Five ways to analyze classrooms for an anti-bias approach
Increasingly, we are becoming aware of bias in our society. This may be bias based not only on culture or race, but also on social class, religion, or physical and mental abilities. One of the goals of high-quality child care programs is to help children become sensitive to issues of bias and to develop anti-bias skills.
The materials and pictures in your program may not totally represent an anti-bias curriculum. But pictures do provide one way to introduce anti-bias concepts into your program. Analyze your classroom with attention to the particular children, families, and staff who are served. What is appropriate or inappropriate will be based partly on the culture and context of the people involved. Don’t remove all “biased” materials, however. Children and adults need the opportunity to talk about and think through issues of bias. This will help them develop the critical thinking skills needed to identify bias. It will also help them to be sensitive to and to better understand the feelings of people who are hurt by bias. Children who are discriminated against also need the skills and knowledge of how to respond when bias happens to them. Since our world is ever changing, we all must continue to analyze our work and leisure for bias; it is a journey and a struggle. Consider the following areas as you think about anti-bias issues in relation to your work and lives.
ONE: EVERYDAY AND EVERYWHERE
You may feel overwhelmed when you first begin to think about bias and anti-bias. You may suddenly begin to see bias everywhere – in the newspaper, on the television, or on the bus on your way to work. You may be saddened by the subtle, unspoken messages in children’s books or games.
As you struggle with the issues and images, you may also become aware of the wonder of people around you. You may make new friends from diverse cultures. You may explore your own history or the history of those around you. You may find leaders today who are like you or very unlike you.
Although you now recognize that both bias and the possibility of anti-bias exists, you may not know just what to do. But at least you know that something must be done. This is the most important step in your journey; you have recognized that choices matter and that you can make choices that support both you and the children and families you serve.
For children, remember that it is what you make available to them (not what is in the closet), that will affect their growth today. We don’t know which day is the most important in a child’s life. As a result, anti-bias concepts must be a continuous part of the curriculum rather than being presented as occasional “scheduled” activities. This doesn’t mean that everything related to every issue of bias is displayed everyday. Rather, messages about bias and anti-bias are everywhere, everyday. One child may remember only the books you have, another only the music you play. Make a conscious decision to include some anti-bias concept somewhere, everyday.