Are human beings tolerant as a rule?
Last Days of Socrates
by Jacques-Louis David, 1787 [in Metropolitan Museum of Art]
We like to think of ourselves as tolerant, understanding, attuned to others around us. Those are positive qualities and important to teaching. We do not like to believe that we are inhospitable, judgmental or hostile.
The size of the chasm between reality and our hope of humane behavior is especially important to assess when we are teaching. Never is that sense of self and desire to appreciate and love others more important than when we are working with students with special needs. I am reluctant to share my own personal experiences of ineptitude, but I think it may serve a purpose.
Most prejudice is subtle and masked. As we note in the development of self, it takes a long time for most of us to move outside of ourselves enough to realize that others do not feel as we feel - that someone really does love a different color, different food. We are so immersed in our own experiences, family life, rituals and pastimes that those who eat, dress, sleep or talk in a different way may be startling, even anxiety producing. People who have very different speech or behavior may upset us enough that we are aware of our disquiet and biases.
Tolerance is a special gift we give ourselves and others. We may have strong biases for or against those who are part of our common experiences without being clearly aware of our attitudes and feelings. When we recognize feelings, emotions, expectations, norms more clearly,
If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life, sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. - H.W. Longfellow
You learn to love by loving . . . Begin as a mere apprentice and the very power of love will lead you on to become a master in the art. - Frances of Sales
Want a great site for recipes around the world? Berkley
As a mother at the risk of her life watches over her only child, so let everyone cultivate a boundlessly compassionate mind toward all being. - Buddha
We always affirm with conditions. I affirm the world on condition that it gets to be the way Santa Claus told me it ought to be. But affirming it the way it is -- that's the hard thing! -Joseph Campbell
Reviewing our own actions and intentions isn't easy, but it is crucial work.
In the early 1990's attention was paid to gender discrimination in the schools. Teachers responded initially, that they treated girls and boys the same. In fact, in most classrooms the treatment of youngsters was not equal in any way. We found that teachers called on boys more, listened to their answers longer and corrected their responses less than girls. We also found that a boy of color received less positive reinforcement than a Caucasian boy, and that a girl of color received the least attention and support of anyone in the classroom. Teachers often had to see taped evidence of their own behavior to believe the findings.
Until the late 1970s, classroom research meant watching the teacher rather than the interactions and behaviors of students. Even the effective schools movement scrutinized the teacher rather than students. When we began to watch interactions between students and teachers, we saw many instances where teachers initiated discipline problems by the ways they behaved. In your observations, have you seen teachers react differently to a child who is well dressed? a child with tattoos? a kid who does not bathe? a youth with a different ethnic background? Most of the time, we are so busy proclaiming that we treat all children the same that we are not able to recognize our own biases.
Our jokes often speak aloud the biases we keep hidden. Do you tell ethnic jokes -- blond jokes, quadriplegic jokes? Fat girl jokes? How about red neck, lawyer, mother-in-law stories?
Great literature reminds us that we must understand who we are and how we behave in order to be cognizant of others. Of course, this journey to self and others is a paradox, for it is in being with others that we understand self, and it is in fully understanding self that we are empowered to move beyond curiosity or initial fear of others to empathy and compassion.
This next section provides several exercises to facilitate self assessment of tolerance or bias. Some of them will be useful tools you can adapt in your work with students.
To complete this assignment successfully, you should:
Assessing the self
1. Identify a group you dislike or distrust (need help? flag burners, welfare recipients, reactionary rednecks, politicians, rapists, homeless, self-righteous, a religious sect, skin heads, taggers, gang members, kids who shoot kids, lawyers, teachers, doctors)
2. Genuinely try to see each group you named as they might see themselves. ( List adjectives)
3. If it is a group bound by a belief system, list some of the reasons they may have taken their stances. If it is an ethnic group with a common set of actions, try to find what their culture or language might do to set up the behaviors. Example: Navajo children are taught to be respectful by not making eye contact; the Spanish language is set up so that things happen rather than blaming people for accidents - milk spills.
4. Look for a continuum of beliefs in a group and identify with it. (Need help? religious affiliations, the NRA, Republicans, Animal Rights Groups, Green Peace, Democrats, Gay Rights Activists, Pro Choice groups, Pro Life groups)
5. What would you have to change in your life if you felt as this group feels?
6. What would they have to change to see life as you see it?
7. Can belief systems make people intolerant?
8. How would you begin the process of developing acceptance for this group of people?
9. How would you begin a conversation to help them see your life view?
Bring tolerance closer to home. What is it that your spouse, child, roommate, sister, father does that you just can't stand? Try going through steps 4-9 with respect to this set of behaviors. [25 points]
Bring tolerance closer to the school. What is it that students do that drives you crazy? Try going through steps 4-9 with respect to this set of behaviors. [25 points]
Is there one kind of student you don't want in your classroom? How about a youngster who can't hear? How about one who is nonresponsive? Are you worried about a child who has seizures? Are you intolerant of a kid who can't or won't sit still? What can you do to see the child you describe, from their point of view or as the parent see him or her? [25 points]
GOALS for increasing tolerance and compassion
This is a great time to set some personal goals. Upon completion you may send a note stating that you set goals, or share them with the instructor. E-mail Janne.Ellsworth@nau.edu
Research in sociology suggests that getting to know those with whom we are intolerant makes us more accepting. Did you consider those dynamics in developing a goal for yourself?
Research on ego development suggests that maturity increases our ability to see what others see; to "walk a day in their moccasins" and thus to understand them. Does this impact your goals?
Let's begin with web based materials you may want to review. This site http://www.humanities has SIX activity sets to sharpen awareness of Hispanic and American influences and intermingling at border communities. Two are directly related to this module:
Activity set four: RELIGION
Activity set five: PEOPLE
Web site for getting material to learn Spanish through music
Now, locate two other web sites that present methods or materials for enhancing emotional intelligence, foster understanding and tolerance of others, or provide tools and skills for working with students who have limited English Proficiency. Share your "finds" in WebCT. [25 points]
Interested in a class? NAU has a graduate level BME course on the web. Click here to investigate course offerings.
Activities for increasing self awareness of cultural impacts
to increase tolerance and compassion
1. Write an autobiography that is a history of your hair. Include influences from family, culture, peers, media, self comfort. If available, include pictures in a timeline, showing changes. [50 points]
2. Make a string of paper dolls. On each doll, draw or place a hat that represents the influence of one of the groups to which you belong. You may use some of the group distinctions listed below, or make your own. [25 points] Describe or list the characteristics that contributed to your hat designs. [25 points]
Anaya, R. A. (1979). Tortuga. Berkeley, CA: Editorial Just Publications, Inc.
Potok, C. (1967). The chosen. NY: Simon & Schuster.
Deloria, E. C. (1988). Waterlily. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
Erdrich, L. (1986). The beet queen. NY: Henry Holt & Co.
Fuentes, C. (1985). The old gringo. NY: Farrar, Staus & Giroux.
Kenzaburo, O. (1994). The pinch runner memorandum. London: M.E. Sharpe.
Kozol, J. (1988). Rachel and her children: Homeless families in America. NY: Crown Publishers.
Kozol, J. (1995). Amazing grace: The lives of children and the conscience of a nation. NY: Crown.
Mankiller, W., & Wallis, M. (1993). Mankiller: A chief and her people. NY: St. Martin's Press.
Morrison, T. (1988). Beloved. NY: Plume.
Nichols, J. (1974). The Milagro beanfield war. NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Ng. R.M. (1993). Bone: A novel. NY Hyperion.
Rechy, J. (1993). The miraculous day of Amalia Gomez. NY: Arcade.
Tan, A. (1989). The joy luck club. NY: G.P.Putnam's Son.
Movies and Videos:
To Kill a Mockingbird
West Side Story
The Grapes of Wrath
The Joy Luck Club
The Milagro Beanfield War
Stand and Deliver