September 2015 Archives

I remember well my time in middle school: the motto was "BE ALIKE!" as we sought to follow what's hot and what's not. It was exhausting - who had time for schoolwork when you had to discover which bands were in, what type of Madras shirt to buy, and what people were to be shunned in that cruel manner so common in early adolescence. It was a tyranny of sameness to be sure...

As adults we hopefully have learned that differences add strength and variety to our lives. In biological terms, a diverse ecosystem with checks and balances on the various species populations leads to community health, so that one species' challenges with disease or infestation doesn't destroy the entire community. In sociological terms, a diverse community allows for a richness of sharing and an embracing of "the other" in truly loving ways.

Children are different - period. Learning styles differ - from auditory (learn best by hearing) to visual (learn best by seeing) to tactile/kinesthetic (learn best by touching and doing) learners. Abilities differ - Howard Gardner spoke of the "multiple intelligences" that make up the human cognitive experience: verbal/mathematical/musical/spatial/kinesthetic/interpersonal/intrapersonal. Classrooms need to tap into all of these ways to be "smart" and "successful" in school and allow our variety of student learners many chances for success. Body types differ - we are so affected by our genetics! Traditional concepts of "beauty" need to be replaced by a realization that attraction has many facets - physical and social and spiritual - and finding someone "attractive" need not rely on having the right "look."

We are all different in our racial and ethnic backgrounds, and being "colorblind" as an attempt to be "fair" only covers over true acceptance of others' differences with a culture of "niceness" that is merely superficial in its authenticity. Schools and communities that embrace difference rally when one group is in pain and needs support: we are the same in our humanity and different in our expression of that humanity.

When I as a Quaker say "there is that of God in every person" I mean that the Divine in each of us has a common core and a universal source. I do not mean for us all to be Quakers - our varieties of religious experience inform and enhance one another. I do mean for us to value the different expressions of our spiritual life.

SO: What can we do as parents?

·       Honor our children's different strengths - Johnny is good at art and Susie is good at math and everyone is good at something. Find those strengths and honor them.

·       Remember that self-esteem comes from competence - give your child an opportunity to pursue their interests so that they can be an "expert" at something, be it baseball cards, local birds, or playing the guitar, and not just spelling, math, and reading.

·       Practice diversity at home - honor all cultures, avoid stereotypes, be aware of your prejudices in dealing with others, and participate in your neighbors' cultural celebrations whenever you can. As in biology, social cross fertilization leads to strength.  

·       Recognize that your own identity has many parts - parent, spouse, employer or employee, son or daughter, friend, mentor, and expert to name a few - and cultivate the many parts of your child's identity. Help your child to identify "what I'm good at.." so that - when the chips are down - they have a "place" to go to recover and heal.

We model acceptance of difference and the importance of diversity in all we say and do with others. As the Dalai Lama says, the only religion one needs is loving kindness toward everyone - no exceptions.

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2015 listed from newest to oldest.

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