Discussion: Formulating Goals

Education by itself cannot eliminate prejudice or ensure social justice. But the implementation of anti-bias education in the early years can help children to understand and respect diversity.

In the Learning Resources for this week, you were presented with the four core goals of anti-bias education, the interconnectedness between each of these goals, and some initial ideas for how to put these goals into practice. In this Discussion, you will have an opportunity to explore how these overarching goals relate to you and your career as an early childhood professional.

To prepare for the Discussion, reflect on questions posed in “What Do the ABE Goals Mean to Me?” found in Chapter 1 of the course text.

  • To what degree, or in what ways, do I nurture the construction of a knowledgeable, confident self-identity and group identity in myself?
  • How do I promote my own comfortable, empathetic interactions with people from diverse backgrounds?
  • In what ways do I foster my critical thinking about bias?
  • Under what circumstances do I cultivate my ability to stand up for myself and for others in the face of bias?
  • What are the challenges to achieving these goals in my life?
  • What might be ways for me to develop each of these goals in my work? in my personal life?

With these thoughts in mind, develop two professional goals with respect to anti-bias education and the work you do – or plan to do – with children. Consider how these goals may help to set the stage for your learning in this course and assist you in becoming more effective when working with children and families from all backgrounds.

By Day 3

Post your responses to the following questions:

  • The two professional goals you developed related to anti-bias education and your work in an early childhood setting.
  • The ways in which the readings and media segment from this week have influenced the formulation of your goals. Be sure to support your comments with specific references to and/or examples from the Required Resources.
  • The ways in which the implementation of these goals will help you to work more effectively with young children and families.
  • Challenges you might encounter on your journey to becoming an early childhood professional who understands and practices anti-bias education.EDUC6358: Strategies for Working with Diverse Children “Thinking Deeply about Diversity and Inequity”

    Program Transcript


    NARRATOR: It’s not the fact that we’re different the causes problems. It’s how people are treated because of those differences. In this program, author, consultant, and diversity educator Julie Olsen Edwards welcomes you to the course with wise and thoughtful insights about identity development, diversity, and inequity, and the anti-bias education approach.

    JULIE OLSEN EDWARDS: The core of a Master’s Program in Early Childhood Education is to study all the different ways in which we professionals can work to ensure that all children really get to be fully who they are– grow fully into people they are. And the world today is a world in which children are going to grow up side-by-side with people who are very, very different from them. The notion of growing up in a community of people very much like you is gone. In this century, children will live and need to know how to maneuver and live through a world in which people are different, and they work with, live with, marry, play with.

    So this work we do is as much about the families of children and the community’s children live with as it is about children. Because children develop identity, we know all children have individual personalities, they’re born with temperaments, they have preferences. But they also grow up in context, in the context of a particular family, in the context of a community, and the whole series of social identities that are imposed from the outside upon them, and that they have to construct from the inside what they mean, who we are.

    We are all really the same as human beings. We have these great human qualities that are the same in all of us, but we’re also very, very different from each other. And the differences are as important as the similarities. If we don’t know how we are unique, how we are different, we don’t know each other. And issues of our racial identity, our class identity, our culture, our family structure, our ability, all of those things become part of the picture of who we are. And we need to be able to speak to those things and work with those things in the classroom if we really care about who that child is. It’s not the fact that were different that causes problems. It’s not our differences, it’s how people are treated because of those differences. The issue is not diversity. The issue is inequity. So that when people are treated badly, treated less than fully human, it hurts who we are, who we become.

    And children from the very, very beginning are fascinated with human difference. I mean, the first thing a baby tries to do is focus on the human face. They’re programed to stare in and see the configuration. They’re fascinated by people and all the pieces that make us up. That differences are what intrigue them. And it’s only when we adults and the world around them teaches them that differences are dangerous, that’s when we get into trouble. Because children are constructing a picture, not only of how other people are different from them, but also what that says about who they are. A picture of their own identity, it starts in infancy and is being built that entire time.

    So when adults don’t talk about difference, when we’re afraid of the subject– I mean, it’s so, you know, nice people just don’t mention that. We’re not supposed to notice. What it teaches children is that the grown-ups are afraid. What we don’t talk about teaches children that this is dangerous material. What we make invisible when we have a surrounding children with pictures, and books, and dolls, and videos and the advertisements, and anything that’s made invisible, children take a message that those people don’t matter, and even further that those people are scary. And if it’s

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    you and your family that’s made invisible, the message is, who I am is not acceptable, who I am is to be afraid of. And children construct deeply these senses of themselves and the sense of other people starting in infancy. And what we make invisible, what we don’t talk about when we deny that the differences are part of who we are, we injure children. We set them up to learn that they are less than they can be, or we set them up to believe that they are superior and more entitled. Neither serves our children well.

    One of the ways educators have tried to address the issue of difference in the past– a good- hearted attempt where people wanted to do the right thing became, sadly, what we now call Tourist curriculum. There was this assumption that there was real, ordinary, everyday life, which was white, and middle class, two-parent family, And everybody else was strange and exotic. So you had real, everyday curriculum, and then, this is Mexico week. And we’ll all go and we’ll see people put on fancy costumes, and sombreros, and dancing like, [SINGING] La Cucaracha, La Cucaracha. And then we come back and we have a real life again.

    And then maybe we have a week where we do Japan week. And everybody eats rice, and you put on a kimono, and you sing [SINGING] Sakura. And it’s the idea that you’ve dropped in on these strange, exotic people who wear costumes eat food you don’t know. And then the real world is defined by this norm, which of course is not a norm, it is one way of living. So Tourist curriculum didn’t work. It basically furthered that sense of some people are normal and ordinary, and other people are exotic. Some people have culture, but us normal people don’t, which is pretty silly.

    The anti-bias work was an attempt to address these issues and it has four goals, two sets of linked goals. The first two goals are about having language for knowing who you are, having a sense of pride about who you are, being able to describe who you are. Pride, but not superiority. That sense of, hey, who I am is a good thing, Who my family is a good thing. The way my family is structured, the people around us, there is strength here that I am part of. And the flip-side of that is there are a lot of people who are different for me, and I can talk about those differences, I can ask about this difference, and, oh boy, this is really interesting. This is exciting stuff. So you have these two linked goals which are about we are all the same, we are all different. These are good things that I’m comfortable with, that I can talk about, that I can embrace.

    And then you have two other linked goals, because the real issue is inequity here. And the other linked goals are helping children to have the language– well, when kids talk it’s about fairness– have kids the ability to say that’s not fair. People are erased by that. People are made invisible. People’s feelings are hurt. It’s a stereotype. And yeah, you can talk about stereotypes with four- year-olds. They love the word. it’s a great big word and they enjoy it. That these things are unfair, and the other side of that is we can do something about it. I can stand up for me. I can stand up for you. We can stand up for each other to make what is unfair, fair. And those four goals are what have come to be called the anti-bias education approach, which is an embracing of both the diversity of who we are and a recognition of inequity and what we can do about it.

    Because children are constructing their identities internally while all of this is coming to them from the outside, it means that we adults have a very important role in helping them figure out what it means. We’re helping them construct these identities. And doing that means several things for us. It means we have to be really conscious of what children’s home contexts are. We have to bring those into the classroom and celebrate them. We have to help children develop a language so they can talk about who they are and who other people are.

    Often in education, the message we’ve gotten is the way to make change is you find out what doesn’t work and you attack the problem. But to really help children flourish, what we need to do is identify their strength. We need to find, what is it the child brings to us that they can use to

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    build. How do we help them take those places from their families, from their community, and use them in a place of strength? Identifying strength, moving from strength, that’s really how children grow. And in the process, that’s how staff grows. As we, as teachers, learn to do that about ourself– every teacher I know, we go home at the end of the day and what we remember is that one child we blew it with. We remember the five minutes the circle fell apart– but the way we really grow as teachers is to remember all the times it worked. And to make that bigger, and bigger, to build on that strength.

    And that’s part of what this program is about that you’re going to be studying. How do we identify the strengths in children? How do we use their curiosity? How do we use their drive for fairness? How do we use their desire for friends, their desire to be a friend? How do we use those as tools to build the kinds of skills children need to survive and to thrive in our highly polarized country right now and world? How do we help with that? What the goal is, is building child– helping children to become critical thinkers, to have courage, to have compassion, to be members of a very complex community. That’s what they need. We need you, as teachers, to support and help that to happen. That’s what we call anti-bias education. It is a long journey. Welcome to the journey.

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