Profs: kindergartners should be taught racial tolerance with picture books to prevent ‘another Ferguson’

In an editorial for Washington Post, a few University of Texas at Austin faculty members encouraged mandatory tolerance lessons for kindergartners.

The professors allege that these lessons will prevent “another Ferguson” from happening in the future.

Three faculty members at the University of Texas at Austin claimed that the best way to prevent “another Ferguson” is to start teaching tolerance to kindergarteners.

In a December 17th editorial in the Washington Post, the three faculty members, led by Jennifer Keys Adair, a professor of early childhood education, argue that children as young as nine-years-old harbor prejudices that can last a lifetime. The professors imply that Officer Darren Wilson—who fatally shot black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.—killed because of his childhood prejudices.

“If we’d like to keep what happened in Ferguson from ever happening again, we have to stop the fear and damaging disconnect many white people have when in the presence of black males,” the academics write in their piece.

One of the ways to prevent this “fear,” they argue, is by “[influencing] young children’s racial attitudes” through “picture books [that are] about the everyday lives of black men so that racial diversity becomes normalized for young children.”

The faculty members caution that these types of books cannot be occasional teaching lessons, but instead should be staples of the classroom because “only a handful will not be enough to normalize positive images of black men.”

The educators use their own first-hand experience as proof of success: “[w]e have seen children learn while creating art projects about protest signs, school integration, bus boycotts or kids having to change schools and being the only one with brown skin.”

For teachers who might need resources to help teach their young students about race, the trio suggests referring to the Zinn Education Project, which is based on the ideas of the controversial activist Howard Zinn, who once described himself as “ something of an anarchist.”

Unfortunately, the academics bemoan, some white people can be written off as a lost cause.

“As educators, we find too often that white students who don’t have positive, everyday experiences with the black community struggle to discuss or acknowledge their own racial prejudice,” they said.

Adair is a Professor at UT-Austin. Marcus W. Johnson and Kathlene Holmes are Ph.D. students. Johnson is also an instructor at UT-Austin.

“Helping young children develop racial empathy will have longer-lasting effects than classes or interventions for teachers and other adults who have already formed ideas about black males.”

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