Teaching Tolerance: Current Events at the End of the School Year

tolerance-does-not-mean-tolerating-intoleranceBy Matthew Olinski — Two topics have arisen in the past few weeks that definitely reflect why education is important in our society.

The first is the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling. For those who do not know, the short version of the story is that he was recorded having a conversation which cast him in a very negative light by asking his much younger girlfriend to not publicly appear with African American men.  He has since been suspended from the NBA and fined, although he is fighting both in court.

The second topic is the kidnapping of the girls in Nigeria by the group Boca Haram.  They wer kidnapped from a realtively isolated village by a group, which takes its name from a dislike of western education which, in this case, was Christian education.  These girls were not soldiers fighting against an enemy, they were simply going to school and were innocent victims of a much larger political and religious conflict occurring.

What both of these topics have in common is a great deal of intolerance.

The first for racial reasons and the second for religious reasons. Neither of these issues seems to be easily solved.  We have been fighting for both racial and religious reasons for millennia and I don’t foresee an end any time soon.

It is our responsibility as educators to at least address the reasons why these two topics are still on the radar screen in education.  Intolerance towards other people will continue to cause problems, some of them, as in the Sterling case, don’t cause a violent reaction, but in the Nigerian school girls case, it was a violent kidnapping.

We have the unique ability to impact students every day to teach them to not be intolerant of others.  As the school year wraps up, I look at the amount of contact I have had with students on a daily basis as we discussed current events. Hopefully that can be our inspiration for the summer and the upcoming school year: to remember that each student we can have an impact on may reduce the intolerance in the world by that much going forward.

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