Anti-Bias Educations: Why It’s Important in Early Childhood Education

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Anti-bias education is an approach to early learning that uses value-based principles to encourage respecting and embracing differences while acting against bias and unfairness. The goal is to create an environment of identity development so children can achieve their fullest potential.

From the moment a child is born, they are learning about the world around them, especially about their own identity and the identity of others. Friends, family and those around a child constantly send messages to their developing brains. When diversity (race, religion, gender identity, culture, socioeconomic class, body type, etc.) is not respected, young people can develop harmful behaviors such as bullying. Children, of all ages, should feel proud of who they are without feeling superior to anyone else.

There are four core goals of anti-bias education which help to create safe and inclusive learning environments for all children.

Identity

Teachers will nurture each child’s construction of knowledgeable, confident, individual personal and social identities.

Children will demonstrate self-awareness, confidence, family pride and positive social identities.

This goal is about adults supporting children to strengthen their personal identity. This is done by using accurate and respectful language to describe who they are and others around them. This also means that early educators and teachers should work to be supportive and inclusive of home cultures in their school culture. This helps nurture each child’s individual and personal identity. Examples of social identities include gender, race, ethnicity, culture, religion and economic class.

Diversity

Teachers will promote each child’s comfortable, empathetic interaction with people from diverse backgrounds.

Children will express comfort and joy with human diversity, use accurate language for human differences, and form deep, caring connections across all dimensions of human diversity.

Adults should guide children to think about and describe how others are the same and how they are different. One of the most important steps to this core goal is to demonstrate and teach children to openly and respectively interact with people who are different from themselves. To do this, a child must understand how they are both similar and different from other children around them.

Justice

Teachers will foster each child’s capacity to critically identify bias and will nurture each child’s empathy for the hurt bias causes.

Children will increasingly recognize unfairness (injustice), have language to describe unfairness, and understand that unfairness hurts.

At this point, children will begin to develop a sense of empathy and fairness as their cognitive skills develop. They will begin to identify unfair images, comments and behaviors in their environment. This will result in the critical thinking skills necessary to make unfair situations fair again, also creating an increased sense of a child’s social power. All of this strengthens a child’s sense of self and their capacity to care for others.

Activism

Teachers will cultivate each child’s ability and confidence to stand up for oneself and others in the face of bias.

Children will demonstrate a sense of empowerment and the skills to act, with others or alone, against prejudice and/or discriminatory actions.

This goal is about empowering children with tools to speak up against hurtful or unfair behavior. Teasing and exclusions are just as harmful to a child’s social identity as more aggressive behaviors. Children who engage in such behavior are learning that it is acceptable to bully and hurt others around them. Interventions to these behaviors should be gentle but firm, supporting the target of the biased behavior while educating both children on the appropriate ways to interact with one another.

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