Zero Tolerance?

6 March 2021

For home-learning last week, my little daughter was asked to research historical events about the 1st March.  It was an interesting activity that stimulated a lot of conversation at home (did you know that Henri Becquerel discovered radioactivity on 1st March 1869?) and I was so pleased to see the value and enjoyment that she was clearly getting from doing it.  Wouldn’t it be great if all learning was like that?

Whilst conducting her research, and wonderfully off-task, my daughter wanted to share with me that 1st March is was Zero Discrimination Day.  I learned a long time ago that there is a special Day for just about everything you could care for if you search the internet, and I was just about to steer her back on track when I caught myself (which doesn’t happen often) and asked her why she wanted to tell me about it.  

“Well, sometimes it might be good to discriminate”.  

My daughter is only 8 and she is not known for her philosophy (nor me to be fair), but I thought that that was a pretty interesting observation.  I’ll come back to it…

For information, Zero Discrimination Day is an annual day celebrated on 1 March each year by the United Nations and other international organizations to highlight the urgent need to take action to end the inequalities surrounding income, sex, age, health status, occupation, disability, sexual orientation, drug use, gender identity, race, class, ethnicity and religion that continue to persist around the world.  Discrimination and inequalities are closely intertwined.   Today, we are seeing this played out globally in what some commentators are calling ‘vaccine apartheid’.  So, as far as international days go, I think this one should get a little bit more of my attention than Star Trek Day (September 8th) or Star Wars Day (May the 4th!

Back to my daughter…  “What do you mean it might be good to discriminate?”, I asked.  “Well, sometimes we need to do things to help certain people and not others.  Like when they don’t have the things we have.  Then it is OK.”

In her own way, she was trying to explain that there is a place for positive discrimination.  And I think she’s right.  Tackling inequality is, for me, as critical as taking on climate change.  But I don’t think we can do this with just warm hearts and words – positive action, discriminatory if need be, will be needed if we are committed to a peaceful and sustainable future.  

At school this week, I have been learning about some of the extraordinary work different student groups are leading to make a difference.  These are positive action groups that are directed at addressing global inequalities – from Voices for Refugees to Write for Rights (and many more Global Concerns groups), our students are motivated to fight discrimination and inequality. 

There is nothing ‘ZERO’ about what they are doing.  They are truly amazing.

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