Friday, November 12, 2010

One Nation

In honor of Veteran's Day I post this excerpt published in 2007 at Hot-Psychology.


When I worked in a public inner city school, we had a diverse ethnic population. One day, I received a new student from Thailand into my preschool class. I listened to a group of children at the playdough table discussing the new girl. One of the children said, “I think she is Chinese like me.”

“No, she is maybe from my country. Her hair is black like my hair,” said a little girl from Eritrea, Africa. Another child chimed in, “I know! She is Vietnamese; her eyes look like mine.”

I sat quietly and listened as the children continued their debate. It reminded me of times I have been in group situations. I attend educational seminars and I also facilitate at these events. I begin by asking teachers to observe other people in the room for a few minutes, and then I ask them to share what they have discovered. They usually do a head count and tell me how many people are in attendance. Typically, one by one they will begin to dissect the group by ethnicity, gender, age, hair color, even clothing. They seem confused when I smile and remain silent. I do not respond until the last observation is voiced. They are amazed when I make my own observations: “You are all human beings, all or most of you have hair, and you have eyes with which to see my teaching materials. All of you have ears with which to listen intently and learn something that you might impart to others. You are all able to speak, ask questions and share your information with me. Every single one of you have feelings that can be hurt or bolstered by what I say and do as your group leader.” They nod in agreement; most understand that I am trying to demonstrate the profound effect each of us has on others. I ask them to ponder a question: why is it that when we walk into a group, we immediately see our differences? The answer is simple; it is human nature to be a bit egocentric and ethnocentric. I remind them to treat others as they would want to be treated - with respect and compassion.

Nine years ago, I attended my grandson’s preschool graduation. The children pledged allegiance to the flag and sang a patriotic song. A nice gesture, perhaps a policy instituted after 9/11, not necessarily part of a typical preschool curriculum, I thought to myself as the kids sang memorized words. I wondered exactly what the youngsters understood as they belted out unfamiliar phrases: “My Country ‘t is of Thee, sweet land of liberty … let freedom ring.”

I remembered that child in my own classroom who said, “You guys are all wrong! I know what she is; she’s JUST a girl.”

If only we could all see one another as just a boy or girl, just a man or woman. After all, people are people. It’s not skin color, ethnicity or religion that makes one bad or good; it’s their actions.

Now, I completely understand why my grandson’s teacher taught her students the Pledge of Allegiance and that patriotic song. We do live in one nation, under God...

As Americans practice their constitutional rights to freedom of expression we unite on different sides of the immigration issue. Our country - land of the free and home of the brave - stands divided. Our government needs to get some things straightened out. In the meantime, we should all try to treat others as we want to be treated.


Lynn said...

Nice post Linda!

Karen Lange said...

Yes we should. Things would be a lot more pleasant if this were the case all the time.
Happy weekend,

Chatty Crone said...

WOuldn't that be a wonderful world if we did that? sandie

Anonymous said...

Oh, Linda--this reminds me so much of my middle child's 3rd birthday. She very much wanted a particular doll that was advertised as being able to do something--walk or talk or something (I can't remember). Anyway, it came in two versions: African American and Caucasian. When Beth opened that present, she was so disappointed, she began to cry. "I wanted the one who looks like me!" she said. We were baffled until we realized the one who "looked like her" was the African American doll because she had dark brown eyes and curly hair, like Beth's. The light-skinned doll had blue eyes and straight blonde hair. Beth had focused on what she had in common with the brown-eyed doll, rather than what was different. Out of the mouths of babes! Of course, we exchanged the doll the next day.

Linda O'Connell said...

Thanks for your comments Lynn, Karen and Sandie.

Linda O'Connell said...

That is a sweet story about your daughter. Kids can teach adults a thing or two sometimes.

Sioux Roslawski said...

What a great post. During my early years of teaching my parents would ask, "How many white kids are in your class?" (I was teaching at a school with a predominantly African-American population) and I would have to visualize my class, student by student, and count them off in my head. My parents stopped asking; to me, they are just students.