Today is Tanenbaum’s #givebackwednesday!

Download and share our tips for Respectful Communication

Dear Friends,

Yesterday was #givingtuesday. And I’m sure you were bombarded with worthy causes asking for your support. To those of you who gave to make the world a better place—in whatever way you chose to do so—we say thanks.

In honor of what we call #givebackwednesday, I want to share our tips for Respectful Communication. At a time when people are talking about (and worried about) conversations at upcoming holiday dinners, great communication is one of the best gifts you can share—with family, neighbors and colleagues.

Thank you, again, for all you do.

Cheers,

Joyce

P.S. And if you haven’t already, please consider making a donation to Tanenbaum.

Olympic Impact – Sports, Education and Respect

The children paraded onto the field at Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn. “And here comes Greece!” shouted the announcer as students with golden leaves in their hair held up a banner and their entire contingent of students waved Greek flags. Under a blue sky, more than 1,200 students from across New York City had converged for a day of summer games and teamwork.

As stories of classroom bullying receive national attention, Tanenbaum responded with a six-part webinar series on our World Olympics for All curriculum. Educators reaching 80,000 students annually took part. Then, throughout the summer, even more kids became involved when educators from 23 NYC Beacon program sites were trained in using the curriculum. The Beacon programs are an initiative with the Department of Youth & Community Development (DYCD) and Tanenbaum was excited for the opportunity to partner with them.

Tanenbaum’s Deputy CEO, Rev. Mark Fowler, described how the World Olympics for All Webinar Series and curriculum help prevent bullying, “Educators are busy professionals. Our World Olympics program offers step-by-step strategies and resources they can use to create fun and engaging learning environments that meets learning standards, where children feel safe and can practice behaviors of respect. Not only does World Olympics help kids learn that being different is normal, but it also promotes physical and socio-emotional health.”

The DYCD final Olympic games were a momentous affair, held in partnership with Nike’s Marathon Kids program and UP2US Sports. After the parade of nations, students divided into groups to play a myriad of games – and you could see how kids had learned to practice respect and inclusion. Inside the gymnasium, we spotted one girl standing apart, shyly watching a group playing with hula-hoops. Suddenly, her classmates began encouraging her to join in. We watched as she began to smile – and then she picked up a hula-hoop and joined the fun.

Do you teach or know an educator? The World Olympics for All Webinar Series is still available. And there are many students who need protection from bullying. Click here to sign up for free today!

Five Ways to Counter Extremists on Social Media

Dear Friends,

This year, social media has been filled with signs of activism. From selfies tweeted at rallies, Facebook debates and campaigns for emergency relief, social media is more than just a way to see and be seen.

The numbers are revealing. In 2015, Pew Research Center found that 76% of online, American adults use social media and 92% of U.S. teens go online daily.

While many use social media in positive or benign ways, we’ve watched people use it to promote #hate and harmful rhetoric, recruit would-be terrorists (including vulnerable youth), and spread #lies. In contrast, we’ve also seen standouts such as Peacemakers in Action Fr. Sava Janjic (Kosovo) and Rev. Jacky Manuputty (Indonesia), who use social media for the #greatergood.

This month, Tanenbaum shares five ways that you, a social media user, can counter – and rise above – harmful social media banter. Some ideas include reporting hate speech, joining a hashtag campaign, and providing accurate information in real time. Remember to use social media prudently, and always in ways that keep you safe.

Please take a few minutes to learn ways you can oppose extremism on social media, in just a few clicks! And then share both resources with high school students and educators in your life.

#PromotePeace,
Joyce S. Dubensky,
Tanenbaum CEO

A Message from Our 2016 Adam Solomon Award Winner

Chris Murray

Chris Murray

This June, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) will be leading a historic new course on religious literacy education in our public schools. Thirty-five teachers will spend 45 hours touring, learning, discussing, and creating lessons that will increase teachers’ religious literacy and confidence in teaching about religion in public schools. Amid recent reports of increased bullying targeting schoolchildren from religious minorities, conference participants will investigate methods of effectively training students to analyze the role of religion in American public life.

The MCPS-developed course, Religious Literacy for Educators, will allow teachers from across the district to meet one another and learn from some of the nation’s finest religious studies scholars. Beginning June 27, the course will feature introductions from experts on Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism, as well as four site visits to places of worship. Teachers will also hear from Montgomery County and national leaders about the importance of having a more religiously literate community. The course has already received approval from both the County and the State and allows teachers to receive three credits for salary advancement.

If you are interested in learning more about creating a similar course or sharing ideas please feel free to contact myself or Ben Marcus, who in April, helped create at Prospect High School (outside Chicago) a conference on religious literacy education in public secondary schools with teachers, administrators, professors, and consultants from around the country. The conference connected these different constituencies to facilitate the development and implementation of constitutionally appropriate, robust lessons for teaching about religion. Participants were able to participate in groundbreaking model lesson plans created by local teachers John Camardella and Seth Brady, both of whom have received statewide recognition and awards for excellence in teaching.

Chris Murray
Walter Johnson High School, MCPS
Christopher.murray@walter.johnson.com

Benjamin Marcus
Newseum Institute
bmarcus@newseum.org

Extreme Prejudice: Live Webinar on Tuesday, April 19, 2016

april_webinar-ExtremePrejudice

Extreme Prejudice
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
04:30 PM Central Daylight Time
Duration: 1 Hour

Click here to Register to watch the recording!

Why teach about extremism? Not teaching about it can put students in danger. Lack of education about religious diversity has left students—particularly Muslim and Sikh students—vulnerable to bias and bullying by classmates and teachers who don’t understand the full context of religious extremism. This hostility can make it difficult for students to learn and even puts their physical safety in jeopardy. Expanding your students’ knowledge of world religions—and the diversity that exists within them—is critical to combating these dangerous stereotypes and fostering empathy in the school community.

Join us and our friends from the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding for this one-hour webinar, and learn try-tomorrow strategies that can help you teach about extremism accurately and safely, such as discussing extremism across multiple religions, examining the economic and political contexts in which extremism arises, highlighting religious peacemakers and empowering your students to make their school more inclusive.

You’ll receive a certificate of completion once you finish this webinar!

Promote Cultural Literacy & Respect for Differences at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan!

Zanzibar exhibit Anomie Photography 03 At the exhibition – America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far
Photo: Aoommie Photography

Dear Educators,

If you teach in the New York metropolitan area, we hope you will check out the new exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan: America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far. Tanenbaum is pleased to recommend this immersive, interactive exhibit, which gives children of all ages the opportunity to explore the great diversity of Muslim cultural and artistic expression.

To help you get the most out of America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far, we’re proud to offer free, downloadable resources that can be used in conjunction with the exhibit to deepen elementary school students’ understanding of Islam and other religions:

Exploring Beliefs about Religious Differences
Rituals and Traditions about Light: Hopefulness and Waiting
Recommended Reading for Preschool & Elementary Students

Finally, we’re excited to extend an invitation from the Children’s Museum to a special event at the exhibit:


    Educators, join us for a free anti-bullying workshop on Monday, May 2nd!Print

The Children’s Museum of Manhattan is pleased to invite you to a free educational, interfaith program facilitated by The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom on Monday, May 2nd from 4pm-6pm.
(Registration begins at 3:30pm.)

This special workshop will take place in our new exhibit, America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far. Facilitator Dr. Nadia S. Ansary will share the tools to help you identify, address, and prevent bias-based bullying or persistent peer victimization based on one’s appearance, perceived identity, culture, race, ethnicity and/or religion.

Click here to learn more and RSVPZanzibar exhibit Anomie Photography 02
Free entry to the Children’s Museum and light refreshments are included!

*Space is limited to 50 participants and participation will be on a first-come, first-served basis. RSVP is required by April 15.*

 

All photos: Aoommie Photography

Combat Extremism: Get the Facts on Islam Diversity

Have you seen the recent #Notinmyname social media campaign? It’s an initiative led by young British Muslims to show defiance and solidarity against ISIS and the terrorist group’s actions. Their goal? To see how a “simple message” can show the world how ISIS misrepresents Islam.

Projects like this remind us of the great diversity among followers of Islam (and indeed all religions).
No one group is the voice for all Muslims.

Today, Tanenbaum therefore shares another practical resource for you to use at home, in the classroom, with your congregation or in your community.

Read, download, and share! Challenge others to ask questions, research the answers, and counter those who stereotype an entire religion. Know the facts and stand up against Islamophobia!

Together, we can become more informed citizens as we work to prevent violent extremism. Peace begins with us.

Promoting Religious Literacy and Respect for Differences: A Teacher’s Recommendations

An Interview with Chris Murray by Tanenbaum’s Kim Keiserman, Education Program Associate

In today’s multicultural, interconnected world, it’s difficult to overstate the importance of teaching about religious and cultural diversity.  But many teachers express reluctance to address these topics in the classroom, fearing that they may stumble into controversy.

Chris Murray is an educator who is committed to expanding his students’ knowledge of religion and religious diversity.  As a social studies teacher at Walter Johnson High School in Montgomery County, Maryland, he has taught World History for 11 years and an elective course in World Religions for six years.  This year, Chris began planning a week-long, 45-hour course to train other teachers to address religion as part of their curriculum.  The course will be offered to 30 educators in June 2016.

I spoke with Chris in November to find out what motivates him to teach about religion, how he approaches this complex and important subject, and what advice he has for other educators.

KK: How did you become interested in teaching World Religions?   

Chris Murray

Chris Murray, Educator

CM: I first became interested in teaching the course because of my personal interest in religion and its role in history.  I was able touch upon religion in my World History class, but I wanted to spend more time on it–and learn more about it myself.  Once I started teaching the course, I was taken aback by my students’ lack of religious literacy—although they actually scored a bit higher than the national average on the Pew U.S. Religious Knowledge Quiz.  I realized that most students had never had a conversation about religion with someone from a faith other than their own.  I wanted to change that.

KK: Briefly describe the content of the course.  What religions do you cover?

CM: When I first started the course, I took a geographical approach.  I started with South Asia and covered Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism.  Then I moved on to East Asia and covered Confucianism, Taoism and Shintoism.  I ended the course with religions that originated in the Middle East—Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Baha’i.  Over time, though, I focused less on history and more on the role religion plays in the 21st century.  I try to increase students’ religious literacy by bringing in polls [about current-day religious attitudes] from the Pew Research Center and arranging Skype calls with experts like Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center.

KK: What are your major objectives?

CM: I want students to not only gain a basic understanding of the major world religions, but also to be able to identify misconceptions about them and understand why these misconceptions persist.

KK: What resources do you recommend for other educators?

CM: Tanenbaum’s Seven Principles for Inclusive Education provide a framework for my teaching.  I don’t try to portray myself as an expert; instead I reach out to well-respected scholars within the major world religions.  I try to tap into the great expertise that is available out there.  When I am teaching about Hinduism, for instance, I use resources from the Hindu American Foundation.  When teaching about Sikhism, I go to the Kaur Foundation and the Sikh Campaign.  For Islam I have found good resources at the ACMCU Workshops and the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.

Regardless of the subject area, I think it’s important for teachers to be honest about what they don’t know and willing to seek out great resources.  Right now, I am focused on getting conversations going through Face to Faith [an international video conferencing program that allows students to engage in cross-cultural, interfaith dialogue.]

KK: How do you handle incidents of violence in the name of religion such as the recent attacks carried out by ISIS in Paris?

CM: I want my students to feel safe bringing up questions about religion and extremism.  I want them to be able to express their own misconceptions without being labeled.  With regard to terrorist attacks such as those committed by ISIS, my approach is to help students differentiate between Islam and violent extremism.  My goal is to help them dissect these events and break them down into understandable pieces.  In any discussion of religious extremism, I think it’s important to expose students to the work of religious scholars rather than the rhetoric of politicians.

KK:  How would you handle parental complaints if you ever encountered them? 

CM: I would feel comfortable knowing that I am teaching about religion from an academic perspective, which is not only constitutional, but encouraged by state standards.  I would be able to stand my ground because I have the support of my administration and district.

KK: What would you say to parents in Tennessee, Georgia and elsewhere who have expressed concerns about their children learning about Islam?

CM: I would try to show that I understand the basis of their fears.  I would respond by demonstrating the intention of the course: Building students’ knowledge and understanding of the people in their own communities.  I have taught World Religions to 1,000 or so students, and I have never had one come to me and say that he or she has changed his or her faith due to learning about other faiths.

KK: What is the most important thing for other educators to know about this work? 

CM: First, it’s constitutional [to teach about religion.]  Second, you don’t have to be an expert, as long as you take advantage of the great resources that are out there.  Third, it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you’re continually reflecting and open to change.  For example, as I have learned more about Hinduism, I realize that some of my early teaching on the subject was inaccurate.  My teaching of Hinduism has evolved over time.  Finally, I would emphasize the importance of the subject matter.  We live in a world in which people are affected by religion.  Being knowledgeable about religion is not about personal spiritual growth; it’s about being a good global citizen.


 

We hope this will be the first in a series of interviews with educators who are committed to promoting religious literacy and respect for differences.  Are you a teacher who is working to incorporate lessons about religion and religious diversity into your curriculum?  Contact us at education@tanenbaum.org to share your experiences, insights and favorite resources.  We will pass them along to other educators!

If your students get along better, blame it on Rio!

Dear Educators,
Now’s the time to capitalize on the approaching Summer Olympic Games in Rio De Janiero to promote respect for cultural and religious diversity in your learning environment. Join us for the launch of our free World Olympics webinar series on January 21st. For details, please see below or click here.
The first 100 registrants will receive a free printed copy of our World Olympics curriculum! One copy per institution. Click here to register today!
See you there!
World Olympics for All Webinar Flyer
World Olympics for All Webinar Flyer
World Olympics for All Webinar Flyer

Turn the December Dilemma into an Opportunity – Resources for Teachers

Dear Educators,

December is a time of celebration and family togetherness for many Americans – and not just those who celebrate Christmas as a sacred holiday or cultural event. Jews celebrate Hanukkah, Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day, many African Americans celebrate Kwanzaa, and cultures across the world celebrate the Winter Solstice.

For educators, however, the convergence of so many holidays can create The December Dilemma: how to acknowledge and respect the wide variety of traditions students and their families hold dear without implying that some are more important than others.

Turn this dilemma into an opportunity for promoting inclusion and religious literacy. Teach your students about the many ways people celebrate in December – and throughout the year. Use our holiday planning template to create a yearlong schedule of holidays to explore in your classroom.

To learn more:
• Read our information-packed blog post, Teaching the Holidays: The December Dilemma
• Listen to Addressing the December Dilemma in Schools, a webinar created in partnership with Teaching Tolerance. (Complete the free registration to access the full recording)

• Download an elementary-level lesson on the Winter Solstice.

• Download an elementary-level lesson on Rituals and Traditions about Light: Hopefulness and Waiting.

• Check out Tanenbaum’s curricula for all grade levels.

Image credit: Painting by Manuel D. Baldemor