Childism and children as activists

[Livvy and Indi, ch.16]

An important practice in anti-bias work is to honour the authentic voice. Who better to write about childism and children as activists than children?

In this chapter, lifelong friends Livvy and Indi (both nine at time of writing) each write with candid clarity. Livvy – on childism in relation to education and activism, and her hopes for better experiences for children, and Indi – reflecting on Livvy’s activism as inspiration to use her own voice. Their words will inspire you also!

In describing unfairness and how it hurts, Livvy and Indi clearly contextualise Anti-Bias Goal 3. Their participation in this publication demonstrates their empowerment to act against discrimination, as together, they breathe life into Anti-Bias Goal 4. 

Childism and children as activists

In highlighting how adults diminish children’s voice, they call us to take up all of the Anti-Bias Actions, perhaps particularly Anti-Bias Action 3, as Livvy articulates the lack of children’s agency when society’s structures privilege certain voices.

Childism, as Livvy explains, is unfairness against children. The discrimination she sees, even in environments designed specifically for children, leads her to conclude that adults are largely ignorant of the concept of childism! We are challenged by Livvy’s declaration that early childhood and school age spaces don’t seem to care for children’s rights and choices as much as she would expect.

Livvy identifies childism in children being forced to go to school, and to learn divided into age groups, where they are expected to know, understand and be interested in learning the same things. She wonders what we can do to better understand and to treat children more kindly knowing that many are forced to be somewhere they don’t want to be.  She raises concerns about the discomfort for children of the lack of choice in simple things such as school eating times, or toilet privacy in Early Childhood settings. 

We educators spend considerable time discussing children’s agency, voice, their right to be heard and participate in decision-making, and about our responsibility to listen to children and value their views and opinions. Are we delivering? From Livvy’s perspective, childism happens not only in education but elsewhere, and often when children want to have a choice or opinion. She tells of adults speaking aggressively to her and a friend over their participation in climate change activism, and the minimal response from politicians to her letters asking them to save the Djab Wurrung trees in Victoria.

Indi entitles her section of the chapter ‘A story about a fierce girl called Livvy’ and proceeds, with powerful, poetic insight, to detail Livvy’s:

  • conference keynote address, 
  • power and methodology, 
  • participation in protests about detention, marriage rights, sacred trees, and climate change
  • commission to create artwork for the Social Justice in Early Childhood group (including the cover of this very book!), and
  • activities including rallies, letters to the prime minister and other ministers

Indi’s writing so strongly conveys the inspiration she draws from Livvy’s commitment to using her voice and her art – which has moved Indi also to fight for what she believes in and to make the world a better place. We can learn much from their words, thank them deeply, and emulate their courage in acting for change!

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