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College of Education and Human Development - George Mason University

Early Childhood Education: Social Justice Embedded in the Program

The Early Childhood Education Program emphasizes social justice across its courses and field experiences. Course materials and assignments, as well as the diversity of field experiences, allow students to examine the centrality of culture in the lives of children and their families—and the students' own lives. Students also are challenged to explore issues of poverty, race, ethnicity, disability, and gender and remain cognizant of the socio historical factors that may have resulted in systemic inequities in early care and education. The program's instructional format allows students to examine their biases and reflect on the impact of their judgments and decisions on students and families with diverse cultural, linguistic, or ability backgrounds. [In addition, the program supports students' critical thinking about these issues by assigning readings and course materials that encourage this process.]

At the same time, the program is committed to increasing the diversity of teachers and pursues grants to help reach out to a diverse student body at different degree levels. Through a partnership with George Mason's Multicultural Research and Resource Center and the National Coalition Building Institute, the program provides seminars and instructional experiences that enable diverse pre service students to explore issues of prejudice, discrimination, coalition building, advocacy, and leadership in diverse community settings. These seminars are carefully planned to respond to students' experiences in the field. For example, the program is exploring social justice dilemmas as a tool for learning and growth, discussing issues of ability/disability, advocacy, and leadership as they relate to students and their work with families and young children.