Tolerance

How will you use your local community as a resource for teaching social studies? How will you generalize and connect what the students learned about their local community to the world community?

As has been discussed in prior classes, my community is small, with little by way of significant cultural or social resources. However, being adjacent to Los Angeles, we have many resources nearby. One resource I feel very strongly about is the Museum of Tolerance. This is an emotional stretch for 5th graders, but a valuable one. At this museum, the children will learn about intolerance and its devastating consequences. This museum is local, but its subject is often events far from California. Still, it has exhibits on “Segregation in California” and particular emphasis on the situation of hispanic immigrants. No doubt, for some of my students, this later subject is anything but hypothetical.

What I particularly love about this museum (in addition to the overall message) is the lesson that little injustices can balloon into very big ones, that every little prejudice is a tiny Holocaust and a potential building block for a tragedy. Finally I love that it helps us to see that we are all potential victims and victimizers, that self-reflection and sensitivity is a life long discipline.

There are many less weighty resources as well: community groups from nearby representing particular ethnicities, enthusiasts in particular subject matter (from Civil War reenactors to model plane builders to dance lovers) and museums of many varieties. Everything is local and global. We are unified by the human experience. The challenge for a teacher is to be alert for the themes that tie us to the global community (and them to us) and be quick to share those with our students.

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Community, Part One

“You are called to belong, not just believe.  Even in the perfect, sinless environment of  Eden, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  We are created for community, fashioned for  fellowship, and formed for a family, and none of  us can fulfill God’s purposes by ourselves.”

–  Rick Warren, “The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?”

I’m not a practicing Christian but I find much to recommend in Rick Warren’s popular book. This quote in particular says it all.

What should we do in a community? Again to Rick Warren:

“We  are commanded to love each other, pray for each other, encourage each other, admonish each other, greet each other, serve each other, teach each other, accept each other, honor each other, bear each other’s burdens, forgive each other, submit to each other, be devoted to each other, and many other mutual tasks.”

To me, community is a formalized way to make sure each day contains a meaningful human touch. So many of our contacts are anonymous. It is still wonderful to share a human moment with a random stranger. But it does not build. Relationships come from time, connection and contact. Community facilitates relationships. Relationships are the nourishment of life, life’s teacher and the bright lines on the road that true us to our calling. And yet, community in the flesh and blood sense of the word is rare.

Community should be real, not virtual. It should be held together by shared goals rather than individual ones. It should be stable, familiar faces with mutual history and three dimensional lives. It should have obligation and hold us to be our best selves. And there should be love, love for the gift that is that community.

Rare. And wonderful.