Saturday, February 20, 2010

World Day of Social Justice

The child becomes largely what it is taught; hence we must watch what we teach it, and how we live before it.
~Jane Addams

In 2009 The UN declared February 20th World Day of Social Justice. Governments meeting at that Summit pledged to make poverty eradication, the goal of full employment and the fostering of social integration overriding objectives of development.

It's a huge topic to talk to kids about. What does it mean to have a fair society? What stands in the way of that? And most importantly what can we do about it? What do we need to learn about in order to make changes?

As a family one of the things we talk about our assumptions and how those influence what kinds of decisions we make. If we assume that everyone has the same access to education, to wages, to food, to safe places to live, then we may not make decisions that are inclusive and respectful. If we assume everyone experiences things like we do, as people who were born here and learned English as our first language, who look like most of the people in our city look and who have not had to learn about the culture here, then we might think the way people treat us is the way people treat all our friends and neighbours.

I find social justice tricky to talk about, in part because the term covers so much ground and in part because it challenges the kids assumptions that all people value each other regardless of colour, religion, socioeconomic status, language etc. But books always help and therese are a few we have enjoyed recently. And every time I close the cover of a book and look at my children I realize that my job is mostly to nuture the innate sense of justice and fairness and good that they were born with - to keep my own prejudices and assumptions and fears out of the way so that they can continue to grow in ways that will make all the difference.

The Magic Beads by Susan Nielsen-Fernlund
Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts and illustrated by Noah Z. Jones
A child's garden: a story of hope by Michael Foreman,
Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

(More at Teaching for Change)

More Resources

The Free Child Project

Cooperative Games for Social Change

Making Cents of Priviledge

And a little hard work for parents Part 1 and Part 2

Wherever there are beginners and experts, old and young, there is some kind of learning going on, some kind of teaching. We are all pupils and we are all teachers.
~ Gilbert Highet

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