Australia has just past legislation to bring same-sex marriage into law and give those entering into same-sex marriage the same rights and responsibilities of opposite-gender married couples under law.
The path to marriage equality has not been an easy one in Australia, nor has it been in any nations that now have equal marriage rights to ALL of its citizens irrespective of gender, sexuality and ethnicity. It has taken a massive collective movement, often to the physical detriment of those carrying the flag for marriage equality to get to the point we have, which is still a long way from where we should be.
So why has it been so difficult to get to where we have and what do we need to change to continue to make progress toward a socially just and inclusive world?
The why is always the most difficult to try and unpack or explain. Mostly because it’s often hard to confront the knowledge that humanity is bias. We have been conditioned to think about and view people differently who don’t look, speak or act as we do. These biases in tern inevitably influence our personal, group and cultural ideologies and that’s when we reach a difficult crossroad. The crossroad being public and socially policy at the macro level and our day to day interaction with other people at the micro level.
When it comes to public and social policy, the debate is generally influenced by power, control and money. Even if the anti-social justice ideology tends to be coming from a smaller group of people or from the ‘minority’ in terms of the share number of people, their input is often the largest due to financial backing, media exposure and the pervasive opinion that a train wreck is far more entertaining than doing what is right and fair.
It seems to be about creating popular narratives then it does progressing toward an inclusive future.
So, next comes the what. What do we need to do as teachers and adults to ensure we are putting fairness, equity and inclusiveness in the centre of our thought, practices and responses? Well as you might have guessed, it will take a very significant four letter word…
L O V E
Perhaps the most understated and underestimated word in child development. More powerful than literacy and numeracy, more important than resilience and self-regulation. Love is imperative in early learning and early development and is the connection between anti-bias and social justice.
Love transcends boundaries, differences, ideologies and does not have as much of an impact on public and social policy as it should – much more than money and financial persuasion.
Love should be a much a part of our early childhood curricula as cognitive and physical development and it should feature prominently in initial teacher education/pre-service training as well as in all conversations regarding early childhood development.
Love can be connected to empathy, identity, self-image, self-efficacy, self-determination, sustainability and of course – social justice. Change is an inter-generational action. In order for us to see the change we know is needed more quickly, we have to weave love and the idea of it as part of social justice in our daily practices as adults – as both parents and teachers. Love can be a powerful tool in creating change as much as bias can be powerful in obstructing or preventing it.
As teachers we tend to shy away from using the world love to describe relationships that we have with children, their families and children with each other. Perhaps that is partly because we perceive the use of it as unprofessional and because it appears to be intangible. The actions that stem from love are tangible though, as are the policies that stem from love and social responsibility that we should all be committed to.
Finally, activism is always a contentious term when we talk about it in the sense of early childhood education and care but I am a strong advocate for activism in early childhood and to me, love is the greatest form of activism because it is based on the idea that everyone irrespective of gender, culture, identity or economic status deserves to be valued and included.