Help in teaching tolerance

The Arab-American Anti-Discrim-ination Committee (ADC) has put together information for students and educators to use in discouraging problems before they begin. Educators should take the following steps to address potential problems, the group says:

1. Issue public statements. School officials and student government leaders are encouraged to issue public statements that innocent people should not be blamed for the acts of others. Let those who are upset and angry know that anti-Arab and anti-Muslim assaults, harassment, insults, and hate speech are the wrong response to the tragedies. This message could take the form of statements to the mass media, addresses to school assemblies, community forums, or articles in school newspapers.

2. Hold educational forums. Schools should set up forums to discuss the attacks, give students a chance to express their views, and make clear what are inappropriate ways to respond.

3. Invite Arab speakers. It’s also important to invite members of the Arab-American and Muslim communities to speak to students, the group says. The most effective way to counteract stereotypes is by making personal contact with other communities. Invite speakers and show videos on the Arab world and Islam. Remind students that the Arab world is an entire civilization with a rich and sophisticated cultural heritage, not merely a place of political conflict and violence. ADC can assist in providing speakers and films.

4. Provide counseling. Schools should make counseling available to all students who may wish to discuss their more personal and private concerns.

Teaching Tolerance, one of the nation’s leading providers of anti-bias resources, has launched a new web site,, that offers thousands of practical tools for educators to use to respond to hate and promote tolerance.

The site includes a special section called “Bias Against Arab and Muslim Americans: How to challenge it in your classroom.” The site is host to a goldmine of resources on how to prevent anger and grief from escalating into bias and stereotyping, including:

• “Understanding Stereotypes,” from, includes classroom activities that will help students understand how assumptions about different cultures create stereotypes and unfair judgments and how these biases affect our lives.

• “Who Are the Arab Americans?” provides activity ideas designed to challenge student misperceptions about people of Arab descent.

• “Small Steps: A Tolerance Program” helps students examine how name-calling and stereotypes advance bigotry and lead to violence and even genocide.

• “A Pilgrimage to Atlanta” describes how one educator introduced her class of predominantly Jewish and Christian students to Islam during an unforgettable visit to a mosque in Atlanta.

• In “Arab American Students in Public Schools,” Wendy Schwartz of Columbia University provides a useful summary of techniques that educators can use to create a welcome environment for Arab students.