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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Anti-Bias Education: A Guest Post

I was recently contacted by a gentleman from Rasmussen College. He asked if some of the Early Childhood Education faculty would be able to occasionally contribute a guest post here at Preschool Playbook. Jeff and I have been communicating back and forth and we have decided to give this a try. I think it might be a valuable way to get some information about Early Childhood issues and practices out to all.

The first guest we have at Preschool Playbook is Kelly Lee Kist. She has written an article concerning anti-bias education. At first sight this sounds like a heave topic, but I thought Kelly presented it very well, and the article is thought provoking. At the end of the article is Kelly's bio. I hope you enjoy your reading. Thanks Kelly!

Is Anti-Bias Education A Myth?

My students and I are discussing what it takes to work with families in our Dynamics of the Family class. It has been enlivening to watch as the students begin to put their base knowledge of Early Childhood Education to test while considering the child’s larger and most important world: their family and culture.

Not a week goes by that doesn’t send me scurrying for my pen to write down an important thought or shared concern we all have so that I may do further research and thinking about this ever personal and deeply challenging topic that underlies the conversation: Bias.

What is Bias? A dictionary will tell you many meanings, the two I am focusing on are: (source:

· Influence in an unfair way; "you are biasing my choice by telling me yours"
· A partiality that prevents objective consideration of an issue or situation

Consider these for a moment in the context of Early Childhood Education.

How do children learn best? -Modeling.

Who do they watch first and foremost as their models? -Teachers and family members.

The above definitions almost read like an order of events. If a child is influenced by what YOU think and feel, won’t they then be partial to YOUR way of thinking and won’t that then prevent their objective consideration of events?

Simply put: If you always scrunch up your nose when you see or smell pork, will your child want to avoid pork? Of course! When they learn more language will they be likely to think of pork as “bad” or “wrong”? Most certainly!

Now put this into the context of a parent or care giver who is uncomfortable around issues we all struggle with like sexual preference or racial differences or religious beliefs. One can quickly see that for young children, the world is a maze of ideas and opinions – biases, if you will – that are not their own. However, to a young child who is merely absorbing parent and caregiver ideas these biases feel as if they are truths.

Can you see the danger here?

In considering excellence in education we always have to consider the individual needs of the children if we hope to be effective. We must leave our own, personal, biases at the doors of our classrooms in many instances. And, on the surface, that seems logical to almost everyone in our field and our context.

Just try and believe that when it comes to something you have a personal bias toward and it can quickly become difficult.

A great example I know has to do with my own son. During a recent presidential campaign he heard a political ad supporting the candidate that I did not support.

I had never directly discussed politics or presidents with my then young son, but he heard me talking about my opinions to others. This political ad was, admittedly, rather intriguing and when it was over he piped up from the backseat: “Mama? Did you like that ad?” I remarked that I thought it was clever, yes. Then, after a pause he asked, “Mama? I can’t remember. WHO do we wish will become President again? Was it the guy in THAT ad? Because, can we like that ad if it’s not our team?”

Who do WE want to become President? OUR team? I was flabbergasted that he knew so much about it all and just dumbstruck that this child of an Early Childhood Professional would be so biased! He considered no other criteria than what his parents thought was right.

I felt the weight of a thousand pounds descend on my shoulders as I contemplated this reality and wondered how in the world I would ever raise an open-minded and non-biased citizen of the Earth with a start like this!

It is profoundly important to remember that young children will be biased according to the thoughts and feelings of their family and culture, period. There is no escape from enculturation, and actually, this a good thing.

It presents a challenge only when we forget it and try to behave as if this wonderful melting pot of a country we live in is not a beautiful mix of both difference and similarity.

So, you can see why we get so excited in my class each week. We begin to discuss matters of the lives of children and the ideals and best practices of a pre-school context and before we know it we are debating religion and discipline and skin color and all of the many different ways our clients will challenge us to be unbiased and welcoming in our classrooms and offices--no matter what shape their family holds and no matter what biases they have learned.

Unbiased and welcoming? To every child? What a beautiful world that will be……

Kelly Lee Kist
Title: Adjunct Online InstructorRasmussen College Online

My name is Kelly Lee Kist. I have been an Early Childhood Educator since I enrolled in Community College at age 17. I started my own preschool as a young adult and, through the years, found my time spent in educating teachers and parents as enriching and important as my time with the children. After two decades of Preschool Teaching, Mentoring and Development I left my school and the non-profit agency, The Seasons Way, in good hands in California and relocated to the Twin Cities to raise my son and focus more exclusively on adult learners. I am delighted to join the Rasmussen team and grateful for every opportunity to connect, reflect and learn in my work and in my life.

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Ann Morgan said...

Great work, Kelly!
Correction: Kelly Kist is a now a full-time instructor with Rasmussen College - Online.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the post

gmafive said...

I am an Assistant Teacher in a Pre K Counts classroom. I too have pondered how to teach anti bias. Children are biased and I believe that it may not be possible to teach thme otherwise. I feel that by simply offering them or showing tham a different set of values, at least gives them room to choose their own biases.