Sunday, December 16, 2012

Within arm's length

I'm a high school teacher in central New Jersey, in an extremely diverse school district. About a week ago I realized something remarkable. I was having a conversation with several students about race and religion when it occurred to me that, among us, we had a Jain, a Muslim, a Christian, a Sikh, a Hindu, and a Buddhist. I quickly called over another student who I knew was Jewish and then called their attention to this amazing meeting of cultures and religions.

Within a few feet of each other, we basically had every major religion represented, not to mention skin color and continental origin.

What amazed and inspired me was how this had slipped past their attention. Normally we hear teachers complaining about what students don't notice, but in this case it was a good thing. The students didn't realize the diversity because it is so commonplace to them.And that's a great thing!

That means that America, at least where I teach, is becoming more open, accepting, and welcoming to people of different creeds, colors, and religions.

When I was a kid growing up in the 1980s in New Jersey, I was very self-conscious that my father was Muslim. I was the only non-Christian I knew. America isn't like that any more.

After a terrible week for America's schools, I thought I would offer this as a ray of light. We are the hope that we need.