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Teaching respect and tolerance in schools

7 May 2018

Since its creation, NPNS has been working to educate the younger generations about equality, respect and tolerance. Since #MeToo, this is a subject that is now widely discussed, and these exchanges are now actively sought out.

NPNS offers a framework for the young people it meets to: make them talk, listen to each other, understand each other’s experiences, those of girls, boys, the young people who will make the world of tomorrow.

Debate, express yourself

We decide to start this dialogue in a high school of the 19th district of Paris. For the first hour, we identify our prejudices. Young people are invited to define a man and a woman by giving us the first word that comes to mind. Their answers for men: virile, beard, immature, son of a bitch, mystery. The tone is set.

For women, we hear: mother, make-up, elegant, cleaning. “That’s rubbish!” someone shouts. The majority do not recognize these collective definitions which were given spontaneously. The debate is open: together, we speak, we question, we express ourselves on our experiences. “What annoys me…”, “Often we say stuff like that when in reality it’s no longer the case…” After an hour of free speech, the sentence: “Yeah, but I don’t really agree with you there. That’s not sexism.”

Listen, deconstruct

This is the moment to intervene and draw attention to the heart of the issue: listening. Between the girls and the boys, they agree on a few questions they would like to ask the other sex. It is an opportunity to reflect on the experience of the other sex that we do not have, on all these reactions that we do not understand. Face to face, the groups question each other, answer each other. This is not a confrontation but an attentive exchange.

“How do you feel when you get hassled on the street?”

“When do you feel assaulted?”

“Did it ever feel like you suppress your feelings because you’re a boy?”

“When do you know if you’re in love?”

Answers are provided by two or three people from each group. Nobody is allowed to comment or to react to what is said. It’s the hardest thing to listen to the other’s words without judging, without commenting, without reacting right away, simply listening to what the other person has to tell you. In this attentive silence, the word takes on a particular importance. Young people are talking about aggression, fear in the street and sadness that they do not usually express for fear of looking weak. They open themselves up to reveal a little about their experience.

After an hour, the exercise ends. The participants are a little frustrated that they were not able to react and a little surprised by some of what was said. But above all everyone listened and everyone leaves having understood one thing: to define themselves only as a girl or boy is reductive. On the contrary, we are individuals, all different: that’s the real human wealth, and that’s what merits respect.

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