We are parents and educators committed to a just and equitable society. This blog is a forum to share ideas and resources to help us teach our children and ourselves about social equity issues.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Curriculum Night

Hello Parents, Teachers and Colleagues,
Last night was curriculum night at our school where our wonderful teachers explained their pedagogy to us adult caregivers. Listening to the teachers describe their teaching philosophy prompts me to review with this group what I see as the fundamental backbone of social justice parenting- the goals of an anti-bias curriculum. These four principles provide structure for our self-education as teachers and parents and a framework for teaching our children. They come from the extensive work of Louise Derman-Sparks and Patricia Ramsey, and I have paraphrased them somewhat here. (For full details, look to their first book or their most recent.)
1. Nurture a healthy self and group identity. What does this mean in practice? Well for my family in which I am raising 2 white boys, it means raising boys with a healthy male gender identity and healthy white racial identity not based in superiority. For another family with different social identities, it may mean raising a daughter of color with a healthy female gender identity and a healthy black racial identity, without internalized racism or gender inferiority.
2. Support an empathic engagement with difference. This is the goal that is commonly thought of when we think of multicultural education. Ideally, it is integrated into a child's daily experience and promotes empathetic appreciation for our common humanity and our myriad differences. The development of empathy through this goal enables children to have the capacity to understand how bias hurts.
3. Develop the ability to think critically about bias. Children are inundated daily with messages about the relative worth of our various social identities in the dominant cultural hierarchy. Certain groups are "one-up" and certain groups are "one-down" in this hierarchy, which may appear so normative to us that we don't recognize the hierarchy unless we are a member of a "one-down" group. Children (and adults) need guidance to develop the ability to think critically about this hierarchy and not passively accept the norms of the dominant culture, especially if they have many "one-up" social identities.
4. Cultivate courage and action. This goal follows from the 3rd goal as children are natural social justice advocates with a strong belief in fairness. In practice, this goal involves teaching children about a variety of ways to act in the face of bias.
We are currently involved in fine-tuning the program for our Discussing Diversity series and will use these principles to guide our learning and our discussion. I am looking forward to a great year and hope you can join us!

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