Equality and social justice play ever-increasing roles in the life of modern society. Therefore, it is vital to communicate these principles to children throughout their childhood. This is necessary to ensure that they will not fall prey to prejudice, racism, and stigmatization later in their lives. According to UNESCO, “the best weapon against violence and prejudice is peace” (as cited in de Melendez & Beck, 2019, p. 50). Tolerance and open rejection of violence are integral parts of peace. One of the crucial teaching strategies to help children understand and embrace the concepts of equality and social justice starts with the promotion of tolerance, respect, and understanding in the classroom. The first step implies constructing a suitable environment for children – “the classroom can become the most powerful bias-free place where they can acquire knowledge about socially acceptable tolerant behavior” (de Melendez & Beck, 2019, p. 50). This includes equal and fair treatment of children within the framework of all interactions and activities.
Secondly, the teacher’s status and role should be used to address any communications between children that include derogatory, humiliating, or prejudicial statements. Such incidents should never be ignored and should be responded to by educators immediately. The response should convey the message that such comments are not welcome and demonstrate the reasoning behind that – this creates understanding, which decreases the likelihood of repetition of such accidents. Another variation of that strategy implies using stories and analogies as tools to convey and reinforce the idea in the child’s mind better. This works best with younger children – “for preschoolers, stories with fantasy characters are age-appropriate ways to engage them in a lively discussion about words and attitudes that hurt” (de Melendez & Beck, 2019, p. 53). This strategy allows effective communication of foundations of equality and social justice principles even for the youngest audience.
De Melendez, W.R. & Beck, V.O. (2019). Teaching young children in multicultural classrooms: Issues, concepts, and strategies. Cengage Learning.