An Educator’s Responsibility to Stand Up Against Exclusion, Prejudice, and Injustice

As an educator, it is imperative to be a role model for students, inform them about human rights, and support them in developing ways to enact change in their environment. Teaching young children about human rights and fundamental freedoms helps them to understand that all people should be treated equally.  Although unfortunately, people are often not treated this way in our society (Struthers, 2016).

Struthers (2016) said, “HRE (Human Rights Education) is important not only for allowing people to recognize rights violations in their own lives, but also empowering them to stand up for their own rights and for the rights of others” (p. 131). This notion of standing up against injustice is important to instill in children, as they are more capable of understanding complex issues than some adults give them credit for. Struthers (2016) mentioned that “…particularly in the modern Information Age where ‘media images in such a readily accessible global age allow young children to see [controversial] issues, and…they are keen to discuss and try to understand them’” (p. 145). If children are already being exposed to a world of prejudice, injustice, and exclusion, it is important that educators help them to make sense of it all and encourage students to reflect on ways people can work towards changing a system of oppression. Although Human Rights Education can appear to be a controversial topic, in order to see a cultural shift and awareness of these issues, we must start with educating children (Struthers, 2016).

Related to Human Rights Education, Storms (2013) writes about the importance of Social Justice Education. Storms (2013) states: “SJE (Social Justice Education) examines the impact that power, privilege, and social oppression have on social groups and promotes social and political action as a means to gain equity all citizens” (p. 33). Social Justice Education promotes critical thinking and reflection while promoting social action (Storms, 2013). Action is an important piece to consider when educating students; one cannot expose students to the downfalls and inequalities of our society without helping them discovers ways to work together to enact change.

It is also the responsibility of teachers to choose appropriate and factual texts from a variety of sources and authors. Issues such as oppression and racism, must not be presented from only one viewpoint. When children are only exposed to one way of thinking, they are not able to think critically about subject matter (Struthers, 2016).

Lastly, it is important for teachers to promote an environment of unity and inclusion. Poplin and Rivera (2013) write that it is crucial to teach about diversity without excluding or demonizing groups of people. This can be reflected in a classroom environment by creating a room where symbols of equality and cultures are displayed. This type of inclusive environment can help children to feel comfortable to be themselves and also helps to create a sense of togetherness.

References

Poplin, M., & Rivera, J. (2005). Merging Social Justice and Accountability: Educating Qualified and Effective Teachers. Theory Into Practice, 44(1), 27-37 doi:10.1207/s15430421tip4401_5

Storms, S. B. (2013). Preparing Teachers for Social Justice Advocacy. Multicultural Education, 20(2), 33-39.

Struthers, A. C. (2016). Human Rights: A Topic Too Controversial for Mainstream Education?. Human Rights Law Review, 16(1), 131-162. doi:10.1093/hrlr/ngv040

3 thoughts on “An Educator’s Responsibility to Stand Up Against Exclusion, Prejudice, and Injustice”

  1. Erin,

    I completely agree with you that we need to be role models for our students. I was also struck by your statement: “This notion of standing up against injustice is important to instill in children, as they are more capable of understanding complex issues than some adults give them credit for.” Not only do I concur with your claim, but I think this is something that we need all educators to understand in this day and age especially. Students are exposed to all sorts of different media, many appropriate and many inappropriate, so to treat them as unaware does them a disservice. According to Tony Jeffs (as cited in Struthers, 2016), “ignorance serves the interests of no party, and if teachers don’t believe in the intrinsic value of education as a force for good it is difficult to know what justification they have for their existence” (p. 157). Therefore, we should present students with facts about these issues and guide them toward an appropriate reaction without directly stating our implicit bias. While this is easier said than done, it is an important goal to which to strive.

    Furthermore, I support your idea that we can promote unity and inclusion by displaying symbols of equality and various cultures in the classroom. I think this is a great way to draw attention to this issues and raise student awareness. I also believe that having these symbols around the classroom could lead to a full class discussion if a student inquires of a symbol’s meaning. Through these kinds of discussion, educators can present important ideas about human rights and social justice, prompting students to form their own opinions. As a result, the students will become more aware of the world around them, and, as Struthers (2016) claims, “ensuring young learners are aware of the rights to which they are entitled is is also important for enabling them to recognize where those rights are not being met” (p. 136). This kind of awareness can lead students to become advocates for change. Therefore, it is important that we educate our students in a way that promotes inclusion, social justice, and human rights.

    References
    Struthers, A. C. (2016). Human Rights: A Topic Too Controversial for Mainstream Education?.
    Human Rights Law Review, 131-162.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erin,
      I love your argument about children being capable of understanding more than adults give them credit for. There seems to be this common fear and mindset that if we teach primary students about HRE at too young of an age, they will lose their innocence. I think that in today’s day and age where technology is so prevalent, children may have already been exposed to instances of injustices, exclusion, and prejudice, whether they are consciously aware of it or not. If educators do not implement HRE into their curriculum, then students will not be properly educated or informed on these important issues, nor will they be able to reflect on the ways they can help promote a positive change in society. Also, if teachers are too apprehensive to talk about issues pertaining to injustice, exclusion, and prejudice, that sends a strong message to students that those social issues are “taboo” and shouldn’t be talked about. Thus, we perpetuate the vicious cycle, as generations will continue to ignore the unsettling problems we have in society and no changes will be made.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Erin,

    I really liked when you said “It is also the responsibility of teachers to choose appropriate and factual texts from a variety of sources and authors. Issues such as oppression and racism, must not be presented from only one viewpoint.” I am currently reading a story with my class on human rights in Afghanistan. It is so eye opening for the students and they cannot even believe how unfair the laws are towards women, the boys especially. Using these texts is brings the real world to life for these students who don’t know much outside of their “bubble”. Using literacy to teach about social justice is a great idea!

    Like

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