So, you just realized that there are some massive gaps in your bookshelves and in the lessons you teach.
We did this by reading Own Voices books, learning online, and luckily Corrie studied at Simmons University, whose graduate school that allowed her to dig deep and learn more in 2 years of schooling that she had in all of her previous education.
For her master’s thesis, she decided to develop curriculum and a resource guide for educators to assist in the development of their own Anti-Bias Anti-Racist (ABAR) lessons for their classrooms. The project was created to assist educators on their journey to implement diverse literature and social justice ethics into their classroom culture. She also provided lists of children’s books, books for adults, and recommendations for documentaries and websites that provide even more context and support.
It is the responsibility of the educator to do the research and work themselves, rather than put the onus on marginalized communities to educate them.
However, we recognize that it can be difficult to know where to start in your personal anti-racist journey. Hopefully, by creating TTA, we have made it easier for teachers to integrate learning materials that embody the ideals of social justice and work against white supremacy and racism within schools. The list is definitely not the be-all end-all, but it is our hope that this will provide the springboard that early education teachers need to dive into this work. It is also our belief that educators should join together to create a study group and do this work together. Sharing space and creating time to process complex and challenging concepts is essential, especially at a time like this when communication has been disrupted in many ways.
Teachers are able to choose the language that they use when reading books aloud, especially for young students that cannot read; for instance, changing pronouns to make the book’s character gender-neutral, or censoring a word that is not used in the classroom (stupid or dumb). However, they cannot change the illustrations. Thus, it is crucial for accurate and comprehensive representation in early childhood books. Conscious effort is required to provide a varied experience through books. Written and spoken language influence gender socialization by providing direct information about the existence or invisibility of people in various societal roles.
When working with younger students specifically, it is the educator’s task to build a foundation of critical thinking as well as developmentally appropriate knowledge of various power structures in relation to oppression. Active ignorance thrives on socially sanctioned practices, such as the perpetuation of curriculum that enables white supremacy. Educators need to be held accountable for their efforts to show their students the many intricacies of the world in which they live. Teaching students of any age to question and critique what they are told will begin to build this foundation for awareness of implicit bias and epistemic ignorance. Postructural feminism beseeches pedagogies and educators to look to the margins and find those students who have been forgotten (MacNaughton, 2001).
What is Implicit Bias?
Also known as implicit social cognition, implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control. Residing deep in the subconscious, these biases are different from known biases that individuals may choose to conceal for the purposes of social and/or “political correctness”. Rather, implicit biases are not accessible through introspection.
The implicit associations we harbor in our subconscious cause us to have feelings and attitudes about other people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, age, and appearance. These associations develop over the course of a lifetime beginning at a very early age through exposure to direct and indirect messages. In addition to early life experiences, the media and news programming are often-cited origins of implicit associations.
Giving children the agency and power to articulate their own needs guides them to embody their intellectual potential. This must include promoting equitable policies that truly integrate positive representations of marginalized groups into every classroom, every day. Instead of a one-time celebration of surface level cultural exploration, the work is an everyday requirement in order to adequately prepare children for the world in which they live. This includes sharing the authentic lived experiences of historical figures of color, same-sex parents, disabled and neurodiverse people, as well as gender diverse professionals, all presented in an age-appropriate manner (Pat & McBride, 1993).
Books play an important role in gender socialization by providing children with information about ethical societal values, as well as providing role models for what they can and should do as adults (Pat & McBride, 1993). If these essential elements are held at arm’s length, we are doing great damage to our planet, and our community.
Speaking truth to power engages students and empowers them on their journey towards embodying compassion.
Gay, G. (2000). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research and practice. New York, New York. Teachers College Press.
MacNaughton, Glenda. (2001). Rethinking Gender in Early Childhood Education.Newbury Park, California. SAGE Publications.
Pat, M.B.; McBride, B.A. (1993). Gender Equity in Picture Books in Preschool Classrooms: An Exploratory Study.Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association.