Tolerance, Peace, and Value Systems

“It may seem naively idealistic, but I know that as long as we can imagine a better tomorrow, we can work towards a better tomorrow.”

–James Orbinski, An Imperfect Offering

 About two weeks ago I had a session with my students on stereotypes and how we should not act on them in order to avoid prejudiced behavior. It was very interesting to hear the types of stereotypes they had about particular groups of people. But after we listed those perceptions, we dissected where they had gotten the information from, how reliable such sources are, and how the best way to analyze someone is to get to know them. I think it was a very important lesson to children, especially when oftentimes in Ghana, their perception of foreigners comes from television and movies, which are not the best sources of information. To end the session, I divided the students into groups and they were asked to make a poster promoting peace and tolerance in Ghana. These were the resulting posters:

Group 1's poster depicted modern Ghana and traditional Ghana coming together
Group 2's poster focused on building friendships
Group 3's poster focused on peace and unity
Group 4 had the winning poster. It took a look at different tribes working together, unity, loving others, and did a great job of encompassing all the parts of the session
Group 5 focused on unity as strength and friendship bringing together a nation
A special poster done by one student represented how tolerance leads to joy and peace

In continuation of the discussion on differences between individuals, this past Thursday the session focused on how value systems are formed. Values were explained to the students through the use of the Alligator River Story. The story is first read to the students, and while it is being read, each student ranks the characters in the order from who they think is the worst in the story to the least offensive in action. Then they got into groups and discussed their rankings, and tried to reach a group decision on a ranking. The discussion within the groups and the class discussion that followed led students to see how people’s rankings of characters was a commentary on many of their values of what they think is more important in what people do. Here is the story. I hope people will comment on this post and share their own rankings of the individuals with a brief explanation on why they chose that order:


There lived a woman named Abigail who was in love with a man named Gregory. Gregory lived on the shore of a river. Abigail lived on the opposite shore of the same river. The river that separated the two lovers was teeming with dangerous alligators. Abigail wanted to cross the river to be with Gregory. Unfortunately, the bridge had been washed out by a heavy flood the previous week. So she went to ask Sinbad, a riverboat captain, to take her across. He said he would be glad to if she would consent to go to bed with him prior to the voyage. She promptly refused and went to a friend named Ivan to explain her plight. Ivan did not want to get involved at all in the situation. Abigail felt her only alternative was to accept Sinbad’s terms. Sinbad fulfilled his promise to Abigail and delivered her into the arms of Gregory.

When Abigail told Gregory about her amorous escapade in order to cross the river, Gregory cast her aside with disdain. Heartsick and rejected, Abigail turned to Slug with her tale of woe. Slug, feeling compassion for Abigail, sought out Gregory and beat him brutally. Abigail was overjoyed at the sight of Gregory getting his due. As the sun set on the horizon, people heard Abigail laughing at Gregory.


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