Head Start - The Bias of Anti Bias
Head Start - This is an excellent article that was researched and printed in Arkansas Citizen by Family Council in November, 1995, about a teacher's manual that is either mandated or highly recommended by Head Start for its teachers. It provides a two week lesson plan for Halloween but suggests setting aside theChristmas Holiday. This Anti Bias book e is still being highly promoted in early childhood catalogs in 2002 and can be ordered by calling NAEYC at1-800-424-2460. Their website is www.naeyc.org The article is even more relevant now than when published since there is an all out push for universal preschool programs.
THE BIAS OF ANTI-BIAS
This is an excerpt found on pages 90 and 91 of a book called Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children ABC Tools. The above example was a recommendation given to after-school child care givers, who work with 4 to 6-year-old children, on how to celebrate Halloween. The authors of the curriculum believe that “the Halloween image of the witch - old, ugly, and wicked, and dressed in black, reflect stereotypes of gender, race and age.”1
DAY 1: Kay (teacher) asks “What are your ideas about witches?” “Bad, ugly, old” is the children’s unanimous response. Kay: “Many people do think that. What I know is that the real women we call witches weren’t bad. They really helped people. These women lived a long time ago. Maybe you know about some good witches too?” (The only one the class can think of is Glinda in “The Wizard of Oz”) Kay: “Yes, Glinda was pretty and helped people, but she didn’t do what most of the women called witches did. They healed people who were sick or hurt.” (The Children start talking about doctors.) Kay: “Yes, the healers were like doctors.” Then Kay reads the children a story she has written and illustrated.
DAY 2: Kay brings in a number of different herbs: mint, clove, cinnamon, and ginger root. She introduces the herbs to the children, letting them smell them. They talk about what they think they could use them for and then Kay reads to them briefly about how the herbs have really been used to help people.
DAY 3: Kay sets up a number of activities children can choose to do over the next week: a “witch-healer” table, where the children can make their own potions, a tea-making table, where children can make and drink mint and cinnamon tea; planting herbs; and making collages with herbs.
Family Council has done an in-depth analysis of ABC Tools. This curriculum was found in a Hoxie Elementary School classroom a few months ago. It was promptly removed by the principal when parents voiced their disapproval.
The main purpose of ABC Tools is values clarification. “It is values based: Differences are good; oppressive ideas and behavior are not.” The heart of the ABC Tools is “ social change.”2 Those who have developed the program realize that “ it may meet with resistance.” Its emphasis is on values rather than basic skills. This curriculum is moving into the arena of values and beliefs once controlled and developed by parents.
ABC Tools is being used in Arkansas. It is most widely promoted on the preschool level. Head Start, a federally funded program created to provide children from age 3-5 with skills that prepare them for elementary school, uses the curriculum. According to one source Head Start is federally mandated to use ABC Tools, but others say ABC Tools is just strongly recommended. There are 979 Head Start programs in the Pulaski County area alone, and hundreds more all over Arkansas.
A group of early childhood educators and workers from Pacific Oaks College in California developed the curriculum. They call themselves the ABC Task Force.
The Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children is sold by the National Association for the Education of Young Children located in Washington D.C. This organization provides resources and some accreditation services to child care professionals around the nation.[Website is www.naeyc.org]
“ANTI-BIAS” ON HOMOSEXUALITY.
ABC Tools defines homophobia as “a fear and hatred of gay men and lesbians backed up by institutional policies and power that discriminates against them.”3
ABC Tools states, “Homophobic attitudes and misconceptions about homosexuality also interfere with opening up nonsexist play options for children when teachers and parents accept the false assumption that what a child does determines his or her sexual orientation.”4 Christian parents teaching their child biblical truth, that homosexuality is a sin, are likely to be viewed as limiting the development of their child.
Teachers are told when selecting books to “beware of using the large number of children’s books picturing only families with two parents, and always with one parent of each sex.”5
One chapter in ABC Tools, “Creating an Anti-Bias Environment,” calls for “images of diversity in family style: single mothers and fathers, extended families, gay or lesbian families (families with two mothers or fathers)” are to be depicted.6 Even one of the “persona dolls” to which the children are to relate “ lives with her mother and her mother’s roommate whom she also considers to be her mommy.”7
“ANTI-BIAS” CURRICULUM INSTRUCTS TEACHERS TO TEACH DIFFERENT GROUPS IN DIFFERENT WAYS.
Some education programs designed to reduce racial prejudice in children run the risk of compounding the problem by focusing too much on racial differences. In an effort to level the playing field, they may tear down the self-esteem of some students.
A key tool teachers are encouraged to use to help children recognize bias are “persona dolls.’ These dolls are meant to represent diversity. The curriculum guide gives an example of the dolls that one teacher uses in her classroom. Pages 16-17 of ABC Tools lists 16 different dolls, and out of the 15 there are no white children without some sort of physical disability. There are children from many other ethnic and racial backgrounds, and some of them have disabilities. However, unlike the white dolls, at least one from every other background is without a physical disability.8
A chapter of the curriculum guidelines called “Learning About Racial Differences and Similarities” instructs teachers to place different tasks before classes made up of different groups of children. An example of the two different instructions is found on page 37.
If your class is predominantly children of color, the primary task is building their knowledge
and pride in themselves. A secondary task is learning about groups not present in the class.
If your class is White, the goal is to counter a White-centered view by first establishing
differences among White children and then introducing activities about people of color.
On page 58 of the same chapter, a list of tasks is given to teachers. It is broken down into all White, all Black, all Mexican-American, all Asian-American, all Native-American, or all Latino classrooms. In all classes:
The main task is to intervene in children’s developing the belief that the dominant White
culture is superior to other ways of life.
In classes made up of children or color:
The first task with children of color is to build their sense of personal and group identity....
a second task is to foster their awareness and empathy for the life of other ethnic groups of color...
the third task of learning how to live in the dominant culture.
‘ANTI-BIAS ON CHRISTIANITY.
ABC Tools addresses many more issues that concern the family. The book instructs teachers to “beware of using the large number of books that assume readers are Christian”9 It also discourages teachers from using older books because “many, including books that are considered classics, reflect bias.”10
ABC Tools provides teachers with a two week lesson plan to celebrate Halloween. The Christmas holiday, however, is to be set aside by “doing December holidays other than Christmas... This is meant to expose Christian children to other important December traditions and to support the children who do not celebrate Christmas.”11
The analysis that Family Council has given in this article is not all inclusive. ABC Tools is being used in our state. And it is not yet clear at how many schools and day-care centers in Arkansas children are being encouraged to create potions at “witch-healer” tables.
For more information on ABC Tools, please contact Family Council at 1900 N. Bryant St., Suite A, Little Rock, AR 72207 or call 501-664-4566.
1 Louise Derman-Spanks, Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children. (1993) Page 90.