Embracing our differences instead of trying just to blend in, makes us a better integrated community.
As we celebrate Youth Month it is fitting that we reflect on how to truly celebrate diversity and acknowledge that focusing on our differences instead of trying just to blend in, makes us a better integrated community.
Antonio Guterres, Secretary- General of the United Nations once said: “The fact that societies are becoming increasingly multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi-religious is good. Diversity is a strength, not a weakness.”
Shaun Fuchs, CEO and founder of Centennial Schools provides an insight on how to achieve this in our schools.
The reality is that we are still far off from a truly integrated society where we champion and embrace our differences. But schools can play a central role in encouraging and celebrating diversity. If equipped with the right tools students can intentionally cultivate a learning environment that celebrates diversity within the classroom and that expands into larger society.
However, it requires an effort from educators and parents.
It is important to start with four basic principles:
1 - don’t be blind to differences;
2 - learn from differences;
3 - respect differences; and
4 – it’s ok to be different.
Different is not threatening …it is just different.
Studies have shown that young children have an awareness of differences and similarities between people. At age 2, children begin to notice gender and racial differences. At 2 ½ or so, children learn gender labels (boy/girl) and the name of colours – which they begin to apply to skin colour. Around 3 years, children notice physical disabilities. At about 4-5 years, they start to display gender appropriate behavior and become fearful of differences.
How can diversity make our world better? By challenging your child to identify people from a different background who have contributed to the betterment of our society.
Another example is food. It speaks a universal language and in South Africa we have a breathtaking array of different cuisines with unique back stories. Eating and discussing your way through some of our unique culinary contributions is not only fun, but also gives the concept of diversity a tangible presence.