I believe that educators naturally play a large role in standing up against exclusion, prejudice, and injustice. I strongly feel this is something educators do on a daily basis and may not even realize it. Educators are the first line of defense when it comes to educating our youth about society, the way it functions, and what should and should not be acceptable. The article Human Rights: A Topic Too Controversial for Mainstream Education? states, “It is our job as educators to help children understand the concepts of Human rights education (HRE) refers broadly to education and training that aims to contribute to the building of a universal culture of human rights through teaching about human rights and fundamental freedoms.” (Struthers 2016,p.131). If we educate our children on topics such as human rights, and the culture behind that topic, we begin to get their minds thinking and developing on such a concept. If we do this at the right age, it will likely stick with them, and they will carry these opinions and ideas into society when they are grown. This is the first step in making a change, we cannot expect people to push for change if they are not educated on what is going on around them. That is why it is crucial for educators to start with the children.
By teaching students about issues like injustice, prejudice, and exclusion, not only are we exposing these issues early on, but we are giving the students time to process and reflect on the topics as they are being educated. It is also important for us as educators to reflect on our own teaching practices, and evaluate if we are modeling what we teach. When we see injustice happening around us are we acting on it? When we see exclusion, are we standing up? Modeling what we teach is an important factor in students connecting the material they learn to the real world. When we lead by example and reflect upon our own actions, this hopefully will also lead to our students reflecting upon themselves. As mentioned in the article Preparing Teachers for School Justice Advocacy I am Walking My Talk Storms states “Using reflection to help students increase their self-awareness during the learning process is another component of social justice pedagogy” (Storms, p.6 2012). Modeling and teaching students the importance of reflecting on themselves and their actions, is important in helping them realize where exactly they fit in within these social issues.
It is also crucial for us to look into the presentation of these topics. It is not always the easiest subject matters to teach, especially depending on the class you are teaching it to. You must take each students culture, and diverse background into account, and tailor your lessons on these topics to meet each of their needs. “Diversity must be taught in such a way that it does not overly romanticize or demonize particular groups of people.” (Poplin and Rivera 2005 p.32). If we not only address the topics of injustice, exclusion in prejudice, but are aware of how we are presenting it, and are modeling the expected actions, students will be well educated for their future.
Poplin, M., & Rivera, J. (2005). Merging Social Justice and Accountability: Educating Qualified and Effective Teachers. Theory Into Practice.
Storms, S. B. (2013). Preparing Teachers for Social Justice Advocacy. Multicultural Education.
Struthers, A. C. (2016). Human Rights: A Topic Too Controversial for Mainstream Education?. Human Rights Law Review, 131-162.