The bias in the early childhood classroom affects the formation of undesirable attitudes towards different social groups, which impacts their general dysfunctional integration into modern society. Adequate socialization in the current realities presupposes the celebration of society’s multicultural nature and the realization of everyone’s equal status. If children are exposed to the situation where biases are encouraged and reproduced, they will reinforce them in the future, and it will eventually lead to the reinforcement of inequalities and disparities between social groups.
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The anti-bias curriculum aims to raise awareness of bias and reduce unfairness. This type of learning involves critical thinking about the problems being studied, both on the part of the children and the teacher themselves (Teaching for Change, 2021). The program’s focus is on barriers created by prejudice, misinformation, and unfair treatment of certain aspects of personal and collective identity. Derman-Sparks and Edwards (2019) outline four core goals of anti-bias education: identity, diversity, justice, and activism. First, education should support the formation of a conscious, confident, and positive social identity in learners, while teachers should guide the children in an unbiased and knowledgeable way.
Second, the curriculum should teach diversity as any solution designed to raise awareness, attitudes, knowledge, and cultural diversity skills. This involves combating such prejudices as racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, weightism, homophobia, classism, colorism, heightism, religion, and other forms of discrimination (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2019). Also, the neurodiversity movement is gaining popularity now, which also affects educational standards.
Third, justice presupposes the development in children of a critical approach to the analysis of information and the detection of prejudices and their reasons for this on their own. An important place in this process is the elaboration of the language of speaking and describing inequality and injustice and the psychological consequences for the oppressed side. Finally, the goal of the anti-bias approach to education is to cultivate individual agency (as opposed to passive perception) in relation to the problems caused by prejudice, which they and others face. The key concept here is the empowerment of children.
Strategies to Support an Anti-bias Classroom
A variety of strategies have been developed to support an anti-bias classroom. They can be classified into three major ones. First, it is essential to implement the ongoing critical bias detection throughout the learning process. Identification of occurring biases is crucial during children’s expression of their opinion even if the discussion’s focus does not relate to the problem directly.
The second strategy involves the encouragement of critical and fruitful discussions. It includes opening up the conversation instead of shutting it down and speaking with children in their language so that they have an opportunity to understand the issues easier and include the suggested attitudes in their language and, subsequently, their worldview.
Finally, the central place should be devoted to the teacher’s critical self-assessment and self-reflection. Lesley University (n.d.) suggests to “realize and accept that you may feel uncomfortable when embarking on these discussions” (para. 18). Although it is the children who should become empowered and open to diversity, the teacher’s role and worldview are pivotal to the process of anti-bias education.
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Reflection of My Own Bias
I believe my attitudes towards bias are liberal and positive, which may be my strength in adopting the anti-bias curriculum. In general, I do not have any difficulties following the fast-changing agenda on the socio-cultural construction of what is considered normal. At the same time, I find it helpful to base my judgments on human rights’ profound morale. I assume the latter affects my teaching most favorably since whatever happens with the fluctuating political discourses, the children will know what to base their perceptions, attitudes, and reasoning on.
- Name: Literature
- Date: 20 Feb 2021
- Age of Group: 4-5 years old
- Activity: Reading and discussion
- Subject: Tap Tap Boom Boom (Bluemle 2014)
- Rationale: The book is relatively simple and appropriate for their age. It celebrates friendship and new acquaintances, the processes children of this age are already familiar with.
- Concepts: Diversity (diverse city), friendship, friendliness, kindness, warmth, welcoming.
- NYS Learning Standard: PK.Al.1, PK.AL.3, PK.AL.4, PK.SEL.1, PK.SEL.4, PK.SEL.5 (New York State Education Department, 2019).
- Learning Outcomes: Children define concepts, interpret them, recite the book, state their opinion, explain and reason their opinion, apply concepts in their language, extrapolate and interpolate situations, illustrate with their own stories.
- Materials: A presentation with slides containing the pages of the book.
- Motivation: To introduce the anti-bias curriculum while reading, focusing on interracial and inter-status chance meetings resulting in friendship.
- Introduction: Now, children, let us think about our friends. How did you meet them?
- Activity: First time the teacher reads the story, then children are welcomed to join, and the classroom reads altogether for the second time with the teacher. Then, three questions follow the reading to open a discussion. First, what happened in the story and what this story tells us about. Second, how different people make friends with each other in this story, what is common among them? Third, how did everyone express their kindness and welcoming, and in what form everyone felt warmth.
- Closure: Discussion of the importance of openness and kindness to diverse people and the significance of friendship.
Derman-Sparks, L., & Edwards, J. O. (2019). Understanding Anti-Bias Education: Bringing the Four Core Goals to Every Facet of Your Curriculum. NAEYC. Web.
Lesley University (n.d.). Teaching Young Children to Understand and Accept Differences. Teaching Young Children to Understand and Accept Differences | Lesley University. Web.
New York State Education Department (2019). The New York State Prekindergarten Learning Standards. Web.
Teaching for Change. (2021). Anti-Bias education. Web.