I'm writing today to talk about an important issue - discrimination and tolerance on italki.
We started italki to help people learn a foreign language from people around the world. Our deep hope was that italki would become a bridge that could connect people from different places and different backgrounds. By learning a foreign language, people would be exposed to different life perspectives, and have more empathy with people around the world.
Given the cultural diversity in the world, you would expect that people from different places have very different values. What may seem normal or acceptable in one society may be abnormal or unacceptable in another. These differences are not trivial -- they are real, and they go to the core of what we believe and who we are.
However, at italki, we believe that everyone must be open to those discussions. We want our users and teachers to make connections, and to include people that they wouldn't usually associate with. You don't have to agree with someone's values in order to speak with them or to teach them your language.
Unfortunately, we've seen that some people are not open to this idea. This problem is important enough that we have decided to make a statement from the company.
At italki, it is unacceptable to discriminate against someone due to their race, color, national or ethnic origin, age, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender, or any other characteristic.
For teachers on italki, it is not acceptable to refuse to teach a student based on these characteristics.
Being against discrimination is required for all of our users, but most of all, our teachers. Teachers on italki have a special responsibility -- they are guides for their students, they are an example of their country and society, and they are also unofficial representatives of italki. By discriminating against students, those teachers destroy those bridges we are trying to build.
By having these discussions, we are certainly NOT saying that a student or a teacher must accept a political, cultural, or societal perspective they disagree with. However, as a teacher, you must be willing to teach someone who might have different values than you. As a student, you must be willing to have a respectful discussion with someone that does not have the same standards, beliefs, or attitudes as someone from your country. People can and will disagree, and we must learn to do so with sensitivity and respect.
We are not saying it is easy, but we are saying that it is necessary. We don't want italki to be a place of discrimination and intolerance. italki is a place to teach and learn a language, to share your culture, and to learn more about the world and the 7 billion people who live in it. Those 7 billion people will naturally disagree on many important issues -- but I sincerely hope that we can, at least, agree to learn from each other.
Thanks again to all of our users, students, and teachers. We will do our best to support all of you, who are working to build those bridges around the world.