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Valuing Diversity – A Goal of Anti-Bias Education

two young boys playing with toysThe world lost a great man this week, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain – a man of true wisdom and a prolific writer and teacher. The week has been filled with reminders of his inspirational teachings.

One quote of his that resonates greatly with me given our focus this year on Anti-Bias Education is the following:

“I write as one who believes in the dignity of difference. If we were all the same, we would have nothing unique to contribute, nor anything to learn from others. The more diverse we are, the richer our culture becomes, and the more expansive our horizons of possibility.”

One of the stated goals of Anti-Bias Education (ABE) is that each child will express comfort and joy with human diversity, accurate language for human differences, and deep, caring human connections. In the book Start Seeing Diversity, Ellen Wolpert notes a guiding principle of Anti-Bias Education is that:

“It’s not a problem that children notice differences. The problem is that in our society some differences are valued as positive, and some as negative and children absorb and act on these values.”

Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards, authors of Anti-Bias Education for Children and Ourselves remind us that:

“Differences do not create bias. Children learn prejudice from prejudice – not from learning about human diversity. It is how people respond to differences that teaches bias and fear.”

Our task as early educators is to lay the groundwork for a more open and inclusive society through building strong positive, but not superior, identities; supporting children’s awareness of similarities and differences; and modeling a positive attitude toward diversity of thought, appearance, and ways of doing things. Opportunities for laying this foundation exist in everyday moments in the classroom and intentional conversations.

Circling back to the wisdom of Rabbi Sacks, he said:

“Optimism is the belief that things are going to get better. Hope is the belief that we can make things better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope is an active one.”

I remain optimistic that positive change in the world will result from the work we do in early childhood and have hope that intentionally integrating the goals of Anti-Bias Education into our practice will play a part in changing the world for the better.