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Teaching Our Kids What Equality Really Means

08/12/2013 05:35 EDT | Updated 10/12/2013 05:12 EDT

Do your children know what equality means?

Even young children have a sense of fairness. In celebration of the contribution young people make to our society, The Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust (CCLET) and TVO Parents want to help them develop that sense even further. We invite you to tell your children today's story on the Civics for Kids website and then find out what your children think. There are no rules except to be open to everyone's ideas -- and remember there are NO right answers. Ask your children if they can figure out how to treat everyone in the stories fairly. You might be surprised by what they say.

How can we help our children understand equality? Many people say they are treated equally when everyone is treated the same. But when we think about this for a few minutes, we can see that treating everyone the same may not, in fact, be fair. If everyone is allowed to go to the movies, what happens when the door to the theatre is too narrow to admit a wheelchair? What if there is a flight of stairs that leads to that door? While everyone may be treated the same, people who use wheelchairs would not actually have an equal opportunity to go to the movies.

This concept may seem relatively simple, but many adults just don't get it. These are the people who see the world in terms of black or white, good or bad, order or anarchy. They have difficulty seeing shades of grey or making accommodations. They have trouble understanding equality when people have different needs. To understand that everyone is a rights holder, even people who are different from "us," is to begin to understand equality.

Take a look at the upcoming Sochi Olympics. My guess is that equality rights haven't been high on the curriculum of the Russian education system. Happily, however, there are young athletes and many others from around the world who have no difficulty expressing their outrage at the new law that penalizes people in Russia for their LGBTQ status -- or even for talking about it to young people.

Let's celebrate International Youth Day by helping our children to become the citizens we want them to be. Let's teach them to think critically about rights and freedoms so they can grow up to be the fair-minded people we need in this world.