Discussing Complex Ideologies with Young Students

Establishing open lines of communication and building trust with children remains at the center of conveying challenging concepts to them.

The world has been in a constant state of evolution ever since humans began thinking consciously. Self-reflective thought has been at the center of human psychology for eons, helping civilizations develop straightforward assessments of their actions.

Regardless, human society has witnessed several ebbs and flows of both darkness and light. More recently, humans have directed their focused attention to defining cultural, sociological, historical, and religious beliefs that have centered around oppressive and exploitative structures.

Awareness, like in any approach, has been gradual to set in. However, realization, when restricted to a single generation, never amounts to considerable change and instead results in a reversal of progress sooner or later. To keep the continuity going, children must be made aware of the evolving world they live in, so they may set right and wrong apart.

Such thought processes, however, are rather tricky to communicate since they involve several gray areas that might be complex for young children to perceive. Apart from the fact that a few adults might also be uncomfortable discussing them, the world can change only when its children truly learn. Communicating these novel, humane, and compassionate ideas to the younger generation sets the stage for a renewed blossoming of human civilization.

Decoding the Basics and Structuring an Apt Approach

The existence of upper and lower classes in societies and related social issues remains a complicated subject for most, but it also lies at the root of unjust systems that subsequently expand to include numerous individuals and social groups.

Teachers must first be clear on this essentially unfair approach adopted by human societies before they delve into the mechanisms of potentially hierarchical and oppressive frameworks.

Exploring why humans array themselves into a hierarchy can also explain numerous instances of exploitation of vulnerable individuals and communities in the past. Apart from using a ground-up approach, educators might do well to include modern-day examples to communicate more effectively with children, since complex and potentially controversial ideas might be dicey to navigate in a straightforward discourse.

Young students and children are often highly impressionable and open to newer lines of reasoning. Kids tend to be more exploratory and are willing to expend both effort and resources while being well aware of what lies ahead. In addition, educators also need to direct children to use their critical thinking skills along with an exercise in rationality.

Asking questions such as “What are your thoughts on this?” or “What makes you think that way?” can be a productive method to gauge student opinions and allow teachers to understand their students’ thought process. Including valuable examples and tales from popular culture might also aid students in developing their understanding of complex subjects such as feminism, colonialism, and racism.

An appeal to empathy will be equally important, enabling students to express their feelings more emphatically while also being aware of their emotions on the subject. All of these aspects require equal attention from academicians.

Creating an Open, Interactive Space for Discussion of Ideas

Inclusive ideas and free discussions surrounding the prevention of biases require conducive environments. While the ideas of gender, empowerment, privilege, and subconscious prejudice might be complex to communicate to a younger age group, creating a space that promotes free speech will enhance student-teacher rapport.

Before going about these exercises, teachers must pay keen attention to the ideal age groups of children they intend on initiating conversations with. Often, children between the ages of 7 and 10 attain emotional maturity and the ability to grapple with abstract conceptions. Since children’s curiosity is largely based on their level of understanding and interest, choosing the right age to introduce these conversations will probably have a greater impact.

Educators will have to be prepared for potential challenges since young students might require guided support to fully conjure lucid conceptions of complex discussions surrounding colonial empires and oppressive practices such as slavery. 

Using interactive media and alternative teaching approaches that involve field trips and site visits can also mix things up and enhance student involvement in classes detailing different perspectives and approaches to extant social issues. By using a storytelling format, pedagogy can be molded to communicate historical realities, while roleplaying can enhance understanding of the unfairness in certain episodes from history.

Displaying maps and helping students relate pictorially to colonial empires or relevant photographs from the past can further introduce rather complex ideas by visually engaging children. Providing young students with rich, yet easy-to-grasp print media effectively communicates the necessity of building inclusive societies, too.

Most importantly, educators must remain focused on engaging with students constructively by inducing an incentive to think independently, rather than adopting a “corrective” approach. This might help the average student remain more expressive and curious throughout the length of these discussions.

Enhancing Community Participation

Inclusive ideologies and practices are best understood when they’re experienced as living practices. Educators must undertake efforts to enhance not only their students’ knowledge surrounding pressing matters, but also rope in their parents, guardians, and other community members who might be involved in raising children.

Establishing unhindered lines of communication with these individuals, as well as organizing meetings, symposiums, and interactive workshops will go a long way in facilitating enhanced childhood learning of sensitive and complex ideas. Children form the foundations of humanity’s constantly evolving approach to self-reflection and critique, keeping them out of the discussion will jeopardize current progress and also lead to an overall compromise in combating prejudice and bias.

Author Bio: Sophia is an online ESL/EFL instructor and a passionate educator. She found her true calling — teaching — while she was juggling writing and a 9-5 desk job. When she is not busy earning a living, she volunteers as a social worker. Her active online presence demonstrates her strong belief in the power of networking. If you want to connect, you can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and her blog Essay Writing and More.


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