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.
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