As a society, we have a huge responsibility to stand up against exclusion, prejudice, and injustice. Although, as teachers, that responsibility grows as we are on the front lines of ensuring that the next generation is also able to stand up against these injustices. Allison Struthers (2016) states that teaching about human rights in our classrooms is “necessary for shaping the attitudes that will contribute to the building of a universal culture of human rights” (p. 132). It is easy for children to accept the things they hear around them about human rights, whether they be positive or negative, and turn them into their own thoughts and feelings on the topic. With this in mind, we need to ensure that we are also providing our students with accurate information about how exclusion, prejudice, and social injustices are all things that they need to be aware of everyday and that they can be the solution to these problems by using their voices and taking a stand against any type of oppression.
While it is important that we educate our students about how they can either continue to contribute to these problems our society has created or they can be the part of the solution, we also need to ensure that we are prepared to have these discussions and that we ourselves are educated enough on the topics of exclusion, prejudice, and injustice. Poplin and Rivera (2005) state that teachers must “understand, choose, and apply multiple pedagogical strategies in the teaching–learning process. This includes all pedagogies and learning theories from behaviorism to critical theory” (p. 31). It is important that teachers are aware of the different methods of teaching and how different methods may be necessary when discussing these topics with our students.
Once we know that the information we are teaching is accurate and represents the struggles of those who face exclusion, prejudice, and injustice each day then we are ready to have these talks with our students. The point of teaching about social justice issues is to, “increase students’ sociocultural consciousness and help them understand why change is necessary” (Storms, S. B., 2013, p. 34). In order for the society we live in today to make any type of changes, we need to ensure that our students understand the value of their voices and that they can make a change even at a young age.
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