Do we still need to work on “tolerance” in our schools?  Haven’t we been working on this for about 50 years now?  As an educator in an affluent, diverse suburban neighborhood, I can tell you with certainty that we do.  If I hear one more kid call another one “gay” because of what they’re wearing, I’m gonna take our counseling program into my own hands.  One school in Baltimore has also decided that it’s something that needs more attention. Middle school students learn tolerance –

“You get up. You are black,” the woman screamed as she pointed to a student in the front row to leave. “Segregation now. Segregation forever.” The words were so astounding to this group of eighth-graders that they sat silent and stunned.

The lesson was part of a two-week program called Facing History that Sudbrook has given all eighth-graders for the past decade. For three of their four periods a day for two weeks, the students delve into history, looking at single lessons more deeply than usual. They take a field trip and hear speakers, including Washington, who is one of Sudbrook’s teachers, and Gerald Stansbury, the president of the Maryland National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who spoke Wednesday.

The thought, according to teacher Michael Girard, is to educate children about the racism and intolerance that have existed for centuries by studying the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Girard and other teachers hope the knowledge will translate into an awareness of what they can do to stand up for those who are being intimidated or persecuted.”

The reason that we need to take on this type of a program in all schools is because even after over 50 years since Brown v. Board of Ed., students still come to us with intolerance, biases, and stigma towards people who are different from themselves.  And that’s because they come from families where this is common.  Tolerance isn’t the answer though.  Cultural diversity training gets rolled eyes from many of my colleagues, so that can’t be the end all, be all either.  Instead, how about educating our community, students and staff together on various beliefs and understanding the founding principles of this country that grant us all the freedom to practice whatever beliefs we hold with respect from others.  That word, respect, may be the real issue we seek to teach.