Arthur Coaching Ponder Question:

shutterstock_118972225How can I coach students to respond to others with empathy and respect?

Georges Petitjean

Founder, Arthur Coaching

Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people.

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VALUING DIVERSITY

shutterstock_118972225There is a great deal of intolerance in the world today. Not just on a global scale, in war zones and the Islamic State. Not only in national and local pockets of anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic activities reported in the media, either. There is evidence of everyday sexism, ageism, racism, intolerance and other disrespect of differences, in all walks of life.

How can we encourage young people to tolerate and respect diversity or difference?

Our identities have various characteristics, including: gender, ethnicity, race, language, sexual orientation, family composition, relationship status, religion or belief system and socioeconomic status. These characteristics can be used to define us; to differentiate or categorise us – and to create an impression of our identities based on what is ‘known’. However, these impressions are also informed by what we don’t know – our assumptions, bias or prejudice.

A 2014 survey in the United States from the Pew Research Center measured ‘familiarity’ and ‘warmness’ toward certain religious/non-religious groups. The “warmest” ratings went to Jews, Catholics and evangelical Christians. But Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, Buddhists and atheists received “colder, more negative” ratings.  This survey also reports that a person knowing someone personally from a certain group gives them more positive views of that group; whilst not knowing anyone from that group leads to more negative impressions and opinions. Again, if not actual fear of the unknown, this certainly suggests distrust or wariness of unknown groups.

Playground bullying, prejudice and gang rivalry, like terrorism and war, are signs of intolerance. People are taught to fear things that are different, or unknown. This results in responses ranging from ignorance and rudeness to ridicule and violence. Yet, differences add to the richness and diversity of our world. What if everyone learned that ‘difference’ is natural? With respect, understanding and acceptance, it could be embraced.

If racism, sexism and general disrespect are not addressed, meaningful society cannot exist. When young people make comments that are ‘off’, we should offer constructive criticism and different ways of thinking, rather than just complaining or admonishing them. Our reaction will help build sensitivity and respect and can prevent the young person from being defensive. Instead of using a judgmental word or statement, they might simply notice, “That’s different.”

If every child grew up accepting that every single person has equal rights – how different would the world be?

Georges Petitjean

Founder, Arthur Coaching

Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people.

Charlie or Not Charlie? #IamCharlie

shutterstock_141073798After the terrible attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, many people on social media are saying in support: ‘Je suis Charlie’.

Charlie Hebdo cartoonist, Renald ‘Luz’ Luzier escaped the massacre in which 12 were killed, because he was late for work. He wept as he told reporters, “The terrorists, they were kids: they drew just like we did, just like all children do. At one point, they lost their sense of humour. At one point, they lost the soul of their child which allowed them to look at the world with a certain distance.”

Despite radical interpretations, the Qu’ran preaches religious tolerance (109:1-6): “Say: O unbelievers! I do not serve that which you serve, Nor do you serve Him Whom I serve: Nor am I going to serve that which you serve, Nor are you going to serve Him Whom I serve: You shall have your religion and I shall have my religion.”

Charlie Hebdo lives on, despite the terrorists’ attempts, still standing for freedom of expression and advocating tolerance. The cover of the “survivor’s edition” shows the prophet Mohammed, weeping, holding a sign saying: “Je suis Charlie” and “All is forgiven.” Luzier said, of his new cartoon, “I’m sorry we’ve drawn him yet again, but the Mohammad we’ve drawn is just a little guy who’s crying. He is much nicer than the one followed by the gunmen.”

I support the right to free speech. I also believe in practising that right responsibly and respectfully. There is great value in respecting other people’s opinions, even if they challenge us; even if we disagree. The right to disagree, however, does not mean the right to kill. While free speech means that I can say what I want, I do think about the impact of my words – and how others will feel, whether or not they share my belief system.

When I speak, I don’t want to be part of the problem; I want to be part of the solution. I want to help people. I want Islam, Christianity, Judaism and the whole of society to be open, inclusive, democratic and liberated. Free speech is fundamentally essential to that. So is respect. Both can exist together.

Freedom of speech is deeply and historically ingrained in French values. Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity are personal, social and constitutional rights in a democratic world. They are words for us all to live by, in a tolerant world.

Some Muslims – including Imams – were offended by Charlie Hebo’s cartoons. After the tragedy, the same Imams were shocked by the violence, reminding people on TV that you should only fight words with words, and encouraging Muslims to attend the rally in memory of Charlie Hebdo.

If I am Charlie, and you are not – it’s all good.

Georges Petitjean

Founder, Arthur Coaching

Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people.