[Editorial published 1/18/08]
As Martin Luther King Jr. Day is around the corner, it's time to reflect for a moment and look closer at how kids treat other kids. Because of the brave efforts of
MLK Jr and other civil rights leaders, racism and sexism aren't nearly the issues they were just 15 years ago. Still, kids have a tendency to fear differences and blindly agree with the opinion of other kids. Let's face the issue and look at Prejudice this week.
Color, sex, religion, ethnicity, accented speech, handicap, poor vision/hearing, mental challenge, weight, height, facial disfigurement, adoption status, sexuality, even hair style and clothing! Kids can spot a million differences and be pretty thought-less at times with what they say. As parents we can (and must) teach our kids about prejudice and discrimination.
Here are two easy examples that can help explain these concepts to little kids. In Cars, Lightning McQueen is very clear about his disdain for rusty cars. He even mentions it to his new friend Mater who calls him on it - pointing out that he himself is rusty. By the end of the movie McQueen gets over his fear of the different-looking cars and decides to stick with the Rust-eze team.
Secondly, check out the "New Friends" episode of Thomas the Tank Engine. It contains the Edward Strikes Out segment. This is a very interesting piece because Edward was considered a smart train, but he thought Gordon was even smarter. Gordon declared that the unusual (engine-less) design of a new crane, Rocky, made him useless. Edward mimics Gordon's opinion and shuns Rocky. Of course, a mishap occurs and they learn that Rocky is very strong and useful -- then Edward becomes his friend. (YouTube clip of the 9 minute version)
To take this discussion further I have compiled a list of excellent books related to this topic. The book's "message" precedes the title/link:
+ Kids are all the same the world over
Whoever You Are (Reading Rainbow Book)
+ Gender equality and fairness to little siblings
Best Friends for Frances
(Safety FYI: interaction between the kids is well written, but the book refers to catching snakes for fun. Not a great idea for Colorado kids, might be ok in non-venomous territory.)
+ Discrimination is arbitrary and nonsensical
The Sneetches (Recommended by T.C. 1/21/08)
+ Stereotypes are false, people are the same despite outward appearance
Sesame Street's Red or Blue, I Like You! (Recommended by R.N. 1/24/08)
+ Gender equality in career choices
He Bear, She Bear
+ Be yourself no matter what anyone else thinks
A Bad Case of Stripes
+ Dealing with teasing
+ Everyone is different in one way or another
It's Okay to be Different
+ Discrimination is like a disease
The Lavender Llama
+ Finally, for slightly older kids, Civil Rights from a kid's perspective (including how kids/teens helped create change) -
If You Lived at the Time of Martin Luther King
Let's teach our children that despite physical differences, religious beliefs, clothing, accents, handicaps, and cultural traditions -- that kids are the same underneath and everyone has feelings. Despite all the banners a school puts up about "respect", the bottom line is that we, the parents, must be responsible for raising our children and it's our job to address prejudice and stop discrimination.
If you have related ideas to share, please drop a line.
I hope your week is filled with laughter,
Additional web-based resources for parents and teachers:
What parents can do about prejudice
Preventing prejudice in toddlers
Prejudice doesn't add up (for classes)
More classroom activities
Last Updated ( Saturday, 12 April 2008 )