Social justice is the idea that society can embrace differences and that society can treat everyone equally. This includes gender, race/ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, and language.
It is important to teach children the value of diversity and equal opportunity because doing so enables them to be more accepting of others throughout their lives. While families are the majority influencers in shaping children’s values and morals, we, as early childhood educators, also bear some of this responsibility.
Some say that teaching children right and wrong should only occur in the home. I disagree. In fact, not only do I think we should incorporate social justice into our curriculums, I believe we are obligated.
Social Justice is a key component of the Reform Movement, with which our programs have a connection. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President Emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism, explains it all in just a few sentences:
"Reform Jews are committed to social justice. Even as Reform Jews embrace ritual, prayer, and ceremony more than ever, we continue to see social justice as the jewel in the Reform Jewish crown. Like the prophets, we never forget that God is concerned about the everyday and that the blights of society take precedence over the mysteries of heaven.”
Children in my program are involved in many social justice programs throughout the year including:
- Making holiday cards for Holocaust survivors;
- Sorting food drive donations before they are brought to the local Food Banks;
- Creating get-well packages for the sick;
- Providing gift bags to immigrant students and families; and
- Donating books to families in need.
These experiences have provided opportunities for the children and their families to see how giving of yourself not only makes the recipients feel good but it makes the doer feel even better. Let’s start the conversation on, “What types of Social Justice Experiences do you offer at your program?” Check out your ECE-RJ Forum for the conversation and let us share ideas between our colleagues.