I don’t know when we got to a point that having open discussions in which we all discussed our own opinions and philosophies became so taboo. I’ll be the first to admit that I rarely talk about my religious and/or political beliefs because it always leads to trouble. Everyone is so easily offended these days that it becomes nearly impossible to exchange ideas.
We’re so afraid of the unknown. We don’t trust people that we can’t understand. But how can we come to understand them if we can’t have open discussions and ask questions? Even if we do ask questions, there are so many of us that have already made up in our minds that whatever the answer is, it’s going to be the wrong answer. It’s incredibly saddening to me and we are restricting our potential as a growing society. We are digressing and it scares me to think what the children today are going to grow up believing.
Nelson Mandela put it perfectly when he had stated that we are not born hating. It is something we are taught, and if we can be taught to hate we can be taught to love (something that is so much easier to do).
As a teacher, and a human being, I think it’s important to teach the importance of differences. When opportunities arise, I try to let my students know that we all think differently and that it’s perfectly okay. We solve math problems differently: some of us need to draw pictures, some of us break it down, some of us use math facts we already know and build from that and some of us still count on our fingers. But it doesn’t matter how we solve the problems, as long as we can get to the correct answer.
My first year teaching I taught students who almost all spoke Spanish as their first language. For the students that didn’t speak Spanish, I had told the class they need to speak English in the classroom. However, I wanted to let them know that I thought it was wonderful that they were bilingual and I was okay if they wanted to speak Spanish at lunch, in the halls, etc. When teaching lessons and breaking down the meanings of words, I tried incorporating the Spanish I did know into the lessons to make it relatable. I wanted to celebrate their differences and let them know that it’s okay to come from these different backgrounds and speak different languages, so long as we are respectful of those that are different from us.
I want my students and future students and the people of today to feel comfortable having discussions with one another. I love finding ways to incorporate debates into the classroom because the kids truly enjoy it. It’s a safe place for them to exchange their ideas. I have had it where throughout the debate I have allowed students to change sides of the room if they change their minds. It was fun to sit back and watch. It was exciting to see the students admit that they liked a different argument or thought process and it was also exciting to see the other students who stood by what they said and believed.
I understand that when it comes to religion, we are taught to share the good news. I understand that people want to save one another from damnation. However, at the end of the day if someone doesn’t want to believe in the god you believe in, how does if affect you? I struggle to understand why people become so angry that they feel they need to forcefully push their beliefs upon others. If they don’t want to share in the riches of your faith, then they are the ones missing out. Nevertheless, so many of our religions have so many similarities. Many of us believe in different variations of the same story – differences in which define our religion. My understanding, generally speaking, is that Christians believe Jesus to be the son of God where is Muslims believe Jesus was a messenger. In addition, Christians believe in salvation through faith where as Jewish people believe in applying the correct conduct (i.e. rituals and practices).
Regardless of what religion you practice (or don’t practice), at the end of the day most of them preach love and peace. That if we cannot come to agree, at least we can love thy neighbor. Perhaps through our actions, our neighbors may start to see what it is that we believe and cross to the other side of the room, so to speak. If they don’t, then at least they stand by what they believe and are hopefully willing to defend and explain their thinking.
We are so adamant about being right and having everyone agree with us. We are so stubborn to admit that there might be another way. And we are so quick to become offended. I was speaking with some friends recently who stated that becoming offended is a choice. We choose to let the opinions and ways of others bother us. It is a choice to be upset by the way someone lives or we can be happy knowing that someone found another way to solve their own “math” problem.
I hope that somehow we can turn this all around. That we can take all this hatred that is going on right now and use it as teachable lessons for our students. I don’t want to sweep this under the rug and not address it. We need to teach the children of today why this is wrong, that we need to stand up for one another and love one another, and we need to teach them to embrace each other’s differences and embrace each other as human beings. I hope that from all of this hatred and poor leadership, that we actually become unified. Through this one common enemy, we are able to put down our religious and political walls and come together out of the sheer recognition that we all deserve better than this. I look forward to a new day where we can debate and laugh as we exchange different ideas and beliefs and walk away knowing that it’s okay to disagree and it’s okay to think differently.