Promoting tolerance for diversity in schools
Nov. 6, 2017 at 3:21 p.m.
Updated Nov. 7, 2017 at 6 a.m.
Dr. Rita Coombs Richardson
A democratic society is based on equal rights for all citizens, and therefore variances among people must be accepted.
However, variances are frequently perceived as undesirable, especially when perceived as threatening. Differences in appearance, abilities, beliefs, philosophies and lifestyles are uncomfortable to many individuals and groups of people. This perception often results in behaviors that promote bias and violence.
Multicultural education has been promoted to meet the needs of a growing culturally and linguistically diverse student body.
Multicultural education has been defined as a conduit whereby all students, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or gender feel equally valued and challenged and have equal chances of succeeding.
Three decades ago, the education system promoted a tolerant and accepting education. Teachers were instrumental in creating classrooms for equity and social justice. Classrooms that promote all students cannot be achieved when stereotypes are reinforced and understanding of diverse cultures is lacking.
Educators must tolerate social values and practices that vary from their own traditions. When variances are accepted, there is a willingness to be open-minded, humane and tolerant of differences.
The growing diversity of students in schools cannot go unnoticed. Strong communication between school staff and families is important in any school and has special relevance for schools committed to anti-bias education. Teachers must be cognizant of intolerance and actively promote anti-bias education in schools.
Parents and teachers hold a social responsibility to teach children to value the worth of every human being. This is not an easy task because children are exposed daily to outside influences and often adopt the stereotypes accentuated in their other environments. The emphasis in many schools is on cooperative learning rather than on competitive learning. This type of instructional arrangement creates an atmosphere of acceptance and tolerance and encourages acceptance of diversity. When we teach students to be respectful of individuals, we are promoting equity for all students.
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Rita Coombs Richardson is an associate professor of educational leadership and administration and supervision project director for Federal Personnel Development Grant, Preparation for Autism Spectrum Disorders at the University of Houston-Victoria.