How we talked about freedom

On Friday, I wanted to  have a discussion with the children about Martin Luther King, Jr., but I had no idea where to begin.  Luckily, I did get a lot of inspiration from this blog post from Preschool Daze.

There was one little hiccup, though.  WHY did I have to mention that fact that he is no longer alive? These children, who explore death through superhero play, family games, questions about science and nature and animals and bugs, maybe didn't need that information.  Because that was what they fixated on for most of the discussion. "Why isn't he alive anymore?" "What dead-ed him?" "Is it because he was old?" I have to admit I have never been this stumped as a preschool teacher. I'm the one with the answers...but how on earth do I explain that???  I have yet to figure out what to tell them, so I will be curious to hear their conclusions from talking to their parents over the weekend!

Once we could steer the conversation back into my direction, I decided to focus on the aspect of Freedom.  What is freedom? In the simplest terms, its our ability to choose, and our children know all about that. We use choices as an integral part of our discipline and guidance protocol over here.  They were able to identify with the ability to choose and also the events where others try to make choices for us.  It was unanimous that we like to make our own choices.

It was interesting to talk to the children about this celebration. I had to set the context for what life was like. And the bottom line was, back then, some people got to make choices for other people who had different skin colors.

Children notice and use differences in how they define the world. It is an inherent part of the human mind to do so. As I explored in this post, we can't leave racial attitudes in the hands of media, society, or the assumption of good-heartedness. Historically, this has never worked. It's my job as a preschool teacher to bring the topic of race to the forefront of the discussion. This is how children will be able to overcome the natural tendency to categorize and rank by physical attributes.

So we talked about how today, because of men like Dr. King (who, we said, is like a superhero!), we get to trust that we will be safe and that there are rules that make sure that everyone is safe and that everyone gets to make their own choices.  While this is not 100% true, in the secure world I want to create for the children, we will simplify it in this way.  And I think that some day, maybe not at preschool, but some day, parents can talk to their children about the injustices that are happening right now in other parts of the world. And maybe some day, these little ones will grow up to be the next superhero!

I'm so grateful for those who walked before me and paved the way so that I could live a better life today.

May we all have the courage to speak our hearts and speak our truth and make a difference.



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