Clash of Values: What to Do?

Leah McLarenThe many religious celebrations this month remind me that we live a very diverse society. In this blog over the last few months we have discussed some of the challenges of living/working/teaching in a multicultural society. I (Clare) read Leah McLaren’s fascinating article When Multiculturalism Tests Our Moral Relativism in the Globe and Mail. http://v1.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/HTMLTemplate?cf=common/MiniHub.cfg&configFileLoc=config&hub=leahMcLaren&tf=columnists/Summary.html&title=Leah_McLaren
McLaren writes about an incident with her neighbor when her stepson oversteps the best friend’s family’s values. (The incident between the two little boys involves bum bums.) She talks about the problem of “parenting in a multicultural environment” which “tests our moral relativism. It reveals the wildly different ways most of us struggle to make sure our children end up as good people. The question is, good according to whose rules?” McLaren and the neighbor eventually achieve “an uneasy truce over tea and biscuits.” She says “privately, we will each adhere to our own rules. And in public we will try our best to get along.”
Like McLaren I faced the clash of values when I was a classroom teacher. The first time one of my first grade pupils told that he was not going to clean up the paint centre because that was women’s work I became painfully aware of the difference between my values and his family’s values. (I also had a flash of anger!) As a classroom teacher I had my class rules – everyone is responsible for the smooth running of the classroom. What do we do as teachers do when a parent tells us that education is not for girls? Or boys do not need to help with maintaining the classroom. As a new professor a student teacher announced to the class that as teachers we should tell our pupils that homosexuality is a sin and that gays are going to hell. (That was truly one of the most difficult teaching moments in my long career.) Responding to others who hold very different views from my own is not easy. McLaren does a great job of finding a solution but as a society we need to keep exploring “solutions.” Tea and biscuits are a good place to start the discussion but working through the next knotty steps requires imagination, flexibility, openness to others, patience, knowledge, and a sense of humour. (I highly recommend McLaren’s excellent article.)

 

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