Essence of Acceptance
Essence of Acceptance is a project-based, service-learning curriculum for secondary schools that uses the power of the human voice and sharing of personal experiences to communicate important lessons of human rights. Through the process of taking oral histories from community members who have lost human and/or civil rights, students develop a deeper understanding of other cultures, perspectives, and histories.
This process helps young people understand the real and present consequences of human rights violations through direct interaction with those who have personally experienced them. By extension, students draw connections between these experiences and seemingly unrelated examples of intolerance in their own daily lives (e.g., students using the label “gay” as an insult) – leading them to be more vigilant about their own attitudes and those of their peers.
The Essence of Acceptance curriculum, which meets California state standards for Social Studies and Language Arts, is divided into four sections: Human Rights, Oral History, Interview, and Community:
Students study the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the human rights protections in the constitutions of multiple countries, which provide the academic framework for student exploration of the meaning of human rights. Students develop their own set of inviolable basic human rights which form the basis for their analysis and understanding of the subsequent oral histories they conduct.
Students learn “empathic listening” skills to interview community members who have suffered human rights violations. These listening and interviewing skills translate into not only a very practical skill set often missing in traditional school settings, but also invite the critical thinking process. Students learn to ask open-ended and follow-up questions, to pursue their curiosity, and to form opinions of their own.
Program organizers invite community members from diverse cultural and ethnic groups who have suffered a loss of human and/or civil rights into to the classroom to share their personal stories of discrimination and loss. Students learn to respectfully and formally take oral histories, and they honor interviewees by allowing them to share their story in a way that turns loss and tragedy into a powerful learning experience.Students gain first-hand cultural, geographic, and historical knowledge by interviewing people from around the world. Students at participating schools have interviewed community residents from countries such as China, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Eritrea, Guatemala, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Mexico, and Pakistan, as well as African Americans, Japanese Americans, Native Americans, and survivors of the Shoah/Holocaust.
Students respond to their oral history experience through social action as well as through various art forms, such as fine art, video, and creative writing. Students, teachers, and Listening for a Change each maintain a network of community groups who welcome student support. Students also share responsive art projects with the community at large in venues such as museums, libraries, schools, shopping centers, community events, and other public places. This gives young people the opportunity to contribute their own creative work and activism to the communities in which they live, something often missing in traditional school settings.
Due to the complexity of the subject matter, the Listening for a Change staff seek to provide training to help teachers implement the curriculum in the classroom. Please contact Listening for a Change for more information. Read the testimonials