Discipline and Social Justice with Pippi Kessler

PippiIt’s Real World Wednesday, and this week we get to learn from consultant and speaker Pippi Kessler!!!!

Pippi has trained thousands of educators and parents across the country to use their power for good. As Education Director at ImmerseNYC and as an ongoing consultant and former Program Director at Ma’yan, she designs feminist leadership programs for teens and creates innovative curricula and workshops. She is also the Director of Rowe Young People’s Camp, a summer program for 8-11-year-olds in western Massachusetts. She is currently completing her Masters Degree in Social-Organizational Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University and is an educator for Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.

One of her workshops is called “Ethical Discipline.” You can read more about it here: http://mayan.org/…/4_tips_for_how_to_make_better_rules_for_…

We asked asked Pippi to tell us more about what she sees as the connection between discipline and social justice?  Here’s what she said:

Hi, everyone! I first started thinking about the connection when I started trying to write trainings for Rowe Young People’s Camp, which is a program that combines leadership training for the teen and young adult staff with a camp for children and which I’ve written about in more detail here (https://medium.com/…/not-soccer-camp-the-outlandish…). Something I tell the staff at the start of every summer that I believe that working with kids is the closest you can come to taking part in a psychological experiment about how you respond when you are in a position of power over another person. The power adults have over children mirrors other forms of oppression, but there are some key differences that sometimes make it easier for people to engage with the concept of power differentials in new ways. One important feature of adult power is that every adult has been a child. Each of us has a part of ourselves that has seen and felt the stress of childhood, the juxtaposition of our full humanness and the complexity of our childhood inner lives paired with a lack of control over our bodies and circumstances. We have the opportunity to see the cycles of how we ourselves have been socialized into oppression in childhood and the choices we then make when we are given structural power over others. And behavior modification with children is intersectional because childhood is intersectional – childhood is racialized and gendered and classed. Through interacting with children, we reveal what we believe is true about the world and how safe or dangerous we believe it is to be a person.

Discipline raises questions about power that resonate with so many other themes of oppression and liberation. When we have structural power over children, how do we live in that role? What do we believe about authority, autonomy, control, violence, love, humanity? What do we believe about what it means to be close to someone, to care for someone, to support someone, to raise someone, to lead someone? I think asking these questions through the very practical and concrete lens of “How do I manage taking a group of children to the park?” can make it safe to ask big questions.

And I think that learning respectful ways to interact with children is a way to practice building a different world. I want a world where children feel respected and heard, where they know that their needs are taken seriously, and where they trust that the adults around them are laboring to be real with themselves and one another about power, safety, danger, and human needs. Adult-child relationships can teach children their first lessons about hierarchical power dynamics or their first lessons about respect.

Thank you, Pippi!

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