ROBERTSON, Judith P. Editor. Teaching for a Tolerant World, Grades K — 6: Essays and Resources. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1999. 464p. Resenha de: KIRMAN, Joseph M. Canadian Social Studies, v.35, n.3, 2001.
It is rather unusual for me to put a note on a book that this would be a good publication around which to develop a course. But this is what I did with this particular book. It is a collection of twenty-two essays dealing with materials for the elementary level that includes the topics of Holocaust, Afro-Americans, Islam, gender, anthropocentrism, South Africa under apartheid, and resources dealing with: gays and lesbians, aging, Afro-Americans, gender, First Nations, and Holocaust literature. The essays deal with literature and topics many of us would consider difficult to deal with. The fact that this book is a production of the NCTE Committee on Teaching about Genocide and Intolerance gives you an idea of what you will find in it.
Very often educational materials produced by U.S. based organizations are authored by American scholars with the occasional token non-U.S. based scholar as author or contributor. It is refreshing to note that twelve of the contributors and the editor are based in Canada. The Canadian input was greatly appreciated by this reviewer. We have a small but high quality scholarly community, and the contributions to this volume are representative of this quality.
This book is a fantastic resource for examining how some educators undertake topics that other teachers would prefer not to even raise with their classes: the dark side of education, if you will. My admiration goes out to these teachers of young children and teacher educators who were willing to deal with the topics noted in this book, and who appear to have done a fine job with them. As would be expected, much of the literature deals with young children and their experiences within tragic circumstances. This literature does not, and should not for the elementary level, raise the more horrific aspects of some of these topics and usually ends on a note of hope. Most of the essays are centered on specific literature, how this literature was used, and children’s responses.
I would suggest that anyone attempting to emulate some of the activities this book in the elementary classroom be aware of the children’s backgrounds. This is very important when you are dealing with topics such as genocide, racism, and injustice. In a pluralistic society some of the children may have had some very serious problems with discrimination and prejudice. Such topics, if not crafted to the experiences of the children, could provoke feelings of fear and anxiety in most children, but especially those who have felt the pain of discrimination and terror. On the elementary level, especially, there is a need to guide the class away from discrimination and violence and toward concepts of justice, fairness, and respect that could have avoided overcome the events being studied.
Teachers and teacher educators interested in human rights education and controversial issues will find this book an excellent source of classroom based procedures and reading resources for the elementary level. Not only can you develop a course around it, as I noted above, but it is an excellent secondary or reserve reading to motivate discussion and ideas for lesson planning. Just remember to plan with caution if you or your student teachers attempt to implement some of the activities noted in this fine volume.
Joseph M. Kirman