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Op/ed: The Science of Reducing Prejudice in Kids

Making Schools Welcoming for All Can Lead to a More Fair, Just Society, Education Scholar Says

By Melanie Killen

teacher high-fives young student

Actively teaching acceptance and fairness to children can create schools where all children have a better chance to succeed, leading to a more just society, a UMD education researcher writes in a new Scientific American essay.

Photo by iStock

School can teach young children more than skills like spelling and multiplication. In a new essay, University of Maryland human development and quantitative methodology Professor Melanie Killen, writes that it can also teach children how to act on their sense of fairness, and that exclusion of others is wrong.

Writing in Scientific American, Killen recounts decades of research in the College of Education that focus on methods of reducing prejudice and standing up to injustice to make school a more effective learning environment for all.

For many children, discrimination inflicts anxiety and misery and interferes with their learning. Schools could be far more welcoming than most now are, and I and other developmental psychologists have an idea of how to help them get there.

After decades of investigating children’s moral de­­vel­op­ment, my colleagues and I have come to understand the reasoning children use to deal with the dissonance between their desire to be fair and their need to belong to friend groups. And we’ve figured out how to help them think through and share their views, particularly about what makes social exclusion unfair and why it’s necessary to stand up against stereotypes and biases.

Read the rest in Scientific American.



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