A group of teachers in Ontario have set up a platform to help integrate messages of tolerance into their lesson plans.
An online portal called “Common Ground” offers Canadian teachers and professors resources for teaching anti-racism courses. What’s more, educators have the ability to integrate classroom lessons with a visual teaching guide called “Documenting Racism” created by Rodney Jackson of Chicago’s Center for Equality and Justice.
These are just some of the many tools available to educators in an age of growing outrage against intolerance.
Dr Kalpana Sirohi, a history teacher who designed the new course material and helmed the platform, says she’s never felt more enthusiastic about the subject than at present.
“I don’t want to be prescriptive,” she says. “I want to leave the most open playing field and leave it to the educators, with little to no requirements.”
These digital resources aren’t perfect, Sirohi says, but they are certainly an excellent foundation.
“The news of lately has seen an astounding amount of hate and anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States,” she says. “Ontario’s region is growing more diverse, which in turn has increased the need for more inclusive, relevant, and more culturally responsive material.”
The content suggests educators open by highlighting the values on Islamophobia, such as those on love, forgiveness, fairness, equality, acceptance, accountability, peace, and righteousness. For example, Muslim-schooled teens, who are often victims of Islamophobia, could watch the introduction to “Pluralism and Faith”, a lesson about how Islamophobia affects everyone’s freedom of religion.
Sayyid Syeed of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Toronto, who helped write the lessons, is generally pleased with the content. But he is concerned that it excludes some important areas of the historic relationship between different religions, like Jews and Muslims.
“This only to mention in passing that ‘peace’ was introduced into Islam by one of the first missionaries in the Koran, and focuses only on Muslims and the religion,” he says. “If the education system did not have strong anti-bullying and anti-bullying initiatives, such as ‘Dress Code’ with teaching students to not offend teachers, it would be an even more difficult lesson to preach and understand.”
These efforts are indeed innovative – after all, Canada has long had legislation making it illegal to advocate “hate” against a group. But Sirohi and other educators acknowledge that what they’re doing has yet to reach a broad audience in Canada. A pilot study she conducted, for example, placed elements of the course on the recommendation of only two teachers – and even those expressed a desire to see more course content in later education.
Sirohi and her co-workers, however, know they have a chance to make an impact. In fact, 70% of teachers who were polled said they would be more inclined to teach their own history if materials like this existed.