Respect: How We Can Put a Stop to Hatred and Division

June 24, 2015
Tom Holland

Throughout my professional life as an educator, I have always advocated for the advancement of curriculum to meet the needs of tomorrow’s world. I continue to advocate for the development of curriculum that includes STEM lessons as well as non-cognitive skills. I believe these skills will be at the core of what is needed in tomorrow’s workforce.

But as I talked to my 8-year-old this past week about our society, I had to explain another national tragedy to her, one caused by another person. I found myself wondering if maybe a key competence, one necessary for healthy growth, has been overlooked. Right now, more than ever, we must advance an educational curriculum that teaches our children respect for their fellow humans.

As a child of the 80’s, I remember very few national tragedies occurring during my formative years.  Although, one of my earliest memories of processing a world outside my own came when I watched news coverage of the Challenger space shuttle explosion with my mother. We watched the coverage all day and as we shut off the television, my mom explained that in this life sometimes ‘accidents’ happen.

For those of us raised during this time, our parents undoubtedly struggled with how to explain such accidents.

As a parent today, the struggle is different. We now grapple with the realization that our children see these national tragedies happen with increasing regularity.  Since our world changed on 9/11, we have found ourselves struggling to find the words to tell our children that these tragedies are not accidents, but acts of hatred. I can feel my own desensitization, and I worry about the world my children will experience.

Right now, a generation of children grow up in a world where hatred is commonplace; where people act on that hatred by inflicting pain on one another, where fear is normal, and where divisions are ever present.  Hatred is nothing new but the role that the media plays in our lives is. Our children need a better understanding and education to handle this constant feed saturation. More importantly, we should consider what we as a society are teaching our children to rewrite the story from hatred to respect and admiration. In this new era of constant media and the hate filled news that dominates it, what are we doing to strengthen the skills that our children need to respect their fellow man?

Lessons of respect, love, and admiration seem to have fallen to the wayside, topics only addressed within the confines of homes and places of worship. Maybe we shy away from openly and actively teaching love and admiration because we’re not sure what words to use or how to explain what respect is. Maybe we shy away from teaching respect and admiration because we don’t know how to respect and admire proactively. We always seek to demonstrate these lessons, but maybe it is time we do something more.

If we truly care about our nation’s children, if we truly consider the skills they must learn to be well-adjusted adults, then more proactive education in respect for each other must become part of their growth. In order to teach tolerance, we must teach respect and admiration. If we do not proactively address this topic of respect in our schools, our camps, and other educational programs, we leave room for hate.  If we are not teaching tolerance and respect, we accede that “this is just the way the world is” and we make no effort to foster change.

The truth is, that this is not the way the world has to be. By teaching the children involved in our programs to respect one another, and to foster that change in our world, our children will grow up in a world where hatred and division give way to respect and peace.

Tom Holland
Former Chief Executive Officer
American Camp Association

Photo courtesy of Camp Howe, Goshen MA.