As human beings, we all have our differences as much as we share similarities. Whether these are social, cultural, or economic differences, these are what shape us into unique individuals and should not be a reason to fear others or, worse, treat them unfairly.
In the Philippines alone, there are over 182 identified ethnic groups, each with their own sets of distinct cultures, histories, and languages. For a country with a multicultural landscape, compassion and sensitivity should ideally come naturally to us, even more now in an age where technology allows for information and connection with each other to be easily accessible.
However, as we would have it, there are still structures, norms, and values in our society that systematically oppress certain groups and hinder us from actually developing as a unified community.
Similarly, this is also experienced around the world. Even when they fully know that there are people outside of the cultures and societies that they were born into, many still consciously and methodically alienate and discriminate against them rather than celebrating them as fellow human beings. This kind of treatment towards others eventually leads to further conflicts on the local, national, and international levels that, although has historically been happening since the start of civilization, we cannot continue ignoring anymore.
Because of this, it is important that we proactively combat discrimination and redirect our society towards inclusive and equitable development. While there are efforts that are more focused towards addressing the different roots of the problem in the bigger society, even us ordinary people can also aid in fighting against discrimination by creating safe spaces in our smaller communities such as our classrooms and families. After all, change can start anywhere, including our own places.
Grace Calaustro’s “My Friends and I: We Are All One” is one of many emerging works that advocate for teaching children about appreciating people’s diverse backgrounds through language. Calaustro believes in the power of homes and schools as starting places for affecting change but more importantly the power of children’s education towards building a future and a society that is more accepting and inclusive of diversity.
In our modern society, it is rather easy for adults to overlook the children due to their age and naivety. However, children’s books such as “My Friends and I: We Are All One” understand children and education’s roles in our society, specifically their role in meaningfully and radically changing our society in the long run. The children are the future of society and instilling in them values such as inclusivity, sensitivity, compassion, and empathy early on will eventually build up to a society that also promotes these values on a larger scale.
It is important that we teach children very early on how to respect others’ cultural backgrounds as much as they respect their own because this can open many doors for further learning. It helps them understand themselves and others in relation to these cultures, broadens their perspectives and appreciation of the different facets of life, teaches them how to engage and connect with others meaningfully and respectfully with people despite their cultural backgrounds, but, most importantly, teaches them to see people from all walks of life as their fellow human beings which is something that adults these days tend to forget themselves.
In other words, educating the children on inclusivity and appreciating diverse cultural backgrounds through books such as, “My Friends and I: We Are All One” helps the next generation in addressing the current structures in our society that may disadvantage them or their peers. Teaching them about diversity and inclusivity starting from the home, the playground, or the classroom can help them see what the world can be when we dismantle the hurtful structures of discrimination in our society and how they themselves can help in dismantling these structures by having a more open-minded attitude towards our diversity and celebrating each other.
“My Friends and I: We Are All One” by Grace Calaustro is currently available on Bookshelf PH’s website.
By Divina Aloisa Tolentino