Envisioning Equity: The Space Between

We often hear the words like diversity and multiculturalism tossed around in educational settings. We think to ourselves, these are important ideas and values for young children. Indeed they are- but something happens in the space between our good intentions and the work we do with children, especially our youngest learners. The messages are scrambled, watered down, and turn into a feel-good celebration of what are typically the most easy to identify aspects of culture and diversity. We use terms like awareness, tolerance, competence-what weight does each of these terms carry in this conversation, and have we fully explored our common definitions? What is our ultimate goal; from these many definitions what is it that we are trying to achieve? Many would say that our goal is an equitable society, a place where children and adults do not fall prey to the stereotypes and biases that have been fostered amongst all of us, but rather see the value, unique qualities and strengths of one another. This ongoing work takes difficult self-reflection, growing towards self-awareness, and the sometimes painful realization of the fact that if we do not do the work to counter stereotypes, bias and injustice in our youngest children, they will no doubt learn them through their exposures to the world around them. As we now experience a resurgence of hatred based on racial identification, country of origin, and sexuality, we are even more aware that our hopes for a “post-racial society” are far from reach. This monthly post will explore equity themes in early childhood education, using Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards newly published edition, “Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves” (National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2010). Thank you to the Takoma Park Cooperative Nursery School for hosting the blog, and stay tuned and be a part of this critical conversation.