Our children are growing-up in a time that seems to emphasize division over unity. And don’t be mistaken … children know what’s happening. They catch glimpses of the news on TV; overhear their parents talking about events such as Charlottesville; or are old enough (hopefully) to receive their information through social media.
It is extremely difficult to shelter our children from the sometimes harsh realities of the world that surrounds them. But perhaps we shouldn’t always try to shelter them. Perhaps it is best to face these issues head-on, and turn them into teachable moments.
Schools must play a role in providing a safe forum for children — of an appropriate age — to discuss the divisions that inflict our nation. The role of the teacher is not to choose sides, but rather to serve as the moderator of the discussion, ensuring that it remains appropriate in tone and content. To simply punish a child for making an inappropriate racial remark at recess is insufficient, unless it is part of a larger, school-wide strategy to encourage tolerance and understanding.
But how can this be achieved?
There are certainly many tools available to teachers that are designed to teach students to be more respectful and tolerant. But more often than not, these tools are one-offs. They may take the form of a school-wide assembly, for instance, with a motivational guest speaker. But what happens after the assembly is over? Is the content of the assembly discussed in the classroom? It rarely is. And this is where schools often fail.
At one extreme, there are some parents who feel that the role of a school is simply to teach math and reading, and stay out of the…
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