We were doing calendar on the SmartBoard this morning. I have the numbers for all school days on the calendar in black and the weekends and holidays in red. One of my kids noticed that the 17th of January was red. She asked, “What is M. L. King?” So we had THAT discussion. Which got into SO many things. Prejudice, slavery, inequality, on and on, and then we had to talk about where Dr. Martin Luther King fit into all that. They had no concept of slavery, and after slavery the continued prejudice that has existed. It was compounded by the fact that 24 of my 32 kids are Hispanic and many of them have limited English vocabularies. So we had to keep defining our terms as we went along. I have 4 African-Americans in my class. When we talked about how slavers caught people in Africa and brought them here and sold them as property, I stopped and asked the class if they knew what an African-American was. “Who are the people in the United States that are African-Americans?”
They didn’t know. Not even the African-Americans. Finally I had one of my African-American students stand up, and one of my lighter Hispanic students stand up side by side. I asked the class, “How are these two kids different?” Here’s what I got.
“Casey is shorter than Samantha.”
“Samantha’s clothes are different.”
“Their hair is different.”
“Their shoes aren’t the same.”
“Casey has barrettes in her hair.”
Nobody saw color as a difference. I finally had to ask them about color. They they finally said, “Well, yeah, Casey had darker skin than Samantha.”
Kids don’t see color, they are taught it. Wouldn’t the world be a wonderful place if they never learned about “color” of for that matter any other ways that people marginalize others?
We can learn a lot from kids. Yeah, they aren’t perfect, in fact, they drove me nuts today. But this discussion was wonderful.
Sometimes some of the best things we teach or learn in a day aren’t even what we started out to teach or learn.