Thursday, December 15, 2016

Ten-year-olds tackle ‘The Lie’ of demeaning stereotypes in video

Video source:  Washington Post

Albert Schweitzer (I believe it was in the "Teaching of Reverence for Life") wrote that we do harm to children -- and to our world -- when we encourage them to "grow out of" their natural early idealism.  When I circulated this video made by children speaking up against hate, Pansy Gee, recently retired teacher of 10-year-olds, sent this spontaneously eloquent and hopeful response:

I am pleasantly not surprised by the kids' reactions.  For the most part, kids are open- minded, blind to skin color, tolerant, and much more loving of their fellow man than adults.     The indignant reactions of children, when confronted with issues of prejudice or stereotypes is the one of the truest forms of social justice and  hope for the future.  It is when the adults in their lives deem that children are "old enough" to be "taught" about the "real world" that they begin to conform to their parents' world.  It is why I chose most of the books I did.  I wanted to open those lines of communication.  Sometimes I was not well liked by the parents. 

Reading those books about the prejudices of post-civil war times in Mildred Taylor's Friendship, the way the Okies were treated in California as depicted in the Cobblestone Magazine, or issues of personal freedom in The Giver and the discussions that ensued are what I miss about the classroom.  I am not just another adult voice that perhaps the kids would listen to.  I hope I am encouraging open minds, blindness to skin color, tolerance and love (or at least respect) for all. If children learned to read, write and talk skillfully and understand that we don't all have to agree on everything, their community, our world would be a bit more sane.  I hope teachers see the importance of reading REAL texts about REAL issues and give the boys and girls the opportunity to not just know the material, but to wrestle with it.  It's good to let them think through and struggle with the problems of their world. Teachers should give them chances to form opinions and to stand on the knowledge they're learning as support. Every teacher should have a classroom community where ideas are encouraged and can be exchanged safely, where minds can change more than once and no matter what-- as a class we care about each other! 

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