Moving beyond tolerance in the classroom

Sikh student and teacher (Kulpreet Singh | Sikhism)

Sikh student and teacher (Kulpreet Singh | Sikhism)

In an article published on the Not In Our Town blog, Amrit Kaur Sidhu, an intern with United Sikhs, relates personal experience to make the salient distinction between promoting diversity (“plurality”) and promoting pluralism — “the active engagement of plurality” — in the classroom:

I realized that schools are the first institutions that must become a model of pluralism, in order for pluralism to seep out into the rest of society. Students are placed in a social setting with other students from various backgrounds and must learn how to work efficiently with that diversity. It is simply not enough for American educational institutions to point out the diversity of their student body, the representation from various backgrounds, and pride themselves in the diversity of percentages alone.

It is an important delineation, and not just in relation to Sikh students but for children growing in a globalized culture. Students must be given the skills to not only tolerate differences, but to navigate cohesively within culturally diverse environments. This implies the need for an escalated level of skill and mind set for our children.

But, is it something needed just for our children? Interestingly, educator and children’s book author Navjot Kaur (mentioned on this blog before) recently also touched on this idea from the educator’s perspective, in a recent article for CREATE Wisconsin:

Fear of the unknown often leads educators to keep this knowledge invisible too. Instead of providing students with the tools and culturally responsive texts needed to think critically about what they see and detect any biases, they continue to be left in the dark. If you leave a plant in the dark for too long, that’s probably where it will remain and take root.

Both of these articles discuss the aspect of education as prevention of school-age bullying, and of what we saw in the shooting at the Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in August at the hands of a white supremacist. As a society, we recognize that education is one important measure among a variety of solutions to the plagues of gun violence and hate crimes. Delving deeper, it is clear we need to pay more attention to what our children are learning, and what they are not learning, in their classrooms.


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