Some adults believe that they need to shield young children from tough, controversial subjects, but a New Jersey school is taking a different approach. Seek Academy is tackling hot-button issues that most classrooms avoid. The Newark-based elementary school recently added a weekly, 85-minute social justice class where students discuss riveting current events and social studies-related topics.
Social justice teacher Victoria Clinton believes that young students are intelligent enough to handle hard subjects. She argues that kids can learn about wealth, class, and privilege issues.
"They're capable of having these conversations really early," Clinton told an Education Weekly reporter. "They need to know what's going on in the world because they're citizens of this world."
The school belongs to the KIPP Network of public charter schools. Clinton said that the class was inspired, in part, by her childhood. The educator's mother discussed controversial issues with her. It helped the Clinton to think critically about society.
During the class, students watch multimedia videos about current trending topics. For example, children discuss the NFL protests initiated by Colin Kaepernick that highlighted police brutality against African-Americans. Additionally, the students talk about Trump's reaction.
Clinton asks students how they would react if they were an NFL player or political leader. Not only do the students verbally discuss these social issues, they also submit written answers. Clinton maintains a neutral stance on all topics, while students debate these issues. The teacher doesn't offer her opinions about any controversial matter. She allows the students to openly express their beliefs.
So far, she hasn't received any complaints from parents about the course. The KIPP elementary schools plan to expand the program to other network charter schools.
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