Redefining the Norm: Early Childhood Anti-Bias Strategies
It is often assumed that young children are unaware of racial differences and that they do not discriminate on the basis of gender,relative wealth,ethnicity and other characteristics.In fact, young children do notice differences. They quickly learn from their environment to attach values to those differences and to mimic the dominant society’s discriminatory behavior unless those biases and behaviors are challenged.Children need help in recognizing and challenging bias rather than internalizing it.A multicultural/anti-bias approach can help students learn to place a positive value on those differences and to treat all people with respect.It can nurture the development of positive self identity and group identity in not only the students but also the staff and families.Education by itself cannot eliminate prejudice or injustice.But the application of an anti-bias approach in the early years can help children to develop:
– pride in who they are;
– respect for others and the ability to interact with many different
perspectives and to solve problems cooperatively and creatively;
– critical thinking skills and the ability to recognize bias and injustice;
– the commitment and ability to act against bias and injustice individually and in cooperation with others.
In this article I will describe some of the strategies that can be used to create an anti-racist/anti-bias environment.Many of the ideas have been implemented at the Washington-Beech Community Preschool,where I have worked as Director since 1985.