I recently had a fantastic opportunity to attend a Teaching Tolerance workshop on their new Perspectives for a Diverse America (free) curriculum. Teaching Tolerance was founded in 1991 by the Southern Poverty Law Center to help reduce prejudice, improve intergroup relations, and support equitable school experiences for children. I was already a big Teaching Tolerance fan before attending the workshop, but came away even more excited about the phenomenal work Teaching Tolerance has done (and continues to do).
Some of the “lightbulb moments” for me:
- At the heart of Perspectives is an anti-bias framework, a “set of anchor standards and age-appropriate learning outcomes divided into four domains—identity, diversity, justice and action.” These domains are based on Louise Derman-Sparks’ four goals for anti-bias education in early childhood; Derman-Sparks was the Fahs lecturer at the UUA 2012 General Assembly.
- Schools in the US have focused on the first two domains – identity and diversity – with the goal of prejudice reduction, which seeks to minimize conflict and generally focuses on changing the attitudes and behaviors of a dominant group. It is far less common for schools to focus on the justice and action domains with the goal of collective action. Collective action challenges inequality directly by raising consciousness and focusing on improving conditions for under-represented groups.
- In today’s diverse classrooms, students (and teachers and parents) need knowledge and skills related to both prejudice reduction and collective action.
- Anti-bias texts are different from multicultural texts. Rather than only represent marginalized groups, they discuss action.
- Critical literacy is the difference between understanding how to operate the lever in the voting booth and comprehending the issues needed to decide for whom to vote and why.
Religious educators can use the amazing Perspectives for a Diverse America activities and resources in myriad ways: teaching RE classes; providing stories and videos for worship; offering resources for parents and training materials for RE volunteers (to name just a few). But I have a bigger dream. As religious educators, we often wonder how to have an impact beyond Sunday morning and beyond the congregation. What if every UU parent with school-age children or youth talked to the teachers and administrators in their children’s schools about using this amazing (reminder: FREE!) resource? Imagine if all teachers and students learned the skills of both prejudice reduction and collective action and put those skills into practice every day? It might help realize the vision statement of Tapestry of Faith (another wonderful free, online family of programs):
We envision children, youth and adults who realize that they are moral agents, capable of making a difference in the lives of other people, challenging structures of social and political oppression, and promoting the health and well-being of the planet.
Join the UUA Faith Development Office for a September, 2015 one-hour webinar with UU Sarah Neely, member of the Teaching Tolerance Advisory Board, on ways to complement UU faith development with free resources produced by Teaching Tolerance. Details and registration information here.
Perspectives for a Diverse America is a literacy-based curriculum that marries anti-bias content with the rigor of the Common Core. Learn more from this one-and-a-half-minute YouTube video.