Anti-Bias_Education's blog

Teaching Young Children about Race

Aug
27

A Guide for Parents and Teachers

We share with you here an excerpt from the book Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves. The book offers practical guidance to early childhood educators (including parents) for confronting barriers of prejudice, misinformation, and bias about specific aspects of personal and social identity; most importantly, it includes tips for adults and children to respect each other, themselves, and all people. Read more about anti-bias education here. Also see #BlackLivesMatter resources for middle and high school students.

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Putting Visions of Social Justice Education into Practice

Oct
24

Challenges and Contested Ground in Early Childhood Education

by Louise Derman-Sparks

 

Children's Rights poster is available from Syracuse Cultural Workers.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it’s the presence of justice.” Consistent with that perspective, the impetus for anti-bias education work is rooted in a desire to build just early childhood programs for all children. Early childhood education plays a part in the creation of socially just, culturally inclusive societies where all families are able to raise their children in the context of who they are and where all families have the resources to raise children who can truly thrive.

Early childhood education is a powerful bridge between the family and the larger society; however, this connection is not automatically a positive one. Why and how the bridge is constructed matters. Our societies are complex—exhibiting and promoting strong, contradictory themes regarding how we treat human beings. Early childhood programs can be grounded in the aspirations and rights articulated in the Declaration of the Rights of the Children. Or they can be created to ready children to conform to society as it is, with all of its existing racial, class, and gender power dynamics.

In order to unleash the power of early childhood education to help reduce racial and ethnic divisions and build peaceable communities, we must overcome major challenges. While children are at the heart of our work, they are not the only key element. Teachers and parents, infrastructures of early childhood education, and larger economic and social-political dynamics in our societies are all “contested ground” for the anti-bias education community. 

Contested grounds are those places where we can and must work to create change. By identifying and analyzing obstacles, we can better prepare ourselves to build impactful, anti-bias early childhood education programs. In this piece, I explore a few key contested-ground issues. In the second piece, “Change Strategies,” I suggest ways for us to engage in these contested grounds—and in so doing, put anti-bias, culturally inclusive visions into practice in early childhood education.

 

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Nursery Rhymes and the Anti-Bias Classroom

Sep
05

By Amy Rothschild, pre-school teacher and Teaching for Change volunteer

I teach in a preschool program at a public school, and while my teaching team and I have ample freedom to follow the children’s interests in our planning, our school does place a high value on the teaching of nursery rhymes. Nursery rhymes are to early childhood curricula what Frost and Poe are to high school--we may come to love them, but we teach them first out of obligation to a “common cultural knowledge.”

But what exactly is--or should become--common cultural knowledge for students from diverse linguistic, racial, and national backgrounds? At my school we stock books showing a wide range of families and realities, many from Teaching for Change’s selections. How hard could it be, I wondered, to find a little space on the shelf for nursery rhymes, considering they would be a part, and not the whole, of what we read and learn?

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Children, Arab Heritage, and Anti-Bias Education

May
16
 

Children, Arab Heritage, and Anti-Bias Education

by Louise Derman-Sparks with Merrie Najimy

What messages are you hearing from the mainstream media about the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt? What about the fighting in Libya or the government crackdowns in Syria and Bahrain? If the messages and images of Arabs and their countries are confusing to you, imagine what children are picking up from them. These new messages occur in a social environment full of existing stereotypes, misinformation, and incidents of discrimination and hatred directed at Americans of Arab descent. For example, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) reports that in 2011, the number of discrimination complaints handled by the ADC legal department is the highest since 2003—even more than after 9/11/2001 (2010 ADC Legal Report: Legal Advocacy and Policy Review).

If you work with Arab American children, you will want to assess how your learning environment supports their positive identity and home culture. As anti-bias educator Merrie Najimy relates:

Growing up Arab American in the '70s and '80s—not quite white, Semitic nose and lips, black hair galore—I felt like I lived in two worlds, “Arab" and “American”—the former not to be shared in the latter, because of concerns about being different from the dominant culture. My Arabic world was my grandmother, aunts, uncles, and first cousins all living nearby, regular Sunday dinners at Sitto’s (Grandmother’s) house, her friends chatting in Arabic, the elders smoking fruit tobacco on the Argeelee (water pipe). Women walking hand in hand and men arm in arm with no homophobic stigma attached. My cousins picking up the tabla (drum) and making powerful music, the beauty of the men dancing, and so much more. I had many friends, yet felt like an “other.” I made faces at Dick and Jane in the basal reader and scribbled in the book because their lives were nothing like my life. They represented a life that I was supposed to emulate. When kids found out I was Lebanese, they often asked, “What’s that?” which made me feel like my ethnicity was a disease. I now realize that the awkwardness I felt was due to the absence of a multicultural education—i.e., an anti-bias framework. (From Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves by Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards, 2010).

Now is a crucial time to assess how you are teaching children about children of Arab heritage.

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