Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dreidel diversity

I must admit, I tend to be a bit skeptical of schools' diversity rhetoric. Don't get me wrong; it is the rhetoric I have issue with, not the diversity itself. I think diversity in our schools is hugely important and it's a big part of what made northwest London such an attractive place for us to live and educate our children. But I don't believe that carefully stacking a classroom with two of each colour, as the independent schools seem wont to do here, adequately addresses the issue in and of itself. Such careful class assignments provide schools with indisputable evidence (right there in black and white) that they embrace diversity, but I sometimes wonder whether that somehow lets those schools off the hook where actually providing a culturally broad curriculum is concerned.

This week, however, I saw an example of diversity at its best in Julia's classroom. On the final day of Chanukah, several mothers came into school to teach the class about the history and traditions of the holiday. Well over a third of Julia's classmates are Jewish, so the Maccabees' story and the lighting of the menorah was old hat to many of the children. But not a one save her friend Yuki knew how to make an origami dreidel until his Japanese mother arrived alongside the Jewish mums with white, blue, gold and purple paper squares in hand. Julia came home from school that day bubbling over with excitement about her new Chanukah crafting skill. And I began to think that maybe the simple act of bringing people of different backgrounds and cultures together in a classroom does a lot more good than I'd ever realized.


Blogger Steph said...

Oooh! I want to learn to make an origami dreidel! The ones we made in M's classroom (where she is the *only* Jewish child) were edible ones made from marshmallows. :)

7:19 PM  
Blogger Patois said...

Amen! And I'll take one of those origami dreidels, please.

8:11 PM  
Blogger Badness Jones said...

That's a great story....and what a great class for Julia to be in.

11:04 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

An origami dreidel! That is fantastic. And yes, I do think that sometimes just bringing people together to see what unfolds (ha! my pun!) is enough. What fun!

4:20 AM  
Blogger denzylle said...

In your entry of November 28, 2006, it sounded as if Julia's beliefs were being sidelined as her (then)class celebrated all things Xmas and and only 'observed' Chanukah with a menorah in a corner of the clasroom, and I remember I made a suggestion along the lines of inviting Jewish parents into the classroom to talk about your celebration.

So, so much has changed in twelve months! Not only is Julia ina class with many other Jewish children, but parents *are* coming into share their celebration.

And such a plus that the children are able to share their own experiences with those from other cultures, too, such as the origami dreidel.

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Gretchen said...

So. Cool. Love you, Yuki's mum and dad.

I thought of you today -- I was in Target in the checkout line and there was a woman and her daughter in line behind me, and I heard the woman saying in unmistakably London tones "That's dollars, now, not dollarpounds." I turned to her and said "Expat, or naturalized?" and she smiled and said "No, vacation." And I told her in passing about you. She sends you her best.

1:11 AM  
Blogger Victoria said...

Sounds wonderful!

2:21 AM  

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