Teaching about religious extremism can be challenging, but not teaching about it may sow seeds of intolerance. This toolkit for "Extreme Prejudice" is an activity that teaches students about religious diversity and that extremists—in any religion—represent a small minority of people.
There are two big ideas for students to take away from this activity. First, extremists represent a small minority of people within any given religion. Second, extremism is not unique to any one belief system.
- What is religious extremism?
- What does religious extremism look like across diverse belief systems?
- Decide how you want students to work. This activity can be done individually, with a partner or in small groups.
- Decide what you want the product to be. It can be kept simple using the graphic organizer provided in this toolkit. Or, students can showcase their research by creating slideshows, writing essays or designing informational brochures or posters.
- Select a number of religions that you want students to focus on. For example, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Taoism, Confucianism and Sikhism.
Note: You may want to leave Islam off the list, as images of Islamic extremism saturate the media. Or, you can model the lesson using Islam as your example.
- Spend time developing a definition of religious extremism. (You can draw on the definition provided in “Extreme Prejudice.”) Emphasize that the majority of people, in any religion, do not hold extremist beliefs. Religious extremists are on the fringes.
- Assign students a religion to research. You can have students choose, you can choose for them, or you can have them select randomly from slips of paper.
- Explain to students that their task is to research and report on historical and contemporary examples of extremism within their assigned religion.
- Provide students with copies of the graphic organizer and a resource from the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding: “World Religions Fact Sheet.”
- Arrange time for students to conduct their research. This might be in the classroom, in a computer lab or library, or as homework.
- Have students conduct research in the four areas on the graphic organizer.
- Have students present their findings to the class.
- Allow time for Q&A and discussion.
- Take notes on knowledge gaps and misconceptions that you need to address in future lessons.
- Allow time for students to reinvestigate ideas that surfaced during the Q&A.
- Build the two big ideas (at the start of this activity) into your assessment to check for student understanding.