Education harnesses empathy, compassion, diversity

Harnessing the power of education allows us to foster and develop empathy, compassion and understanding for diversity and difference. Only by teaching these values can we hope to stop hatred in its tracks. We must lead by example making sure that these values are taught at all levels in our education system. This includes not only elementary, junior and senior high schools but also continuing education programs that are offered by any of the Toronto school boards. Together we can create safer places for our students and for our communities.

On June 20th in a by-election held for Toronto Centre-Rosedale I was elected Trustee for the Toronto District School Board. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who contributed and helped me in my campaign to make a difference at the School Board. I am honoured by the trust the community has given me and I promise to be a strong progressive voice to the Board representing students, parents and the community at large. To those who voted for me thank you. To those who didn’t I will prove my worth over my tenure on the Board.

While the campaign showed what we can achieve together and how we can make a difference the last days of the campaign were marred by the tragedy of the murder of 49 people and the wounding of another 54 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida on June 12th. The attack on so many young people gathered together in a safe place by someone who wanted to vent his homophobia reminds we need to be vigilant in our battle against hatred and ignorance.

I am proud not only of the response from our community, including the candlelight vigil on the night after the attack and a later one at Nathan Phillips Square but also how similar vigils were held around the world to honour the victims of the attack. It is promising that so many people came together recognizing the tragedy of an attack fuelled by the hatred of one man. Sadly, incidents like the attack on Pulse remind us that there is still so much work that needs to be done addressing issues of hatred and violence. In the face of such violence we must stand together showing not only solidarity with the victims of such crimes but also that any acts of violence fuelled by hatred will not be tolerated in our communities.

We know that hatred, racism, xenophobia and homophobia are learned and that we come into this world without them. Those who invoke them do so because of ignorance and fear of what they do not understand or what they do not know. In order to create a society in which hatred will find no place to grow we need to invest in education. Educating the young in turn educates the world making them better citizens. The old adage that knowledge is power is especially true when it comes to teaching tolerance, acceptance and love. The only way to stop hatred in its tracks is to catch it early and give it no chance to root and grow.

Harnessing the power of education allows us to foster and develop empathy, compassion and understanding for diversity and difference. Only by teaching these values can we hope to stop hatred in its tracks. We must lead by example making sure that these values are taught at all levels in our education system. This includes not only elementary, junior and senior high schools but also continuing education programs that are offered by any of the Toronto school boards. Together we can create safer places for our students and for our communities.

Over the past few years we have seen how a concerted campaign to stem bullying in our schools has begun to make a difference in the lives of our children. We need to step up our efforts across the Board addressing hatred in all of its virulent forms by applying the anti-bulling strategies that we developed in our school system. This includes giving students the tools to help them face everything they will encounter in life as adults.

Part of a concerted educational program against hatred needs to include sex education that addresses issues of homophobia, transphobia, gender binaries and the diversity of sexual and gender expression that exists across the globe. While fundamentalists fear that teaching about gender and sexuality undermines their religious values, in a secular system learning about others is no more different than learning about different countries in geography or studying different species in biology. Giving students the tools to recognize and address hatred in their own lives will make the world a better place for us all.

Our strength comes from each other. If we take the chance to learn from each other and foster love rather than hatred anything is possible. Together we can all make the world a better place.