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Martin Luther King was not a king but he was a great man
January 17, 2010 7:09 AM   Subscribe

How do you explain the struggle for civil rights to a kindergartner? Pictures? Songs? Crafts? Puzzles? Construction paper in rainbow colors?
posted by twoleftfeet (24 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
When I was teaching kindergarten, we talked a lot in terms of dreams, as hopes and visions one had for a better future. As a result of this conversation, all the kids made dream pillows - small stuffed pillows on which we used dye crayons for them to depict one of their hopes for the world in the future.

It was a great exercise, especially because it transcended the personal, getting us away from the dream of having your own playhouse in the backyard (or whatever) and the dream that no one would ever be lonely, or hungry, or what have you.
posted by Miko at 7:15 AM on January 17, 2010


On a serious note, Freedom on the Menu is an excellent book about the Greensboro Sit Ins. I got it for my daughter when she was in Kindergarten and it was an accessible, age-appropriate way for her to learn about the Civil Rights struggle.
posted by serazin at 7:34 AM on January 17, 2010


The Sneetches?
posted by applemeat at 7:34 AM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


How about by emphasizing the one characteristic that sets Martin Luther King apart from a trillion and one other historical figures: his commitment to non-violence. Set beside monumental and revolutionary principle of non-violence, the details of King's life and the Civil Rights "struggle" are relatively minor matters. What matters was that he got hit, and didn't hit back, and as a result, he won such victories as he and his movement did win. The principle of non-violence goes against virtually everything the modern child will learn from the entertainment media, video games, sports, peers, parents and whatever other parts of our culture the child encounters. If the schools don't teach non-violence, no one the hell else will. The Martin Luther King Holiday should not be about the past, but about the present: How can we apply the principles of non-violence to our lives today?
posted by Faze at 7:43 AM on January 17, 2010 [14 favorites]


You vill paint vit finger paints and make macaroni pictures showing people of all races, creeds, colors, and gender holding hands under a rainbow. Now paint! Paint faster! FASTER! FAAASTER! (South Park)
posted by msbutah at 8:33 AM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


applemeat: "The Sneetches?"

Or cooties.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:43 AM on January 17, 2010


the one characteristic that sets Martin Luther King apart from a trillion and one other historical figures: his commitment to non-violence.

Other than his predecessor Gandhi, of course.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:46 AM on January 17, 2010


I sort of took it for granted that we all acknowledged the precedence of Gandhi, Jesus, and Bhudda -- of whom only Jesus gets his own national holiday in the US. And no uses Christmas as an opportunity to discuss non-violence.
posted by Faze at 8:57 AM on January 17, 2010


Opening up the conversation about Martin Luther King Jr by my 4yr's Pre-K class has taught my daughter that everyone is different colours and is now pointing out white people and black people in the store, in the park, on tv, etc. And questions what colours are Lopita and Panee?

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I'm upset she doesn't feel everyone is the same... suddenly there's an "us" and "them". I think they should've celebrated that MLK Jr considered everyone his friend and he worked hard to make everyone friends (umm.. if that's the right term for it?) - civil rights isn't easy to teach a 4 or 5yr old. I'm not sure how to fix it.. I just know my heart broke a little when she proudly announced that there's black people and white people ("...but I think we're more pinkish").
posted by czechmate at 9:32 AM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


…the dream that no one would ever be lonely, or hungry, or what have you.

Thus setting them up for bitter disappointment in humanity and its inability to deal with global issues in anything approaching an effective, or even particularly useful, manner.

Oh, kindergarten, how life has shattered my life's hopes and dreams!

When I start teaching kindergarten, it's all gonna be about Beyond Thunderdome. Prepare the little shits for what their adult life on a climate-changed planet will really be all about.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:55 AM on January 17, 2010


Use Cinderella and the wicked stepsisters as a small model. Just read the beginning, where Cinerella is being dumped on with work and insults, and discuss with them how it would make them feel.

Kids may not get all the subtleties of language and which words to use and why, but they will know how it feels when they are ignored, made fun of, or picked over for something. Start with that feeling, and work from there.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I'm upset she doesn't feel everyone is the same.

I don't think it's as bad as you think. It could be that she's noticing all the different colors and shades, and all the mixing that brings these slight skin tones out, and it's a discovery for her. She's finding out that "everyone's the same" is not entirely true, in a litereal sense. Once she's gotten over the discovery phase, as long as she gets it that we all look different, but we should be treated the same, she'll be fine. But note that these are two different lessons, and one needs to come before the other.
posted by chambers at 10:13 AM on January 17, 2010


When I start teaching kindergarten, it's all gonna be about Beyond Thunderdome.

- Five Fresh Fish turns off the lights in the classroom -

"Who runs Kinder Town? "
posted by chambers at 10:15 AM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


One teacher I know explained how segregation was wrong by having all the kids with blue eyes get to play and the kids with brown eyes had to sit on the carpet. The next day she reversed it. The kids were very upset and she explained to them that yes, it is NOT fair, yes, it IS stupid, and that is why it's wrong. They talked about their feelings, how it felt to be 'left out'. Then everyone got to play together and the kids were cheering.

The kids I spoke to were very impressed by this. It seemed to hit home for them.
posted by absquatulate at 11:09 AM on January 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeah, that's what I was going to suggest: make them the targets of discrimination. Kids are particularly sensitive to situations in which things are not fair to them, as we have all heard them proclaim a thousand times.
posted by pracowity at 11:47 AM on January 17, 2010


absquatulate, that's a replication of a well-known psychological experiment first performed by Jane Elliott in her 3rd grade class in 1968. I'm not sure it'd be appropriate for kindergarteners (this sort of experiment can have some pretty lasting psychological effects, both positive and negative), but it was a very interesting idea.
posted by so_gracefully at 12:08 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm upset she doesn't feel everyone is the same... suddenly there's an "us" and "them".

Well, it's also important to acknowledge that everyone isn't, in fact, the same. Honoring the fact that we don't all grow up experiencing the world exactly the same is important to understanding the mechanisms behind the oppression, prejudice, racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc. that are still very much alive and, vice versa, an understanding of those mechanisms is important to understand how they fundamentally alter one's individual experience of the world.
posted by so_gracefully at 12:30 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


For MLK day, apparently my daughter's teacher came out to the class and talked about being different and answered any questions the kids had about what it was like to be gay.

Better than the color in activity pages that looked more like Bill Cosby that she did last year in class.
posted by Gucky at 1:04 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


All we learned in kindergarten was "If you have 5 apples and you eat 1 apple, then you have 4 apples left".
Also that whales are the largest animals on earth, the big coins are called quarters, and the big hand counts the minutes.

And if you throw the matchbox cars, they get put away.
posted by madajb at 3:32 PM on January 17, 2010


Opening up the conversation about Martin Luther King Jr by my 4yr's Pre-K class has taught my daughter that everyone is different colours and is now pointing out white people and black people in the store, in the park, on tv, etc. And questions what colours are Lopita and Panee?

The book "Nurtureshock"* has an interesting chapter about this and children's innate need to classify

* An interesting book, even if the conclusions sometimes seem a bit iffy.
posted by madajb at 3:36 PM on January 17, 2010


Do we have to? How about teaching them equal treatment by example and so on, and addressing the fact that such attitudes have not always been the norm as they ask about it? Kindergartners are probably not ready for narrative as text and discrimination studies just yet.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:35 PM on January 17, 2010


Five-year-olds are a lot more intellectually sophisticated than many people think. They do notice difference (humans are wired to) and are capable of understanding historical change ("people used to think X, but now we think Y").

The issue isn't noticing that people are different - they clearly are, and five-year-olds have everything they need to understand that. What they need to know about is how we value difference. It's at this age where kids are very sensitive to the way adults treat difference and teach them about difference. Emphasizing commonalities, talking about how there are lots of kinds of people, enjoying difference: these are all things adults can do to make kids comfortable with the immense diversity of humanity and their place within that.

Pretending differences don't exist can make kids uncomfortable - you're essentially trying to deny a reality they can see when they do that. Acknowledging the differences is completely fine. What's important is to avoid sending messages of anxiety, relative status, fear, or condemnation about those differences. Recognize difference, reinforce commonality.
posted by Miko at 9:47 PM on January 17, 2010


It's only white kids (in the US at least) who have the privilege of not knowing about racism and civil rights until kindergarten. You'd be hard pressed to find a family of color where these issues haven't been addressed already at home.

Pretending race doesn't exist is a facet of white privilege.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:55 PM on January 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


My favorite bit about MLK Jr. and kids: one section in This American Life's "Kid Logic" episode. (excerpt here)
posted by shadytrees at 7:03 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


And no uses Christmas as an opportunity to discuss non-violence.

Funny you should say that.
posted by dw at 1:51 PM on January 18, 2010


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