At the Learn2Think Foundation we recently ran our inaugural Young Journalist Prize, in conjunction with The Week Junior and the Guardian Foundation. The children chose to write about what mattered most to them and entries covered issues ranging from bullying, homelessness, sexism, racism in football, tolerance, the environment and more. And many had a directness and clarity of thought that some adults seem to have missed.
One boy wrote: “When I see someone wearing different clothes or speaking a different language, I don’t want to focus on that but whether the person is a nice and kind person. That is far more important to me.”
It appears that attacking someone because of their race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, or gender is increasingly acceptable in the world of adults - if it wins you a point in an argument, or provides someone else to blame for a problem. Former US President GW Bush, when recently talking about politics today warned “bigotry seems emboldened”.
In the UK, recent data issued during Hate Crime Awareness Week showed police recorded 80,393 offences where hate was deemed a motivating factor in 2016/17. That’s a staggering increase of 17,875 recorded crimes in England and Wales. A Home Office comment said, “The increase over the last year is thought to reflect both a genuine rise in hate crime around the time of the EU referendum and following the Westminster Bridge terrorist attack.”
The challenge that we face in education is that hate often arises from an environment where fear and inequality - in economics, education or power - are what drive behaviour. It is critical to provide children with an educational framework which enables them to stand up for themselves while accepting others. It’s also worth remembering that we can underestimate children and that they are capable of understanding the issues and coming up with their own ways of addressing them.
An eight year old girl eloquently addressed what we need to do to prevent the blatant misogyny evidenced by Harvey Weinstein’s predatory behaviour:
‘We all have to play a part. Schools should not accept sexism and should take action to stop it. Teachers should take it seriously… Everybody should be taught about sexism and gender stereotypes so we realise that some of the things we take for granted in our society are actually wrong and unequal…And everyone should stand up and object when they see or hear sexism, even if it’s scary. We only change things when enough people stand up and say “that isn’t OK”. ‘
The winners of the Journalism competition will be announced on Tolerance Day 2017, the 16th November. There is also still time to sign-up at www.toleranceday.org to use lesson plans, assemblies, poster and books to use to mark the day and enhance children’s understanding of each other, and how to assess what they’re told using the Truth Detectives.