1. What is anti-bias education (ABE)?
Anti-bias education is a stance that supports children and their grown-ups as they develop a sense of personal and group identity within a complex and multicultural society. This approach helps teach children to be proud of themselves and their families, to respect a range of human differences, to recognize unfairness and bias, and to speak up for what is right. (Derman-Sparks & Olsen, 2010).
At Chickpeas, this means working to create an inclusive community that encourages conversations among children and adults about all types of human differences including culture, race, language, physical, mental, and social-emotional abilities, learning styles, ethnicity, family structure, religion, sexual orientation, gender, age, socio-economic differences, and our many ways of being.
2. Why is ABE in preschool so important?
Early childhood is a critical period of time when children are first receiving and perceiving messages about themselves, their families, and others. With ABE, we work to make sure that all children see themselves and their families reflected and respected in the early childhood classroom. When classroom demographics do not represent all types of diversity, the teachers' and families' job is to teach about these underrepresented groups.
3. What do children learn in an ABE environment?
Children learn about similarities and differences in people and communities. They are encouraged to act in ways that reflect anti-bias values and to stand up for things they feel are unfair. ABE is integrated into the classroom activities in both planned curriculum within the structure of the day, as well as "teachable moments" based on children's social interactions, conversations, and play. Anti-bias curriculum topics come from the children, families, and teachers, as well as historical or current events. When children ask questions about differences, adults listen in order to facilitate conversations and responses.
4. What is the role of families in ABE?
Families can play many roles:
Be aware of the school's approach to ABE and understand the ways that it may be manifested in the classroom.
Build relationships and engage in dialogue with teachers, staff, other families, and your own children.
Share your wisdom and insights about your child with the school, including information about your home culture, values, and ways of being.
Participate in classroom activities, school-wide activities, and adult learning groups.
Each family's level of participation is unique and is respected. As teachers learn more about your child and family throughout the school year, they become better equipped to invite and facilitate rich discussions and learning opportunities for both the individual child and the classroom group. Families should feel empowered and valued to share ideas and perspectives – not only when concepts or topics make sense, but especially when topics are confusing or uncomfortable. Families should feel able to tell us the ways in which their family interacts with the world.
5. How does ABE relate to bullying?
ABE is an example of an anti-bullying, pro-social curriculum because we are proactively teaching children how to fairly understand and respond when they encounter difference. However, we do not use the word "bullying" in early childhood because young children are not bullies; children at this age are simply learning to interact. Exploration of power and conflict are a natural part of this process and are opportunities for problem solving skills to be directly taught.
6. How do teachers decide what to teach?
What types of similarities and differences are discussed with the children? Anti-bias curriculum topics come from the children, families, and teachers, as well as historical or current events. In an effort to help children understand, respect, and interact comfortably with people different from themselves, teachers discuss and plan activities that consider how we are alike and how we are different, including physical characteristics, gender, language, culture, religion, ability, family structure, etc. Teachers also make decisions on what to teach based on the interests, questions, and issues that children show us through their play and conversations.
7. How is ABE integrated into the school day?
What is the relationship between play, academics, and ABE? Anti-bias education occurs through both proactive, planned curriculum as well as natural "teachable moments" that arise in children's social interactions, conversations, and play. Teachers also carefully think about what children need in terms of individual and group development throughout the year. Balancing these aspects of curriculum development leads to activities that integrate into the classroom's daily schedule, as well as with the social, emotional, cognitive, motor, and academic goals that we have for the children.
8. Is ABE appropriate for young children? Will my child learn or acquire biases about others?
Three aspects inform early childhood teachers' thinking about developmental appropriateness:
What we know about the individual child
The sociocultural context (such as communities, cultural, ethnic, or linguistic groups, or national context)
What researchers have learned over time about children's development
In most cases, children are exposed to diversity on a daily basis from their neighborhoods, media, and schools. From infancy on, children are constantly deriving meanings from their experiences, regardless of whether adults are supporting them in this process. Anti-bias educators believe that it is the responsibility of adults to scaffold children's learning about diversity to ensure that the messages that children take away are positive.
Some families may worry that talking about biases might foster bias in children and choose to avoid discussing the topic. However, studies show that not talking about diversity does not ensure that children are not noticing it. Moreover, children have trouble predicting adults' attitudes about diversity unless adults have communicated their attitudes directly to them.
It may appear that a child who has begun to spontaneously point out racial diversity is acquiring bias. Instead, if we view this behavior as a step in the process of learning to recognize and appreciate human diversity, we can take advantage of a teachable moment.
9. How is ABE related to special education inclusion?
Chickpeas is a special education inclusion school. Special education inclusion is the practice of educating children with physical and/or learning challenges together with typically developing peers. Anti-bias education is an approach that encompasses special education inclusion and extends it to address differences in culture, race, language, gender, economic class, and family structure, etc. The goals of anti-bias education and special education inclusion are very similar in that they place positive value on differences and treating all people with fairness and respect.
Teachers use a variety of language to support children in learning about their own and one another's unique learning needs. Children are invited to share their strengths and expertise, as well as their challenges and skills that they are working on. Children also are exposed to the idea that "fair is not always equal." This means that what one child may need to do her best learning may be different from what another child needs. Children learn to express their own needs as well as understand and support the needs of others. In practice this may mean that some children require specialized seating, additional sensory breaks, or distinct writing tools in order to work to their highest ability. In addition, children learn that all classmates have contributions to make to the community. These contributions are acknowledged and children are encouraged to seek one another out for their strengths and contributions.
10. How can I stay informed about the work my child's class is doing with in regard to ABE?
There are many ways to stay informed about ABE in your class. Some of them include:
Most important: ask your child and your child's teacher
Find out about the books that teachers are using in class to address anti-bias issues. Check these books out or ask your child's teacher if you can borrow the book from the class for a night!
Let your child's teacher know you are interested in observing anti-bias work. Find a time to observe during explicit anti-bias discussion.
Volunteer in the classroom. Find out from your child's teacher if it possible for you to take part in an ABE lesson.
*These FAQs were sourced from the text Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves by Louise Derman-Sparks, Julie Olsen Edwards, and Catherine M. Goins.