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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tolerance Should Be Taught in the Classroom

Tolerance Should Be Taught in the Classroom

The United States has one of the most diverse societies in the world, and this is reflected in the compilation of students in the classrooms. Today's classroom has a much different make-up than classrooms have in the past; today's students differ in race, sex, religious orientation, age and culture. The differences can be an opportunity to learn, but they are not always the easiest lessons to teach. Diversity is such a common thing in the United States, but there is not always tolerance for differing people. Tolerance is an important factor that should be a normal value for all people, and should be taught to children from infancy. Although students should be taught tolerance at home from birth, schools are the best place to teach tolerance because students are already surrounded by different people in the classroom environment, students need a constant figure in their lives that teach tolerance, and diversity of all aspects should be used as a tool for learning, creating confidence, and establishing respect in a classroom.

Although the United States society is a very diverse in many ways; there is not enough tolerance. Many children are raised in homes that are not necessarily tolerant. "Too often children learn intolerance from adults and peers who tell "innocent" racial jokes or make "funny" references to ethnic stereotypes. The teaching of tolerance requires that ALL children be sensitized to the negative, discriminatory tone of such references that hurt not only the subjects of their words or actions, but also other children who hear and parrot them. Teaching prejudice to a child places a terrible burden of hate on that youngster that all of society must bear" (Colville- Hall, 2000, para. 3). Ideally all people would be naturally inclined to be tolerant, but factors affect this idea. The past generations have been brought up in circumstances that make tolerance hard instead of natural, and preconceived notions can be instilled as early as childhood. Many students do grow up in diverse environments in the United States, and many children are raised to be tolerant, but there is no way to guarantee that children will be taught tolerance in their homes. Some students are not raised in diverse environments and are not used to diversity. "Students come to school with a long learning history. Cultural patterns exist in their dress, family roles, interactions with parents and peers, and attitudes and values. When they enter our classrooms, they bring these attitudes and values with them. Some complement learning; others conflict with it" (Eggen and Kauchuck, 2005). If tolerance was taught in every home it would be wonderful, there would be no hate crimes and no hate violence, but this is not the case. Tolerance is something that is important in order to improve society as a whole, tolerance is something that should be taught in all homes, but tolerance can only be effectively taught on a grand scale in the classroom.
"By the year 2020, the U.S. school-age population will see many more changes. Experts predict considerable increases in the percentages of Hispanic students and Asian/Pacific Island students, while the percentage of African American students will remain essentially the same. During this time the proportion of White students will decrease from 64.8 percent to 55.6 percent of the total population (U.S. Bureau of Census, 1998b; U.S. Department of Education, 2000c). By 2020, almost half of the U.S. school population will consist of members of non-Caucasian cultural groups" (Eggen and Kauchuk, 2005). For many years, the majority of students in school were of Caucasian ethnicity. An increase in immigration has caused the population in schools to change greatly. Classrooms are filled with students from many different backgrounds, and this is a perfect place for students to learn to be tolerant of the differences of others. Children enter the classroom at a very young age, and they are still very impressionable. If students are taught to value the differences of others, instead of discriminating against people who are different, than tolerance can be greatly increased in society. The classroom is a perfect place to teach tolerance because the classroom is a learning environment. If the students learn about their differences, and respect each other's differences, than the students will learn from each other and learn to value others for the knowledge they have instead of discriminating against people who are different. The diversified classroom can be a positive factor in the learning process, and diversity amongst students can be a stepping stone in the pursuit of teaching tolerance.
When children enter school they will spend about 7 hours of their day in a classroom; teachers and other members of the school's faculty will spend a large majority of time with the student. The amount of time teachers spend with students inevitably leads to the teachers having an incredible impact on the students, and it is the teacher's job to make sure that impact is positive and beneficial. "Administrators and counselors are perhaps the most visible individuals within the school setting" (Harris, 1999). Administrators, counselors, and teachers have a huge affect on how students will think, act, and perceive the rest of the world. If teachers and other school faculty teach tolerance in the school this will give students the right, basic ideas they need in order to live a healthy tolerant lifestyle as an adult. "Administrators must construct "an empowering school culture" by "creating a learning environment in which students from diverse racial, ethnic, and social groups believe that they are heard and are valued and experience respect, belonging, and encouragement" (Growe, Perry, & Reasie, 2002, 2). If teachers are role models for tolerance there are many positive aspects that can come from this. Teachers who teach tolerance will make the students feel comfortable and confident. Students will not be afraid to express their opinions and talk about their beliefs and cultures if tolerance is taught in schools. Differences can be expressed and explored, not criticized or hidden. Respect can be established amongst the students and school faculty, and it will maximize the level of education for all students. Teachers can make up for where the students social environment is lacking, but many people think that tolerance should be taught at home and not at school.
Many people believe that if "we wait until we send our children off that first day of school, proud in their shiny new clothes, it is too late. The window of opportunity for teaching tolerance,while it may not be shut and locked, is already lowered" and I agree that starting to teach tolerance in the classroom is not the most desirable approach, but it is the best approach we have. (Eggen and Kauchuk, 2005) There is no way to make sure that children are taught tolerance in their homes, and it is sad that all people do not teach tolerance to their children. Teachers may not have a blood connection with students, but if they are respected, they have a huge influence over students. The faculty of schools should have a "profound respect for and encouragement of diversity where important differences between children and adults are celebrated rather than seen as problems to remedy"; this will help the need for tolerance reach the children (Growe, Perry, & Reasie, 2002, 2). Respect or dislike for people of differences will be taught in the home no matter what anyone does because it is a private situation. Schools are a place where guidelines for tolerance can be set and followed. "Classroom teachers have a considerable impact upon their students' conduct and attitude concerning cultural diversity" and this should be utilized (Growe, Perry, & Reasie, 2002, 2).Not all children grow up in diverse settings, and many "Children grow up knowing the people in their own families and community best. Their friends often have similar physical characteristics, worship in similar churches, play the same games, and eat familiar foods. It is only when they encounter someone who is very different from themselves that they learn about cultural variation"; this is yet another reason why school is an ideal place to teach tolerance because the school environment calls for it (Colville- Hall, 2000, para. 1).Tolerance can be promoted and praised in school, where as, no one can control how a parent teaches a child to think in the privacy of the home. Tolerance must be taught in school because it is the only place that can guarantee that it can be maintained and promoted.
Diversity is a common place occurrence in schools today, and it should be accepted for the knowledge it can bestow upon students. Tolerance should be taught in the homes, and sometimes it is, but not always. There can be no way to make sure that children are never subject to any negative views on the differences of people. Discrimination is a factor in society that can not be avoided, but it can be dispelled. Tolerance should be taught in the home, but there should be a back-up plan when this does not occur. If tolerance is taught in schools it will become a common place thing, the children of the future will be taught tolerance at home, and there will be more time for teaching other subjects because students will already know to be tolerant naturally. Teaching tolerance in the classroom will ensure that students take advantage of the differences of culture, race, ethnicity, sex, religious affiliation, and so on. Teaching tolerance in the classroom is not only opportune because of the excellent environment of the classroom; teachers, and all of the rest of the school's faculty, play important positions as tolerance advocates. Teachers and members of the school are role models for the students, and positive reinforcement of tolerance is important to help the students learn and feel confident in themselves. Overall tolerance is a policy that should become world wide, and there is no place more feasible to start teaching tolerance but schools.
Colville- Hall S., (2000). Teaching tolerance. Growing Safe Schools. Retrieved September 22, 2007, from
Eggen, P. and Kauchuk, D. " Introduction to Teaching: Becoming a Professional." Prectice
Hall/Merrit. Sixth Edition, 2005. Chapt 3, page 85.
Growe, R., Perry, R., & Reasie, H. (2002). A knowledge base for cultural diversity in administrator training.
Journal of Instructional Psychology, (), . Retrieved September 8, 2007, from Looksmart database.
Harris, Henry. "School Counselors and Administrators: Collaboratively Promoting Cultural Diversity." Sage Journal Online (1999).

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