TEACH CIVILITY AT HOME, EXPAND UNDERSTANDING
April 15, 2008
Pontrelli Maerowitz, Special for The Republic
are once again front-page news. This time, it has nothing to do with the Devil
Dogs. Rather, the news stems from accusations that minority students are treated
differently than some Whites.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has filed a
complaint with the U.S. Department of Education claiming that Black students who
complain about racist behavior receive little or no response.
Students have complained about racial slurs being hurled at them on school
buses, and having to read for certain parts in school plays based upon the color
of their skin. School officials have responded by denouncing such behavior and
announcing that stricter policies will be developed.
While such policies are good and obviously necessary, the solution should not
have to come just from the schools. There are additional things we should be
doing as parents. One suggestion comes from Kelly Chilcott, a parent with four
children in the Gilbert School District. Chilcott was reared working in her
family's trading post on a Navajo reservation. As a result, she grew up
appreciating the artwork of Native Americans and developed a deeper *nderstanding
of Native American culture.
''We're afraid of the word diversity,'' she says. ''We tend to think that
diversity means condoning all kinds of lifestyles.'' Chilcott believes that what
we need to learn is not
tolerance of our diverse differences, but appreciation for all
of our colors.
Accordingly, Chilcott has worked with her children's school by bringing in
artists from a variety of cultures in an effort to give the children a greater *nderstanding.
''All through history we have learned about people through their art.'' Art is
one way, Kelly believes, we can fight
hatred at a young
This past year, Kelly worked with Gilbert in hosting the ''Walk in Beauty''
dedication, the first in a series of Gilbert's Millennium celebrations. ''Walk
in Beauty'' was a pathway of 2000 footprints of students, teachers and community
members patterned after a Navajo poem. The purpose was to teach children art in
Taking advantage of the rich
we have in Gilbert is another way we can help teach young people to appreciate
all people, regardless of color. We are fortunate to have living in Gilbert Masu
Issifu, chief of the Mamprusi Tribe in Ghana. His children also attend Gilbert
schools. When he speaks with children at the schools he talks of how children
must respect themselves so that they can respect others. Teaching children from
the time they are very young how to respect themselves and their abilities is
part of his culture in Ghana. It is a universal lesson that should know no color
Addressing racist behavior has to start at a young age, because otherwise we are
condemned by people's attitudes as adults. However, we shouldn't be looking
solely to the schools to solve a problem that we can solve within our own homes.
The solution needs to start in the home, with the parents, and before children
start school. Because it doesn't get any better when these children become
As part of my job responsibilities for Tempe, I spend a few days each month
teaching classes on ''Civil Treatment'' in the workplace. And Tempe is not
alone. Hundreds of companies, in Maricopa County alone, spend thousands of
dollars each year to ''educate'' their employees in similar classes. Thousands
of dollars spent by employers to educate their employees on simple rules that
should not have to be taught in the first place. Simple rules designed to
''teach'' us how to respect each other in the workplace. Such classes are needed
because if children do not learn these rules from their parents at home,
employers are forced to teach the rules to them as adults once they are in the
The rules aren't difficult. In fact, they are overly simplistic. Rule No. 1
pretty much says it all: ''Guard your words and your actions.'' A lot of trouble
can be avoided if people just learn when not to speak.
But, just in case that proves to be too difficult to understand, maybe we need
to take some lessons from some of the more popular children's videos. Here's a
simple rule that we should be teaching our children every day, and it comes
straight from a little rabbit named Thumper: ''If you can't say something nice
about someone, then don't say anything at all.''
Section: Chandler Community
Record Number: pho60357442