Francis Wardle, Exchange Leader and author of Oh Boy! Strategies for Teaching Boys in Early Childhood shares his thoughts today:
One of the central ideas of early childhood anti-bias/diversity education is to counter the traditional view that young children don’t see difference; that they are color-blind. Now we dismiss this idea and focus on children’s differences – especially physical differences - including skin tone, hair texture, eye shape, various disabilities, different languages and accents, and so on. We also focus on the diversity of the world beyond the child. Books, dolls, miniature people, puppets, artwork, curricular content, etc., are used to celebrate these differences.
And this makes sense, as according to Piaget, children at the preoperational stage (age 2-7) process the world by noticing differences. It’s how they sort, sequence, catalog and remember the world. It also makes sense because we know that learning about diversity is all about acknowledging and celebrating the rich tapestry of human differences. There is no norm, no standard, and no ideal. Each child needs to feel good their physical and other characteristics - while also respecting children and people who are different.
But in my article, "Adding to our view of early childhood multicultural education" (Childhood Education Innovations, Sept/Oct 2018), I suggest this acceptance and celebration of differences is only the beginning. I believe we must then add the concept of all the ways we are the same.
We all have families (a vast diversity, including foster and adoptive families), we all have a language (some more than one), and we all come from somewhere. Everyone has dreams, fears, likes and dislikes, and plans for the future. We all have loved ones, and friends and neighbors.
Teaching children about diversity involves celebrating the rich world of human differences, while also understanding the many profound ways that we are, in fact, all the same.
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