Tolerance, a Worthwhile Makeup Lesson

November 12, 2012 Updated: November 12, 2012

NEW YORK—With missed school days after the arrival of Hurricane Sandy, students and teachers are immersing themselves in makeup classes. A makeup for the national Tolerance Day, aimed at helping children learn to accept and tolerate the differences in people, has ramifications for the global economy, say experts.

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project announced that it will hold National Mix It Up Make-Up Day on Tuesday for East Coast schools that closed on Oct. 30, the original date for the national event. At least 66 schools have signed up for the makeup event.

One of its initiatives, “Mix It Up at Lunch Day,” is a decadelong, annual event that asks students to sit with someone new at lunch for a day, encouraging students to identify, question, and cross social boundaries.

“At first the idea sounded too simple to be anything worthwhile,” wrote Carrie Craven, an employee at a Louisiana charter school, in a blog after the Oct. 30 event. “Staff was largely ambivalent about the proposal.”

Craven, however, was moved by the sincerity of the younger children as she listened to the “mixed” lunch table conversations.

“I was pleasantly surprised to hear so much kind, focused chatter. The younger ones especially were empowered by the centerpiece questions,” she wrote.

Amy Chua, bestselling author and globalization expert, argues that only countries which tolerate diversity can achieve global dominance.

Historically, intolerance was a critical factor behind many hyperpowers’ downfalls, Chua wrote in her book, “Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance Rise and Why They Fall.”

Countries rise when they have more intelligent, creative, and driven people—which is never going to come from only one religion or ethnicity, she wrote. World leaders fall because “there was no glue, no connection to hold all those people together. …That’s actually one of the challenges facing the United States today.”

Teaching children tolerance may not have an immediate effect on America’s global position, but it is a start.

“When people step out of their cliques and get to know someone, they realize just how much they have in common,” stated Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance, in an article on the Southern Poverty Law Center website. “Mix It Up is a positive step that can help create schools where students see each other as individuals and not just as members of a separate group.”

Teaching Tolerance also offers free online resources to help school groups and teachers explore the issue of social boundaries.

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