Developmentally children as young as six months notice physical differences such as skin color or differences in tone of voice. By three years old children are asking questions about similarities and differences.
You’ve probably heard a young child call every four-legged animal they see, “doggy!”. We are all exposed to messages, both overt and covert from a young age and some of these messages will convey inaccurate and biased information. The purpose of anti-bias education is to actively address those messages and help children form true and accurate ideas about culture, race, ability, gender expression, and more.
Anti-bias education gives children the tools and information to notice bias in the world, bring those biases to light, and support themselves and other self-concept. It does this through exposure to a diversity of people, cultures, viewpoints, starting with their own, and working gradually out into their world.
How do we support this development in the classroom?
There are many ways, but among the most important are making sure that all children see themselves represented in literature, pictures, advertisements, through visitors to the classroom, and even through art supplies and band-aids.
Who is Anti-bias education for?
Is it for children of color and children with different abilities? Yes, through active anti-bias education, children of color develop healthier self-concept because they see themselves represented and learn how to address inequity they perceive in their environment.
Is it for white children? Children without disabilities? Yes, anti-bias education helps these children to feel comfortable with a diversity of people and abilities, and to value others’ cultural knowledge and experience. Furthermore, it prepares white children to recognize and stand up to injustice and inequity, because in order to create a kinder, more peaceful, and just world, we need everyone working toward the goal of eliminating bias and systemic injustice.
“Differences in and of themselves do not create the problem. Children learn prejudice from prejudice – not from learning about human diversity. It is how people respond to differences that teaches bias and fear.”– Anti-bais Education for Young Children and Ourselves (p.4, Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010)