Teaching Tolerance (TT)

Teaching Tolerance (TT)


* Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center
* Makes educational materials available to teachers at no cost
* Features numerous lesson plans that portray America as an unjust and racist society

Founded in 1991 as a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Teaching Tolerance (TT) works to “foster school environments that are inclusive and nurturing,” and to help teachers “prepare a new generation to live in a diverse world.” Toward these ends, TT produces a plethora of multimedia teaching kits, online curricula, and professional-development resources for classroom instructors, as well as a biannual publication, Teaching Tolerance magazine, which reaches more than 450,000 educators nationwide. All of these materials are made available to educators at no cost.

TT’s lesson plans contain numerous reading materials and suggested classroom activities designed to steer K-12 students toward the conclusion that America is an inequitable, racist and sexist society. For example:

* A series of lessons titled “Issues of Poverty” emphasize that “poverty is systemic, rooted in [capitalist] economics, politics and discrimination.”

* “Sexism: From Identification to Activism” is designed to make students aware of the many “ways in which sexism manifests in personal and institutional beliefs, behaviors, use of language, and policies.”

* “Visualizing School Equity” teaches that “unequal funding systems have concentrated students of color into underfunded, under-equipped institutions that some critics call ‘apartheid schools.’”

* “Test Yourself for Hidden Bias” urges students to “examine” their own “unconscious, or automatic, biases” as “an important step in understanding the roots of stereotypes and prejudice in our society.”

* “Six Lessons from Jena” emphasizes the prevalence of white racism in American culture, and of discrimination in the juvenile-justice system.

* “Recognizing the Undocumented” features “activities that will make students aware of the roles that undocumented immigrants play in the harvest and processing of food and other necessary products … and appreciate the importance of human rights.”

* “The Immigration Debate” requires students to read a commentary by SPLC legal director Mary Bauer, encouraging them “to take a hard look at the harm and devastation done to people of Alabama because of the state’s anti-immigrant legislation.”

* “Introducing Kids to the Idea of Environmental Racism” teaches that “communities of color are more likely to bear the brunt of environmental hazards than are white communities.”

* “Economic Injustice Affects Us All” introduces students to the strikes and boycotts that the socialist labor activists Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta led against grape growers in California. After being thoroughly indoctrinated in the “injustice” of “income disparity,” students are directed to strike a blow for “economic justice” by creating various art projects that visually illustrate pay differences between executives and low-level employees.

* “Thanksgiving Mourning” teaches that Native Americans, because of “the racism and oppression” they have had to endure ever since Europeans arrived in the New World, often view Thanksgiving only as “a reminder of the genocide of millions of their people, the theft of their lands, and the relentless assault on their culture.”

* “Female Identity and Gender Expectations” is a series of lessons that challenge “gender stereotypes” and examine “barriers that limit girls’ and women’s opportunities.”

The Spring 1998 edition of Teaching Tolerance magazine featured an interview with former Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers, under the title “An Unconditional Embrace.” In the prologue to that interview, Ayers, who had become a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was described variously as “a highly respected figure in the field of multicultural education”; a man who “has developed a rich vision of teaching that interweaves passion, responsibility and self-reflection”; a professor who “helps aspiring teachers recognize and tap the potential of every child”; and someone who believes that “challenging stereotypes and reforming inner-city schools is as much about fighting for social justice as about improving the quality of teaching and learning.”

Moreover, the Teaching Tolerance program and its companion website, tolerance.org, market Ayers’s books.

In September 2021, SPLC announced that it was changing the name of TT to “Learning for Justice” (LFJ), with an online magazine professing a commitment “to dismantle white supremacy.” The reason for the name change, said LFJ, was this: “The fact is tolerance is not justice. It isn’t a sufficient description of the work we do or of the world we want.” LFJ promised to provide “free resources to educators—teachers, administrators, counselors and other practitioners—who work with children from kindergarten through high school.” These resources were designed “to supplement the curriculum, to inform their practices, and to create inclusive school communities where children and youth are respected, valued and welcome participants.”

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