Changing Childhood Prejudice: The Caring Work of the Schools

Changing Childhood Prejudice: The Caring Work of the Schools

Changing Childhood Prejudice: The Caring Work of the Schools

Changing Childhood Prejudice: The Caring Work of the Schools

Synopsis

This book presents evidence that childhood prejudice is not only different from the adult kind, but also changes in a pattern inverse to that of moral judgement. Changing Childhood Prejudice describes longitudinal and cross-sectional studies of city and suburban children in grade, middle, and high school. Davidson used interviews to supplement observations made during playing her board game, then compared scores on the prejudice that emerged with scores on Kohlberg's Measure of Moral Development. Considering childhood prejudice as a detour in the possible strong development of caring, character and moral judgement implies a school context smaller, warmer, and more encompassing than one relying only on mainstreaming and multiculturalism. The fact that nearly 40% of the nation's public school children will be from minority backgrounds within a few years requires new goals, including influencing parents. The authors call for school-by-school mission statements drawing parents into cooperative development of anti-prejudice and character curricula, supplementing the leadership of faculty members and some adolescents. New roles for the mental health community are also described. Examining the research of others and their own case studies from cognitive, clinical, and social perspectives, the Davidsons conclude that ways of opposing prejudice and insisting on caring can be adapted to children's changing moral assumptions at each level of schooling. Children's might-makes-right and favor-trading assumptions in grade school change through identification with a conforming goodness. Conformity can be gradually replaced by independence in ideals, particularly when secondary students ponder theirown community service. Coauthored by a clinician and a professional writer, the book tells how to achieve more caring in public schools and more cooperative discipline at home.

Excerpt

Prejudice is universal, and yet universally despised, especially where it touches children. Because nearly 40 percent of the nation's school children will be members of minority groups within a few years, school communities need to seek solutions. An atmosphere of indifference to insult interferes profoundly with everyone's learning. Minority children's consciousness of prejudice is a major reason for academic failure and subsequent disinclination to work. Strangely, those involved in the vast movement for school reform do not bring up prejudice. Perhaps some fear the power of politicians involved in social engineering, saying that crusaders for integration caused harm. Some see a need to hold a hard line against minorities' anger. Others believe that virtue cannot be taught. But for teachers struggling with plug-in anti-prejudice, anti-violence, or character development programs, a need for whole school change becomes clear.

The first step toward a sense of community might be to develop a carefully crafted charter or mission statement, focusing on mutual support, warm-hearted cooperative learning, and enjoyment of one another during many extracurriculars, as opposed to the cool sound of legally prescribed programs for those labeled handicapped or victims of prejudice. Without this increase of community attention to school atmosphere as not just the context but also the generator of feelings, more motivation to learn and more choices not to be prejudiced against those who are unpopular or different are unlikely.

Statements that draw people together are already initiating academic reforms. Parents, teachers, and administrators coming together over a period of time to create a mission statement for a school has proven power. The spirit engendered in the collaboration is more important than the page or two of resulting text. The development of caring, responsible, and committed children is generally endorsed. Parents have been far more willing to help in the school after signing such a document.

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