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TEACHING FOR TOLERANCE

First we have to establish that the word "tolerance" in our context is used in an active and inclusive sense - we know that the word is controversial but have not found a better in the English language.

There is an assumption that the more we know about each other, the more we will find in common; the more we will see things that bind us together, and therefore the more tolerant we will become. Unfortunately this is not necessarily true. If we discover, as a result of dialogue, that the other group are doing something that we find completely abhorrent, how will we react? If we believe that their religion will doom them to eternal hell, how will we react?

Of course, ignorance is even more dangerous. The lesson here is not: "Don't share knowledge", it is rather: "Understand this: that knowledge cannot be served cold. There is a basic preparation that has to be going on in all our societies, from the very earliest days of childhood, that prepares us and open us to "otherness". For a fruitful dialogue, an attitude of acceptance, of curiosity, even of excitement about diversity must be in place before we begin the process of dialogue.

This is what Teaching for Tolerance is about. It is about preparing each individual for the great dialogue we hope he or she will hold with the world about them throughout their lives. It's about encouraging minds to be open, about promoting curiosity about "otherness", about celebrating our differences.

The Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief have chosen our website as a vehicle to publish their collection of links and resources, and their collection of stories, texts and extracts that promote reflection around attitudes and tolerance. The anthology below has been collated, edited and commented by Rana Lehr Lehnardt and is designed for use in school classes.


The stories are marked with colour codes according to the age group they are suited to:
Primary - Primary (6-9 years)    Middleschool - Middleschool (10-13)
Secondary - Secondary (14-16)     College - College (17+)

Racism Explained to My Daughter (extract), by Tahar Ben Jelloun
MiddleschoolSecondary
Racism is but one form of intolerance. Racism focuses on physical attributes - skin color, facial features, hair type. But author Tahar Ben Jelloun uses this term in a broader sense, something more like intolerant thought, language, and action toward someone of a different group, whether race, religion, gender, ethnicity, even ideology. In this broader sense of the word, his attempt to explain this difficult concept to his daughter is of worth to students around the world. .
Circle of Fire, by William H. Hooks
Middleschool
Intolerance is based on misinformation, generalizations, and an unwillingness to go beyond the generalizations to get to know the real person. Intolerance is based on fear. This story tells of 3 eleven year-old friends, one white and two black, that attempt to warn the gypsies of a threat by the Klu Klux Klan, and how they meet and tackle the prejudices of their elders.
The Country of the Blind, by H.G. Wells
MiddleschoolSecondaryCollege
Too often, instead of embracing outsiders, we mistrust them, and to gain their trust, we insist they leave behind what makes them unique. HG. Well's story tells of how failure to accept an outsider as he is can deprive society of possible benefits.
Zen Shorts, by Jon J. Muth (New York: Scholastic, 2005)
Primary Middleschool
Apart from communicating wisdom in themselves, these small stories illustrate how acceptance of strange ways and appearances can enrich one's life with new wisdom.
Nathan the Wise, by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1779, full text available online)
Middleschool SecondaryCollege
This play, through many entangled relationships and identity confusions, points to the futility of attempting to define or judge anyone according to the religion they appear to be born to. Within the play, the wise hero, Nathan the Jew, recites the Parable of the Three Rings, which is recounted in this excerpt.
Beauty and the Beast, by Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont (1756, full text available online)
PrimaryMiddleschool Secondary
This famous folktale/fairytale contrasts physical beauty and wit with virtue and simple goodness. Although there is nothing in this fairytale that specifically talks of race, religion, or specific ethnic groups, the desirable attributes of physical beauty and intelligence can symbolize each of these. This version gives excerpts from the original text (which is far from the Disney version!).
Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust’s Long Reach into Arab Lands, by Robert Satloff (New York: PublicAffairs, 2006)
SecondaryCollege
Present-day news accounts of the strife between Israel and its Arab neighbors would lead us to believe that only animosity exists betweens Jews and Muslims and that this animosity has always existed. But such is not the case. During World War 2, many Muslims took great personal risks to help their Jewish neighbors and friends.
A Jar of Dreams, by Yoshiko Uchida (New York: Antheneum, 1981)
Middleschool Secondary
This is a story of a Japanese family in the 1930s in California, USA - at a time and place when people of Asian origin were strongly discriminated against. Rinko is the 11-year-old daughter who wants to be like everyone else in her all-white school. Her aunt comes from Japan and helps Rinko become strong, proud of her Japanese heritage, and able to dream..
Rothschild’s Fiddle, by Anton P. Chekhov (first published 1894, full text available online)
Middleschool Secondary
Chekhov’s short story Rothschild’s Fiddle - a parallell to Dicken's Christmas Carol - is famous for its theme of bitterness and intolerance turning to brotherly concern and inclusion as the deathbed approaches. It highlights the stupidity of hatred and the loss this causes to all of humanity.
Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry (New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, 1989)
Middleschool Secondary
The story is set in Denmark during WWII. A high ranking German official, G.F. Duckwitz, told the Danish government that the Nazis were planning on rounding up all Danish Jews and relocating them to concentration camps in other countries. The Danish government passed the information on to the leaders of the Jewish community, and with the help of their Danish neighbors and the Resistance almost all the Danish Jews managed to escape. This is the story of one of them - a young girl named Ellen.
Peony, by Pearl S. Buck (New York: Bloch Publishing/Biblio Press, 1948)
Middleschool Secondary
This is a story of the small Jewish community in Kaifeng, China, seen through the eyes of Peony, a Chinese servant in a Jewish household. The Chinese respect these foreigners and show great tolerance for their strange religion. They view the Jews as hard workers and welcome them in. But when the question of cross-marriages turns up it gives rise to a great deal of discussion.
The Last Spin, by Evan Hunter (1960, full text available online)
Middleschool SecondaryCollege
Two rival gangs decide to solve a problem one on one instead of making war on the streets. A gang member is chosen from each gang to play Russian roulette: one person must die. As the two young men face each other “playing” this game in an empty basement room, they talk and realize they have much in common, neither is the enemy, and there is no reason to create an enemy out of either group. The young men decide to defy gang rules and meet on Sunday to hang out - but then there is this game they have to play ...
When My Name Was Keoko, by Linda Sue Park (New York: Clarion Books, 2002)
Middleschool SecondaryCollege
Sun-hee is the daughter of a Korean family. Her father is the vice-principal of the local school. Her best friend is Tomo, a Japanese boy who is the son of the principal of the school. Sun-hee and Tomo remain friends despite the fact that the colonizing Japanese treat Koreans as second-class citizens, and try to destroy their cultural heritage. Sun-hee is able to distinguish between racist laws, colonizing military, and a simple, kind boy who happens to be Japanese. When Koreans are required to take Japanese names, Tomo disagrees with the law, but can do nothing to change it.
The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother, by James McBride (New York: Riverhead Books 1996/2006)
Middleschool SecondaryCollege
A young man grows up in New York City, the son of a white Jewish-European immigrant mother and an African-American father. He struggles to understand his mother, her distrust of whites, her ability to ignore insults, and her secretiveness. In so doing, he better understands who he is.
We Belong to the Land: the Story of a Palestinian Israeli Who Lives for Peace and Reconciliation, by Elias Chacour (San Francisco: Harper, 1990)
Middleschool SecondaryCollege
This is an autobiographical account of a Palestinian Israeli Christian who is the priest in a small village in the Galilee. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize several times for his tireless efforts to teach peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. He started his efforts of peace and tolerance in the small village where he was a priest. Relations between the village Christians and Muslims were not warm, and had been tense for a long time - this story tells how he managed to reconcile them with simple measures.
My Name is Not Angelica, by Scott O’Dell (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1989)
Middleschool SecondaryCollege
Raisha was a princess of a tribal chief in Africa. She was captured by a warring tribe and sold to slave traders who transported her to the West Indies, which had been colonized by the Dutch. She was purchased as a house slave and renamed Angelica, so she would forget she was “Raisha”, an African princess. Her slave owners treated her humanely, but she and her husband wanted to be free
Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1990)
Middleschool SecondaryCollege
Maniac had a talent that was important. He could be friends with everyone, he was slow to take offense, and he saw people for who they really were. For the life of him, he couldn’t figure why these East Enders called themselves black. He kept looking and looking, and the colors he found were gingersnap and light fudge and dark fudge and acorn and butter rum and cinnamon and burnt orange. But never licorice, which, to him, was real black...
The Enemy Has a Face: The Seeds of Peace Experience by John Wallach (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2000)
Middleschool SecondaryCollege
In enduring conflicts, the youth are taught to hate and fear the opposing side. To combat this education of hatred in the Middle East, John Wallach created the Seeds of Peace program in 1993. The book tells the stories of many of the participants in the programme, and follows their transformation.
Smoky Night, by Eve Bunting (San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1994)
Middleschool SecondaryCollege
Daniel lives with his mother in an apartment building. They are watching rioting and looting in the dark streets below. They watch as looters break into Kim Market, the market owned by their Korean neighbors Mrs. Kim. But Daniel’s mother never shops there because she says it is better to “buy from our own people.” Daniel and his mother are African-American. The story tells how a fire brings the Korean and African-American neighbours closer.
Henry and the Kite Dragon, by Bruce Edward Hall (New York: Philomen Books, 2004)
PrimaryMiddleschool Secondary
Little Italy and Chinatown are right next to each other. The children of Chinatown love constructing kites, to launch them and fly them, making them swoop and swoosh and chase birds. The children of Little Italy love pigeons. They keep homing pigeons as pets on the rooftops of the apartment buildings. The Chinese children cannot understand why the Italian children destroy their kites, until one day they go to confront them ...
The Wise Old Woman, retold by Yoshiko Uchida (New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1994)
PrimaryMiddleschool Secondary
Often the younger generation is impatient with old people: they can't handle new equipment, they are physically frail, they can't keep up with developments. Especially children who have never had the company of grandparents have not experienced the benefits of the wisdom and life experience that comes with age. This Japanese fable tells how a lord was forced to learn to appreciate the wisdom of the elderly.
The Balkan Express: Fragments From the Other Side of War, By Slavenka Drakulic’ (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1993)
Middleschool SecondaryCollege
Bloody war ripped the former Yugoslavia and left a collection of war-torn newly created states behind. People’s individual identities were ripped from them. Suddenly the most important identifying label was one’s nationality, which had been a distant consideration prior to the war.
Luba: The Angel of Bergen-Belsen as told to Michelle R. McCann by Luba Tryszynska-Frederick (Berkeley: Tricycle Press, 2003)
Middleschool Secondary
Luba, an inmate of a concentration camp, found 54 children abandoned by Nazi soldiers to die in a field in the winter cold. Hiding them in the camp, feeding and clothing them required the cooperation of many "on the enemy side" who pretended they didn't know what was going on, but even so provided her with what was needed.
The Suitcase: Refugee Voices From Bosnia and Croatia, edited by Julie Mertus et al. (Berkley: University of California Press, 1997)
Middleschool SecondaryCollege
When the Serbian forces invaded cities and towns to force out the Muslims, most Muslims managed to differentiate between the Serbs who were their neighbors and who continued to treat them kindly and those Serbs who came from elsewhere and who treated them horribly. This book gives an account of the experiences both of those forced to flee and those left behind.
The Sneetches, by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) (New York: Random House, 1961, 1989)
PrimaryMiddleschool Secondary
The Sneetches are an imaginary race of yellow, long-necked, duck-billed creatures that live on beaches. The race is divided by stars—some sneetches have stars on their bellies and some have starless bellies. These stars gave status, and created a deep divide between the Sneetches. The story tells how they were cured from this silliness.
 
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