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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

38 Tibetan Self-immolations since 2009: News Roundup

In the news this week:   self-immolations in Tibet, support for a Vatican reprimanded nun, NYPD sued over targeting Muslims, and other stories.

At least 38 Tibetans have set fire to themselves since 2009, and 29 have died, according to the International Campaign for Tibet, an advocacy group in Washington. The 2,000 or so monks of Kirti Monastery in Sichuan Province have been at the center of the movement, one of the biggest waves of self-immolations in modern history. The acts evoke the self-immolations in the early 1960s by Buddhist monks in South Vietnam to protest the corrupt government in Saigon. New York Times
 
Jews face special risks that require vigilance, though there is no “specific, credible threat” against Jewish targets, Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, told the Forward during a visit to the newspaper’s New York offices.
 
In a June 4 meeting with the paper’s editorial staff, Napolitano cited the particular exposure she said Jews face in explanation of a DHS security grant program that mostly benefits Jewish groups.
 
“Unfortunately there are risks attendant on the Jewish community that are not attendant on all other communities,” she said. Jewish Daily Forward
 
The board of the largest membership organization of U.S. theologians issued a statement of support Thursday afternoon (June 7) for Mercy Sr. Margaret Farley, a member in their ranks who was the subject of harsh criticism from the Vatican just days ago.
 
Writing that it considers Farley’s work “reflective, measured, and wise,” the leadership of the some 1,500 member Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA) says in the statement it is “especially concerned” that the Vatican’s criticism presents a limiting understanding of the role of Catholic theology.
 
In a formal notification released June 4, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith criticized Farley’s 2006 book on sexual ethics, titled Just Love.
 
Farely’s positions on masturbation, homosexual acts, homosexual unions, the indissolubility of marriage and the problem of divorce and remarriage "contradicts" or "is opposed to" or "does not conform to" church teaching, the Vatican notification said. National Catholic Reporter
 
For whatever reason, neither President Obama nor his Republican challenger is talking much about religion these days — neither about his own faith nor that of his opponent, or the social issues that motivate religious voters.
 
It is a striking departure from the faith-based overtures heard in this year's Republican primary and in some past presidential campaigns, and it serves to mask a central aspect of each man's life story, in which faith plays an important role. But analysts on both sides of the political spectrum say religion is perceived as a no-win subject by both campaigns, and it is not likely to play a prominent role in the 2012 election. LA Times
 
Muslim civil rights activists are headed to court to end a New York City Police Department program that they say violates their constitutional rights by spying on Muslims based only on their religion.
 
The lawsuit, Hassan et al. v. City of New York, is the first legal challenge against the NYPD’s alleged spying and profiling of Muslim Americans in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut that was first reported by The Associated Press last year. The suit, to be filed Wednesday (June 6) in a federal court in New Jersey, seeks an “immediate end” to the NYPD surveillance program, and calls for the NYPD to destroy all records of information obtained through the program. Washington Post