Change the Next Generation: Reform Early Childhood Education Around Social Issues
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Historically, children have been raised shut out from issues that they suddenly become bombarded with as they grow older. These issues include gender bias, sex, consent, sexual identity, and stereotypes in general. As a society, we avoid having conversations about these issues with younger children--whether we are parents, educators, or role models--because they are awkward and have been deemed “inappropriate.” However, at the same time, we expect these same children to know the right thing to do when confronted with these issues first-hand later on in life. Our education system needs to be reformed so that we are able to have the open and honest conversations that all children need and are dying to have. These issues are a part of their daily lives from an age younger than assumed (with gender norms changing by the minute and the average age that children view pornography is getting younger and younger). It is our responsibility to prepare the next generation so they can be better. If we want to decrease heinous acts such as hate crimes and sexual assault, this is where we begin.
The most common places where gender equality occurs is in the home, workplace, and school -- where is one to escape it?
The United States’s teen pregnancy rate is over six times that of the Netherlands, almost four times that of Germany, and almost three times that of France
1 in 3 women throughout the world will experience physical and/or sexual violence by a partner or sexual violence by a non-partner
What is the best prevention strategy for these upsetting statistics?
Reforming early childhood education. Without proper education, these issues will not get any better. In fact, it is likely they will grow worse and worse unless something is done.
The United States is behind in early childhood education where children learn interpersonal skills, delaying gratification, rule following, socialization -- all things that should be second nature for adults. Because many children are not developing these characteristics, the education they may be getting (which is already too late) cannot be absorbed. Other countries around the world are way ahead in the game when it comes to early education on these vital social issues.
42% of three-year-olds in the United States are enrolled in early childhood education (OECD shows the international average is 71%)
68% of four-year-olds in the United States are enrolled in early childhood education (OECD shows the international average is 86%)
When Sexual Education is being taught, the responsibility is always placed on the victim.
Only 14% of middle schoolers and 21% of high schoolers are actually taught how to ask for consent -- the rest are taught to simply say no (which is not always possible).
Plan of Action:
- Pass legislation to decrease costs of early childhood education and possible provide government aid to those who cannot afford it
- Set requirements in the DOE → mandatory workshops and other activities (brought in from outside sources) revolving around social issues (consent, gender bias) -- AT LEAST ONE PER YEAR AT THE START OF MIDDLE SCHOOL (5th grade for some, 6th grade for others)
Ex: Bring in a play, Have experts on the issues lead a workshop, have people with personal experiences in the issues speak at school
Schools will receive extra government funding for these requirements. If they
fail to follow through multiple years in a row, (3 years), their funding will get cut.
- Start Conversations in school buildings around traditionally “taboo” topics → making sure they are open and honest and not cliché
Why Consent Education?
As sexual assault becomes an increasingly severe and well-known issue, it is important that it is not ignored. Many movements and organizations are working to reform the issue on a social and cultural level. This was the first step and now we need to take action on the federal level to ensure that all Americans are not falling behind emotionally especially compared to the rest of the world. It’s time we stop ignoring issues and situations simply because they are “awkward” or “difficult” to speak about especially with younger children. They need to be trusted to be mature enough to handle these issues. They want to have these conversations but no one is letting them. If we do not start at a young age, many children will grow up having never learned values that are becoming more and more prevalent. By increasing open conversations about sex and creating a welcoming environment to bring up sexual concerns, students can become more comfortable with discussing sex in general. Through reform of sexual education in schools, and exposure at a much younger age, consent between partners becomes more automatic and normal to infuse into their lives. Administrators and teachers need to realize that in order to prepare students for the real world, we need to make sure that everything is out in the open and sex is not something to be ashamed of to bring up or an uncomfortable topic. By reforming sexual education we prepare students for the real world and we prepare them to be safe in all aspects of their life.
Why Gender Bias Education?
We are currently in an era where stigmas surrounding gender are shifting. In major cities like New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago, people are much more accepting of minority groups who choose to defy societal gender norms. We also see many people who hide who they are because of fear that those around them won't be accepting of their lifestyle. If we integrate education regarding gender bias at a young age we can teach children that they do not have to act a certain way or like certain things just because of their sex. It's important to teach children that we are all humans with personalities and feelings.
Social issues become a part of our children’s lives from the second they are born, so why do we wait so long before teaching them about prevalent issues that they will almost surely encounter at one point or another in their lives? You are never too young to learn that no means no and that you should be able to do what you want regardless of what society says boys and girls should do. It should be mandatory for schools to incorporate activities with their children to promote these ideas into the curriculum, instead of waiting until High School to first start discussing it. If we build this foundation of knowledge regarding these topics at a young age, these children can grow into a generation of people who see lower reports of rape and hate crimes among those of LGBTQ communities. Ultimately, the point of educating people at a younger age will allow all of us to reach a higher quality of life.
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