A flawed message from Montgomery County Public Schools’ Board of Education

This week Montgomery County Public Schools’ Board of Education missed the mark when they removed all references to religious holidays in the 2015-2016 school calendar. Following requests to include Muslim holidays, the Board voted instead to erase all religious holidays from the school calendar- conveying a message that religious differences are too toxic to touch.

The stakes are high – not only for Montgomery County but for classrooms across the nation. By choosing to ignore religious differences, these schools are sending a flawed message in three key ways. First, religious differences do exist and they can’t be papered over. Second, recognizing, understanding and even appreciating religious and other differences are key skills for any student who hopes to succeed in the 21st century. And finally, truly educated people recognize that religion is a force in society and an important identifier for many people – one that influences the arts, history, social discourse and even politics and policies.

By papering over our religious differences, Mongomery County’s Board of Education is turning away from its responsibilities to educate while simultaneously masking reality and stirring fears. To keep our schools from becoming a breeding ground for the bullies and haters of tomorrow, public schools need to help students explore and appreciate religious differences.

We call on the Montgomery County Board of Education to respectfully acknowledge the many ways the people in its community are different – and to teach their students that these differences are normal.

At Tanenbaum, our curricula, webinars and free lesson plans offer educators “how-to” guidance in building respectful classrooms that celebrate cultural and religious diversity.

New Film from the Imam and the Pastor

These days I'm surprised if someone working in my field hasn't seen the film The Imam and the Pastor. So fans like me say it's about time we have a sequel. An African Answer is more than that, but take Kofi Annan's word for it: " Peace needs to be deepened. There are no permanent angels or permanent devils in any community. This film is a resource of best practice. It reflects the indomitable spirit of the Kenyan people."

Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye have traveled the world sharing their inspiring true story of interreligious hatred turned to brotherhood. Where they can't be, their film The Imam and the Pastor has spoken for them. And yet there is more! These two Nigerians are expert peace practitioners who teach mediation, negotiation, peacebuilding and other life-saving skills throughout West Africa. When over one thousand people were killed following the disputed elections in Kenya at the end of 2007, the Imam and the Pastor were called to do peacebuilding in the worst-affected district. It is this practical and impactful conflict resolution work that is chronicled in their new film.

Because we know that students and practitioners alike are in great need of successful examples just like these, we celebrate this cinematic release! Bookmark FLT Films and watch for the DVDs coming soon.