Intolerance by what we hope was only a small group of parents earned Bristol an embarrassing national spotlight this week as the cancellation of an educational presentation for a 7th grade class by a Muslim woman gained national attention on news sites like CNN and Time Magazine.
The lesson, planned to “dispel misconceptions” about the Islamic faith for a social studies class at Northeast Middle School, was canceled after angry comments surfaced on social media, complaints were filed with the Bristol Public Schools superintendent, and school leaders became concerned about the safety of children and teachers.
The presentation, and a future one planned about Judaism, was to be a part of a series on world religions – a teaching moment intended not to proselytize but to promote understanding. But the naysayers couldn’t seem to understand that people with differences could live side by side - peacefully.
Let’s start by saying that we know these people don’t represent most citizens of Bristol. The few who slammed the door on learning are a minority themselves, but a vocal one, unfortunately - one whose prejudices have deprived children of an opportunity to gain knowledge about their neighbors.
We are sorry to see that the schools bowed to their poison because history has taught us that ignorance partners with bigotry, while knowledge leads to understanding. But, of course, we understand that the first consideration for school leaders has to be the safety of their students.
The good news? There are plans to sponsor a communitywide discussion with representatives of many religious groups, plans that, we hope, will lead to greater acceptance for every child and every family.
Unless, of course, the bigots cling to their ignorance and stay home.