My kids are so lucky.
They go to a school where about 90 per cent of the students are from non-English-speaking backgrounds.
Having kids from so many different backgrounds makes everything more interesting. Show and tell. Dress-up days. Class presentations about family, home and holidays. My son and daughter have friends whose parents are from Iran, Lebanon, India, Afghanistan and more. They’ve learnt lots about different cultures without ever travelling overseas.
Having kids from so many different backgrounds means that little differences don’t matter so much. Before I sent my children to school, I worried that other kids might make fun of their unusual names or the odd things they ate for lunch. But with such a variety of names and such a variety of foods in lunchboxes, my children don’t stand out. Different is normal.
But the thing I like best about my son and daughter going to school with kids from so many different backgrounds is that they don’t even think about it. There’s no “us and them”. They’re all just kids.
I remember my daughter once pointing out a friend’s father, saying he looked like my brother. I couldn’t see the resemblance, because all I could see was the difference in skin colour, but she was talking about the glasses.
I know that my kids will grow up without prejudice. I know that no politicians or shock jocks or rabid right-wing columnists will ever be able to make them fear people from a different ethnic or religious background. Chances are, they went to school with kids from that background. When they hear “Muslim”, they’ll just think of their friend and her nice mum and dad.
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I know that my kids will never be the kind of people who come out with slogans like “F*** off we’re full”, because people who say those things are really just thinking, “I’m scared of you because you look different.”
Schools are meant to teach kids a lot of things. There are always arguments about what they do teach and how they teach it, reading and writing and maths. But that’s the kind of stuff my kids could learn if I home schooled them.
To me, one of the most important things kids can learn by going to school is to get along with other people – that not everyone is exactly like them, but they can still work together. It’s not part of the curriculum, but it certainly helps them become better adults.
When I go to pick up my kids from school, sometimes I find myself marvelling at the mini United Nations running around the schoolyard. But I know my kids will look at the same group of students and just see their friends.
Like I said, they’re lucky.
Do your kids go to a school where there's a lot of ethnic diversity?