Is it too early to teach kids about social justice?
by Tuesday Vanstory
Is it too early to teach kids about social justice? I don’t think so. It comes down to a discussion about what’s fair and what isn’t. It comes down to how people treat each other and treating each other the way we want to be treated — with care and kindness. It is a discussion about equality.
The engine of the preschool curriculum at Friends School Haverford is the Social Curriculum. This includes respecting ourselves and others, taking turns, asking if we can use something when another is done, making sure to use kind words, making sure to include others in our play, etc. This preschool curriculum serves as a natural foundation for our Social Justice Unit, which focused on fairness, inclusion, and community. Of course, these ideas are regarded as important in the Quaker tradition. It points to the Quaker belief that there is that of G-d in everyone.
We begin our unit with The Berenstain Bears book called, No Girls Allowed, and we explore non-fiction picture books about Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Wangari Maathai, and other moral giants of our time. We make the lessons accessible by role-playing some of the stories.
When our preschoolers learned about segregation on buses, or schools where kids didn’t have what they needed, they knew that wasn’t right. Preschoolers intuitively understand fairness. We discussed whether or not unfair rules should be changed. We discussed things that we could do to change unfair rules. Some kids said that they would get mad. Some kids said they could make their own things. Some kids wanted to make rules fair. We discussed how many people try to change unfair rules, and that if something is wrong, they need to fight using their words, and not with their hands when others can get hurt. As people have done in the past and still do, we made signs and went on a march to show the world that we stand for peace and friendship.
To round out our unit of study, we listen to music from the civil rights era, and view artwork and photographs of the figures we discuss.
So is it too early to teach kids about social justice? I can’t think of a better time to start.