INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Districts across the state now have the option to make social justice a part of the curriculum.
The Indiana Department of Education recently released a memorandum giving the OK. The department is pulling from standards created by the Southern Law Poverty Center’s “Teaching Tolerance.” It’ll touch on topics surrounding identity, justice, diversity and action.
The nonprofit Child Advocates said kids are already learning about these things on social media and the news and everyday life, so it’s important to provide some guidance. Social injustice, sexual orientation and religion are all topics that play out nearly every day. The world is watching — and that includes students.
“We thought it was important not — just during this climate — to talk to our students about the issues. When we talk about providing the next generation of leaders and kids a well rounded and quality education I think it’s important that we have that entire picture,” said department of education spokesperson Adam Baker.
The state superintendent, Dr. Jennifer McCormick, recently released a memorandum recommending that Indiana schools incorporate National Social Justice Standards into curricula. Officials said educators have been wanting to implement something like this but some have faced trouble figuring out exactly where to start.
“What if we were able to provide educators some information on how they can begin to infuse those teachings in those standards into education and still keep the academic standards?” Baker said.
The 20 standards from “Teaching Tolerance” are based on skills of action and student self-awareness. Students will see topics about culture, citizenship and advocacy.
“I think people become afraid that they shouldn’t talk about these issues with the children, but I think the worst thing they can do is have no conversation,” said Cindy Booth, CEO of Child Advocates.
For years, her organization has been conducting workshops called “Interrupting racism for children.”
She said children’s ability to take information and adapt helps push these kinds of conversations forward.
“We fool ourselves as adults to think that children do not understand the differences in race. Studies show that children as young as 4 and 5 understand not only the differences in race but have experienced or know about prejudice and discrimination,” she said.
Schools that choose to add these standards into daily learning will still be required to meed Indiana’s academic standards.