Wednesday, 27 June 2018

The story of Intolerance

In America at the moment it is Pride month...
It will be Pride month here in Sweden in August...

Pride did not start as a big party... it started as a protest against the abuse, the prejudice and the hate - it was an event to stand up and say "here we are... we are human..."

There are many around the world that choose not to accept people in the HBTQ community (in Sweden it is H and not LG - and I really prefer that we do not have to divide it into genders... H is more inclusive) - because they have been raised to believe it is wrong and a sin. And that sits in their core.

In the last two days in the Facebook Group "The Reggio Emilia Approach" several dialogues have had to be shut down due to the fact that a few people shared their opinions that they felt HBTQ was wrongful, that it should not be included in any way in preschool/school (especially preschool) and despite loving all people felt it was inappropriate to share this love with some communities or about them.
There is an unawareness that this is prejudice... that this is conditional love (I will only show it if you behave in a certain way)...

Then there are those who fight passionately for the HBTq community - or are a part of the community and carry so much pain and hurt from how others have treated them or loved ones. This can make it hard to share with others the information that they might be needing... the wrong information, in the wrong way is supplied and the leap is too great to make... instead defences are put up to explain why the leap is not being taken.

Then there are those who mean well, but just do not know enough about it, or are misinformed - and are maybe over zealous when approaching this topic with young children... then these situations are brought up as to why we should not "teach" about HBTq because of  a few mistakes...

Learning is about mistakes... we ALL have to make mistakes to be able to learn... but if we are all made to feel that we have to hide mistakes then we lose these opportunities to learn and improve and make our world a better place.
School is very much a place of right and wrong answers... it takes time to detox from that approach too.

My time in Palestine made me realise the importance of listening...
I have written about this before, and I have spoken to several about it too, as it had such a HUGE impact on me, not only as an educator but as a human.
The group of educators hit the children as a correctional tool - as just about every other educator (and parent does) - this was enormously hard for me to deal with, but I also knew that if I came in with a so called higher moral pathway that it would reduce my chances of being able to reach out to them. I had to back down from everything I thought I knew, to be open to how they understood the world, learning, children and play... and to work from that

In the exact same way I work with children according to the Reggio Emilia Approach - the pedagogy of listening.

After knowing the women for four months (two trips and almost daily contact online) the time came to be able to talk about what I wanted to from the start... stop hitting children...
They asked ME - how can we stop the children hitting each other... I answered "I don't think it helps that you hit the children"
They answered, "But we don't hurt them, it is just so they learn" and I answered "yes, I see the children using that strategy too... trying to "teach" their friends and that they see if adults can do it, then why not children"
My daughter was with me at the time and they turned to her and asked her if I had ever hit her. She looked shocked and said no. All the women where mothers and all thought my daughter was polite, respectful, intelligent etc and they were surprised that she could be like that without being hit.
They had never seen an alternative.
Afterwards I went out with one of the women and her daughter into town. Her daughter has issues with white matter on her brain which means that it has affected her development and learning. She suddenly swayed out into the road, the mother lifted her arm to hit her to correct her, looked at me, put her arm down and then saw how her daughter self corrected. The mother was amazed... that her daughter could self correct like that was something she had never seen, because she had always been controlled.
It was a powerful moment for her, and myself.

But it also proved to me that we cannot force feed ideas and opinions on others - we need to be aware of how to present ideas and when to present them so that they will be accepted. Because really what we want is to create a more accepting world. We cannot force feed opinions no matter how healthy or important they are. This is not the same as accepting hate speech. We all need to say no to what is hurting others and to make them aware that what you say is hurting... but it has to be done in a meaningful way, so that they can see the impact...
Saying that "your words make me feel scared" in a dialogue on facebook when all parties do not know each other and live far away from each other is not concrete enough. It does not enable the person to comprehend how their words impact another.
Facebook is great for many things but some dialogues are just hard online. And its not always a place to build trust, and the kind of trust we need to change core values is huge. And sometimes I think people who are fighting for HBTq rights don't always fully appreciate that... and it feels like they are expecting a person to jump from one core value to another due to a few sentences pitched at them, in often a offensive way (because they are fighting for rights) which then puts the person into a defensive position.
And once in a defensive position they either will stop listening and only repeat what they know, or retreat and not listen. Neither is good. If we want to make change and make our world more inclusive for all, make it safer for everyone then we need to be communicating with everyone...
why are some people core values excluding others... what will happen to them if they change their core value. Why do they feel keeping their core value is important? Why are they not open to other opinions? Why do they not see how their opinion impacts others? How can we help them see that?

This is not overnight fixes. This is an approach that requires time and space, trust and love.
Most people tend to hang out with like-minded people... so within our social groups it can be hard to find the people that can help us broaden our perspectives.

I am happy to say that by far the largest majority of my friends are people who accept diversity - and proud to say that there are many that actively make a stand for minorities and groups that experience the negative backlash of bias and prejudice. REALLY PROUD that I have people like this at my side around the world.

I have raised my children to be accepting. I wanted them to be open and I wanted to normalise things that were outside the norm. This meant that at the age of 12-13 my daughters were shocked at a school lesson on sex education to hear the prejudice, that bad words that many in their class were using when HBTq issues were raised. They had never even considered that this was different, just simply a part of the great diversity of life.

I also see this prejudice against children with autism, ADHD,  etc etc ... where they do not fit the norm, and there seems an unwillingness to allow them to be a part of an expanded norm - its always special rights or special needs... which irritates me... we need to make an inclusive space where all can be... but that is a whole other dialogue.

But I raised it because we need to think that we can't try to normalise one group without normalising the others... we are all human. We all need to be treated humanely and we can't exclude people just because they are not approved by a religion or culture. And I am not talking about people who harm other people, I am only talking about people who live their lives respectfully alongside others but just differently from the norm...

The member of the group that was upset with the idea of teaching about Pride in preschools left the group with a final post...
this post saddened me... as in the post was this person who was not understanding what the others were talking about, her core values were strong in the belief that HBTq community was wrong... but there was also a desire to love all people. She was not connecting the dots - and the responses she got put her into a defensive position instead of a position where she could connect the dots from her core values to love for all.
Yes, It was inappropriate to leave the group with such a post and not deal with it... but maybe that was a good thing because I feel quite ashamed of many of the comments - they were not there to support a person in their learning journey, only there to point out she was wrong. This is not helpful.
And that SO many kept on doing it, even after some people were commenting on the fact that maybe that was not the way to go - especially when you could see that the person  was no longer a member and was no longer addressing the situation, so why the continuation of personal attacks?

I am going to take down the threads, BUT in the thread connected with THIS post I would like resources for reading that can support diversity of ALL manners. That support educators in understanding anti-bias, that support educators to look at our social norms and how to make them more inclusive for everyone...
No dialogue - I will delete all dialogue... ONLY links.
If you wish to comment on this post... please do that in this blog, write a comment here instead.

Below are a series of quotes that speak to me in this context... I hope they can speak and inspire you as you reflect on this topic. We need to learn from each other. We need to be open. We also need to understand how our own words and opinions impact others.

me, yesterday, just before I left home to stand outside the American Embassy here in Stockholm to protest against the humanity of how children and families are being treated at USA borders. I would like to point out there are many children suffering in the world... far too many.

this is why I believe it is important that we create open and inclusive environments with even the youngest children... so that we expand the norm, rather than perpetuate it

maybe one of the hardest things to do

sometimes things are going to be said that you don't agree with, and you can feel frustrated... but once you start talking from anger then the chance for learning is reduced.

this has been my motto for the last 6 years... it has helped me SO much.

listening is so important

yes, we will offend each other at times, but hopefully not intentionally, but if we are always scared of offending people because we have different opinions then we are not free. This is not a free card to be rude... it is the fact some people are offended by different opinions.

this is my new year message... but I felt it suited being here today.

equality brings more freedom

if we are being competitive then of course part of the process will be making other lesser than yourself... But if we are creating community of learners then we can create better learning environments and more acceptance
standard testing and the competitive nature of schools is not healthy

there in not name attached to this quote... because it is a quote by me.
Please comment here about this post if you feel the need to...
please share resources, articles and book suggestions etc in "The Reggio Emilia Approach" facebook group.


  1. Thank you Suzanne for this inspiring text!
    Living in Israel and knowing your work near my home just here around the corner, beyond the border in Jenin- I admire you
    You are a lighthouse of hope for me.
    As for readings. I am thinking about Adler's theory again and again these last few years and wondering if Malaguzzi read him. His ideas about society and democracy parallel to Adler –the fires generation of Psychologists.
    I am attaching a link to his theory written by Rudolf Driekurs. I believe we need it desperately as it holds the basic of humanity.
    I can feel worthwhile and live a meaningful life if I contribute to others.
    Social Equality: The Challenge of Today

    1. thank you so much for your words and for your link...
      for people wanting to find out more about Adler and Driekurs - then please check out this link. (written 2017)
      "The work of Alfred Adler
      and Rudolf Dreikurs in
      reference to behaviour in
      classroom contexts and
      counselling of students
      with high levels of
      attentional and powerseeking
      [Includes an extended
      appendix addressing
      narcissistic behaviours].
      A short introduction "

      It is 73 pages long... but the appndix on narcisstic behaviour starts on page 51