There’s no word strong enough to express the deep sadness and shock felt after the horrible attack of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. I heard the terrible news right before delivering a workshop in Lima and I was profoundly hurt by such violence and by the way people defending the freedom of speech were killed. It was the harshest terrorist attack on the French soil over the last 50 years and the world is mourning these journalists and people who worked at Charlie Hebdo. Why writing such an article will you say? Well, simply because some years ago I used in my lessons some of Charlie Hebdo’s publications to work around censorship, freedom of speech and religions. Charlie Hebdo has been known for his series of controversial publications and the debate around these has drawn many threats over the magazine especially by extremists groups. I am not defending the ideological aspects of these publications nor am I criticizing them I just would like to express the urgency of our role as teachers to teach tolerance and respect.
So, where to start? Whatever the age and level of your group there are ways to teach these values. Today tolerance is synonymous with multiculturalism, which means in other words to understand and embrace differences in terms of ethnical background, religions and ideas. Tolerance means getting rid of stereotypes and prejudices. At a young age children are unaware of prejudices. They can spot differences but they are not biased by adults’ stereotypes. They learn and adopt values and beliefs in their close environment through their parents and peers. In some families children may receive a biased vision of the world and they may find it hard to tolerate others that is why they also have to get a different angle through the education they get at school. Teaching tolerance and respect should help children develop their critical and analytical thinking while broadening their awareness of differences and develop their ability to share and accept differences. Teaching tolerance is a vast topic as it can focus on racism, civil rights, religion or disability awareness among others. What matters is to embed these themes in your curriculum. They can be part of lessons or you can choose to dedicate full lessons around these topics.
Here are some ideas of activities to enhance tolerance and respect. You can work with colouring pencils to teach about differences, use cartoons that show religious and ethnical differences, present famous figures that fought for civil rights or men/women equality. Using songs about respect, showing videos where people express their views about differences, name-calling activities and the impact of name-calling are also good ideas. What is important to remember is to start with what students already know and build on it. Creating community projects where parents are involved are also really important to enhance respect and tolerance to build a better world for everybody.