In 2000 a Polish graphic designer submitted an image to an international art competition sponsored by the ‘Museum on the Seam for Dialogue, Understanding and Coexistence’. The image is pictured on the right of this page. From there the image has been shared internationally. The message is simultaneously simple and profound.
United States International University, a small, private college in San Diego California, has a student body of under 4000 students representing over 100 countries worldwide. The mission statement of the organization includes the goal of “world peace through relationships.”
Inclusive, non-judgmental attitudes and behaviors germinate in a child’s early years. The practice of embracing cultural sensitivity and respect for all begins in early childhood. The environment in an early learning center is vital in shaping the lifelong values a child will adopt over a lifetime. These values are shaped by the lessons taught in the early learning center’s curriculum and the modeling of the adults teaching and caring for them.
James’ Place is fortunate to have a powerful early childhood curriculum developed for teaching children values associated with inclusion, diversity, communication, empathy, conflict resolution,peer relationships and the meaning of belonging. Funded by T. Denny Sanford, ‘Sanford Harmony is a comprehensive learning tool that is available at no cost to schools and childcare centers. With picture book stories and classroom activities curriculum centers around “Z”, a gender neutral, culturally neutral and age neutral being who appears whose rocket ship from outer space lands in a neighborhood where human children are playing. ‘Z’ and the children explore their differences and discover the many ways they are alike despite being from totally different cultures with ‘Z’ ultimately developing a sense of belonging and commonality,
At James’ Place we are fortunate in having a strong international program populated by children whose families originated in Mexico, South America, India, Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries as well as children of Native American and African American descent. The children do not realize that they are learning inclusion, non-judgment, tolerance and respect for the values and customs of others. Nor are they affected by the variations in skin pigment and physical characteristics. They are simply learning to share, take turns, cooperate and resolve conflicts in a setting in which a variety of value systems and cultural mores are represented. Therefore, a world of cultural diversity, tolerance and mutual respect is normal for them. Unremarkable. Ho-Hum. A culturally diverse staff reinforces the experience.
Having the opportunity to experience a culturally diverse, inclusive environment at an age where childrens’ brains are developing lays the foundation for these future leaders to infuse these values into the very fabrics of their beings. Imprinted at an early age this experience becomes a part of who these children become as people, rather than discrete actions they may take. Unconsciously it will permeate their lifestyles and affect how they will raise their children. The effects have the potential to be far reaching not only over their lifetimes but for generations to come. A great hope for world peace in the future.