levels of difficulty and include categories of religion, food, sports, discoveries, holidays and others.  Although the directions describe four variations of play, teachers can easily adapt the culture cards to fit their curriculum.  (Grades 4 and up)  Available from Cultural Concepts, P.O. Box 2851, Church Street Station, New York, NY  10008-2851, (800) 497-8221.
  1. Eleanor Roosevelt’s reminder that “human rights begin in small places, close to home” resonates throughout Our World, Our Rights ($10), a guide for teaching about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the elementary level.  The handbook abounds with definitions, classroom activities and extensions, all grounded in the declaration.  (Grades K-6)  Available from Amnesty International USA, Publications Dept., 322 8th Ave., New York, NY  10001, www.amnestyusa.org.