Essential Knowledge 1

Students should be encouraged to think and talk about the meaning of freedom.

What Else Should My Students Know?

1.A Being free means being able to choose what your life looks like without interference from others.

1.B People and institutions have the ability to restrict freedom by using power to make rules and punishment to make people obey them. People also restrict freedom by intimidating people into acting in certain ways or into not doing certain things.

1.C Everybody wants to be free, but some people have more freedom and privileges than other people.

1.D Equality means that the same freedoms are held by all people, regardless of their individual or group identities.

1.E Equity is when people have what they need to be successful regardless of their identities.

1.F People often make rules to serve their own interests. This means that sometimes rules are unfair, but people can work to change them.

How Can I Teach This?

  • Beginning with examples from their classroom, families and communities, students can examine how power is gained, used and explained. They should describe what it means to have power and identify ways that people use power to help, harm and influence situations.
  • Students should examine why societies create rules by discussing the role of rules in classrooms, families and communities. When teaching about rules and authority, challenge students to think about how rules and power can be used to limit people’s freedom, and how people fight to assert their own agency.
  • Encourage students to talk about fairness, equality and equity. Students should discuss personal experiences when they have seen rules applied in fair and unfair ways. Ask students how they responded in these situations, and how other people responded when they saw unfair treatment. Students should contrast equity and equality, identifying current problems where there is a need to fight for equity.
  • Many books, including those used to teach reading, can be springboards for these conversations. Teachers do not need to have texts specific to slavery to begin the discussion about these underlying ideas with young students.


Return to the Teaching Hard History K-5 Framework

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Welcome to Learning for Justice—Formerly Teaching Tolerance!

Our work has evolved in the last 30 years, from reducing prejudice to tackling systemic injustice. So we’ve chosen a new name that better reflects that evolution: Learning for Justice.

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