Including the exploration of diversity in your educational plan can open your students' minds to all the world has to offer. Even though it can be difficult at times to pursue, diversity and an understanding of culture can lead to students gaining a high level of respect for those unlike them, rather than a judgemental and prejudiced view.
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Every one of us has a cultural identity. Our cultural identity is defined by our beliefs, values and behaviours, which begin to develop the day we are born. Cultures can be very different from each other, which creates diversity among any population. A classroom full of people with different backgrounds, whether adults or children, can be very beneficial to students. By exploring cultures and their differences and similarities, students develop an awareness of their own culture, as well as the cultures of their peers. When they are taught to understand and accept cultural differences, they form a stronger sense of their own cultural identity.
Once students are aware of cultural difference, they also become aware of racism and can fight to destroy it. Through their unbiased understanding of the differences between cultures and races, they are able to come to a point of acceptance of themselves and others. A diverse classroom includes many different types of students --- students of different ages, races and ethnicities. Diversity emphasises how different we all are, but when explored in a classroom, can also be used to reveal our similarities. Once students grasp the concept of diversity, displayed through their everyday interaction with a diverse group of peers and friends, racism begins to disappear.
A positive sense of self can be developed once students have an understanding of their own uniqueness through an understanding of diversity. By gaining an understanding of culture --- in terms of the building blocks that make an individual unique, such as her beliefs, morals, traditions, friends and family --- a student can develop a more effective definition of self. Students begin to understand who they are through the process of exploring cultures and diversity. This method of relating to one's self and others can be positive and beneficial for self-esteem, especially during the "coming of age" years.
Stereotypes and prejudices exist all around us and constantly invade our everyday experiences. When students have a strong self-image and sense of cultural identity, they are more easily able to avoid judging people by the stereotypes and prejudices that they come across. When diversity is explored in the classroom, students are enabled to make their own informed decisions about people after meeting them, rather than making uniformed judgments. Being able to avoid these prejudices and stereotypes leads students to being open and unbiased toward others.
Facing Our Biases
To teach children to be open-minded and culturally aware, adults have to come to terms with their own biases and put them aside. When we avoid certain questions and leave them unanswered, we teach children that those are not acceptable subjects to discuss.
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