For part of our World Cultures curriculum, we are studying religions of the world. This week we learned about Islam, and we were warmly welcomed by a local Islamic Center to come learn about Islam and about the Muslim faith. In City Kids, we have families of various faiths and some who are atheists--when the gentleman who showed us around the center asked our children if they knew what a bible was, one of our kids informed him that they are the books you find in hotels. But while several of our kids may not have a personal connection to religion, all of us at City Kids want our children to have a well rounded understanding of different beliefs, religions, and cultures.
It cannot be overstated that when children do not have exposure to, and an understanding of, different faiths and cultures, they are more susceptible to racism and bigotry. At City Kids, we value our World Cultures program because we are hoping to instill in our children a sense of connection to all people, not just those exactly like themselves. Fear, driven by ignorance, is the root of cultural misunderstandings, bigotry, and racism. If our children get to know people in our community who might practice a different faith, celebrate different holidays, believe in a different god or no god at all, and they listen to those people talk about their lives, their families, and their values, they will come to understand them as ordinary people, who are more similar to themselves than they might have assumed, rather than the stereotype they may have been led to believe.
That is why at City Kids we do not teach "tolerance," a buzz word people often use when teaching cultural inclusivity. We should not think about people as something to be tolerated. We can tolerate inconveniences like someone's chronic lateness or a friend who always forgets to return a borrowed item because they are a good friend in every other way. But we do not tolerate someone's very existence. When we tolerate someone, we put ourselves at the top of a hierarchy--we put ourselves in the position of being worthy to judge other people because of their race, their religion, their gender identity, whom they love, or for anything different from ourselves. While it is important for people to not discriminate against others they feel are living their lives in a way they judge to be immoral or improper, here at City Kids, we feel we can do better than that. Instead, we want for our kids to truly love and respect the people in their community, to make genuine connections, and to embrace people for who they are. That is what everyone wants for their own children--to be loved, not merely tolerated.
We also want for our children to be allies--we hope for them that they will be the kind of people who will stick up for a friend or a stranger if that person is being ridiculed for their race, religion, culture, gender identity, disability, or the color of their skin. We hope for our children that they will set the tone for their peers as they grow up, speaking out against the bigotry they will inevitably encounter and that they can inspire other people around them not to be silent and complicit when confronted with hate and discrimination. We hope for our children that they will teach the world that love, respect, and friendship are better than bigotry and even tolerance. We hope for our children that they will go into the world courageous and kind.
If you belong to a religious or cultural organization, and you would like to have City Kids visit, let us know! We are happy to meet you, get to know you, and to sit down and have a snack with you! :) .