Marjory Ebbeck asserts that “Policies that support a tolerant, inclusive curriculum are essential if children are to survive in the years ahead.” (354)
Referring to Graca Machel’s book The Impact of War on Children (2001), she writes: “Children and families pay a heavy price when governments commit limited resources to defense budgets rather than to health, education, and welfare, and other programs that directly benefit children.
In addition, there is the risk of further wars as countries attempt to stamp out the very roots of terrorism and halt development of weapons of mass destruction and biological warfare. If further wars result, then it will be the children and families, again, who will pay a heavy price.” (354)
Ebbeck’s article advocates the development of clear policies by early childhood professionals that are aimed at promoting conflict resolution and non-violence. Admittedly, her argument is full of criss-crossing discourses that could be picked apart by various cultural/political positions, but the principle stands and its worth returning to…
Ebbeck writes: “Our curriculum policies must be proactive in order to lessen the problems of conflict, of peoples being intolerant and unable to accept the views of others. Is it within our abilities to respond to the challenges of global citizenship by making the world a safer place for children?” (354)
Ebbeck’s focus on the importance of clear policy that responds to global problems is seriously worth looking at.
One example she offers is the need for teachers to:
“Assist children in dealing with conflict on a day-to-day basis, as it is part of developing cognitive and social skills. Children must be helped to work through conflict situations as they arise in early childhood centers and school classrooms. The give-and-take of working through conflict is an important skill to learn in early childhood.” (355)
I both agree (in principle) and disagree with the methods she seems to be advocating: I rather think children need to be supported to develop these skills and discover them on their own with our support. Can we really teach conflict-resolution? Or is it better to provide an environment in which the culture of conflict-resolution is valued and supported? I am thinking here of the common teaching practice of mediating all conflicts, of stepping in and directing them from the teacher’s position of power and judgement (eg so-and-so had it first, so you need to ‘wait your turn’ – or – you have to share! (in conflicts over resources) – or (YUK) ‘Use your words!’ when the child’s emotions have disabled their ability to communicate verbally)
I think Magda Gerber’s approach of observing, narrating, and supporting with comfort and understanding, but no judgement is a much better method.
The how of prioritising conflict-resolution is really worth considering deeply!
Ref: Marjory Ebbeck (2006) ‘The Challenges of Global Citizenship: some issues for policy and practice in early childhood’ Childhood Education 82(6): 353-357