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NACBCS National Conference 14-15 July 2006 Our children - our community. Excluded, invisible, tolerated or embraced: Cultural diversity in early childhood services. Karina Davis. Cultural diversity and ‘multiculturalism’. National and political debates

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Nacbcs national conference 14 15 july 2006 our children our community

NACBCS National Conference 14-15 July 2006Our children - our community

Excluded, invisible, tolerated or

embraced: Cultural diversity in early

childhood services.

Karina Davis

Cultural diversity and multiculturalism
Cultural diversity and ‘multiculturalism’

  • National and political debates

  • Benefits of multiculturalism being re-articulated

  • Affects early childhood services in a number of ways

Early childhood and cultural diversity
Early childhood and cultural diversity

  • Ensuring equitable access

  • Early childhood services embracing diverse identities and cultural backgrounds

  • Belonging and safety

Early childhood and responses to issues surrounding cultural diversity
Early childhood and responses to issues surrounding cultural diversity

  • Need to support and embrace ‘others’ while

  • Subverting dominance and superiority from cultural majority

Cultural diversity within early childhood
Cultural diversity within early childhood diversity

  • Positioned in a number of ways

    • Excluded

    • Invisible

    • Tolerated and tokenistic

    • Embraced

Excluded diversity

Karina: “Can I ask you which of these dolls looks most like your friend?”

Spot: “That one.”

Karina: “Franca. Franca does?”

Spot : “Yes.”

Karina: “And what about Franca looks like your friend?”

Spot: “… ahh. …Because, ‘cause I think she’s the prettiest.”

Karina: “You think Franca’s the prettiest? What about Franca that makes her look pretty? I’d like to know. ”

Spot: “Ahh, because she has white socks and I like white and she has blue jeans and I like blue and she has a green top and I like green. And she has, and she has white skin and I like white skin. And I like her hair.”

Excluded diversity

  • Taylor (2005)

  • Hakim requested to join their digging game, but Sam and George shook their heads and turned their backs on him. Hakim crossed over the garden trough border in an attempt to get closer to them and establish eye contact. He asked them again. Once more he was refused and this time told to go away and to get out of their garden. Hakim became noticeably distressed and complained that they will never let him play with them. By way of explanation, he pointed to the exposed skin on his arm, saying that they would not play with him because he is brown.

Exclusion and young children
Exclusion and young children diversity

  • Young children directly exclude and deny access to others

  • This exclusion is often based around cultural identities and diversity

  • Children use sophisticated understandings of race and culture in shaping exclusions

Young children and exclusion
Young children and exclusion diversity

  • …well we’re seeing with the under threes…we’ve got three dolls, an Asian doll, an Aboriginal doll and an Anglo-Saxon doll and there’s one child in the group who will always go for the Anglo-Saxon doll. And even when I’ve taken it away…she’s gone to get it and it hasn’t been there and she’s just thrown the other two out of the cot and walked out. Then I’ve brought it back in and she’s gone and got it and brought it back into her play…so I think they do absorb more than what we believe, more than developmentally what we believed they did…

Early childhood knowledge and exclusion
Early childhood knowledge and exclusion diversity

  • ‘Traditional’ early childhood knowledge based on research of minority world children

  • This knowledge universalised and normalised

Nacbcs national conference 14 15 july 2006 our children our community

For example
For example diversity

  • ‘Children, play and development’ (Hughes, p.94)

  • ‘The years from two to five are characterised by a decrease in rigidity and stubbornness, by increasing degrees of stability, reliability and predictability and by a move from primarily large muscle play to that involving small muscle activities. Sensory exploration during play is on the decline, and increases occur in play that is social and reflects children’s interests in and identification with adults. Between the ages of two and five, children move from solitary to onlooker play to parallel play, and then to associative and cooperative forms of play…’

Play an early childhood tenet
Play an early childhood tenet? diversity

  • Exclusion of other knowledge mirrored in many early childhood texts that work to universalise one way of knowing

  • Play – a social and cultural construct

  • Who plays, what with, how this looks changes and alters across and within cultures

Reflections on knowledge as exclusion
Reflections on knowledge as exclusion… diversity

  • Do all children work within clearly defined categories – whose categories?

  • Who gets to decide this?

  • How are diverse knowledges of children excluded from discourses of play?

  • How does wealth and poverty play into understandings and expectations of play?

Nacbcs national conference 14 15 july 2006 our children our community

Exclusion in policy
Exclusion in policy diversity

  • QIAS

    • Underpinned by developmentalism

    • Quality Areas 3 and 4 – importance of play

    • Principle 1.2

      • What do staff know about child development and how it impacts upon children’s behaviour and their ability to self-regulate?

Exclusion in regulations
Exclusion in regulations diversity

  • Victoria

  • Tasmania

Questions… diversity

  • Who is excluded and silenced?

  • How do we create communities when many culturally diverse communities are silenced within the structures of early childhood services?

  • How do we structure possibilities for inclusion of diverse voices of colleagues, families and children and what are the effects of this?

Invisible diversity

  • Colourblind

    • Don’t see colour and cultural differences AND

    • Differences not important

    • Exploration of how cultural differences structure lives inequitably is overlooked and ignored.

Invisible diversity

And he (child) said

‘Yes, well he’s got dark skin like William.’

And then (another) boy…said…to me

‘Do you think its rude?’

And I (educator) said

‘I don’t, I don’t think it matters what colour your skin is.’

Invisible diversity

  • Does not challenge racism and prejudice

    • Young children not challenged about exclusion

    • Young children struggle to belong

    • Young children allowed to maintain sense of dominance

Child initiated emergent curriculum
Child initiated/emergent curriculum diversity

  • Ensures inclusion and content dominated by topics and interests adult observes as important to child

  • This observation linked to developmental understandings of child

Child initiated emergent curriculum1
Child initiated/emergent curriculum diversity

  • Problematic

    • Adult observation not neutral and influenced by own world-views and experiences

    • Observation linked to developmental domains/areas

    • This then used to construct curriculum and plan ‘activities’ around these domains

Child initiated emergent curriculum2
Child initiated/emergent curriculum diversity

  • Little space for including discussions and critiques about cultural diversity and monoculturalism

  • Children monitored and observed against white developmental norms

  • Other ways of understanding children made invisible within this

  • Group dynamics also made invisible

Nacbcs national conference 14 15 july 2006 our children our community
E.g. diversity

…when the children talk about things that they might see…they make comments about the colour of skin and stuff like that, and then I just talk about it…Yes and I answer the children’s questions as we go, but I don’t actually have an emphasis or a focus on it.

Nacbcs national conference 14 15 july 2006 our children our community
E.g. diversity

…with tables of interest, and its normally done on children’s interests and where that is going, so I guess there’s never been an interest by the children.

Choice diversity

  • Perception that early childhood educators have a choice in engaging in cultural diversity makes cultural diversity further invisible as it can be overlooked

Choice diversity

No, we haven’t actively planned, we actually want to get a performer in, but we are struggling a little how to go about that. So we have done the classic, we haven’t done anything about it.

Oh we did a dance once, a male worker, but I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing or insulting, so I stopped. Because I didn’t know what to do…I don’t know how to do it and I don’t want to do it wrong.

Policy making cultural diversity invisible
Policy making cultural diversity invisible diversity

  • NSW Regulations

    All children should be ‘treated without bias regardless of ability, gender, religion, culture…’

  • QIAS – Principle 1.5

    Staff respect children as individuals and provide opportunities for each child to access all learning experiences…

Questions… diversity

  • How can we work to recognise the structural and procedural effects of discrimination around cultural diversity in early childhood?

  • How can we work to avoid a colourblind stance in our responses to cultural diversity?

  • How might we begin to build curricula models that work to see multiple ways of working with children and that challenges the dominant view of child-initiated curricula as a quality model?

Tolerated and tokenistic
Tolerated and tokenistic diversity

  • Minimal gestures of inclusion

  • One-dimensional representations

  • Stereotypes

  • Limited explorations of ‘traditional’ cultural aspects

Tolerated and tokenistic1
Tolerated and tokenistic diversity

  • Problems

    • Children gain limited understandings

    • Cultural diversity presented as stereotypes, i.e. festivals, food, clothing

    • Dominant cultural backgrounds undiscussed and presented as ‘norm’

Nacbcs national conference 14 15 july 2006 our children our community
E.g. diversity

…we looked around the room and we thought, what have we got here and what are we doing. We have Aboriginal art work on the wall and we have spoken to the children about the pictures. They actually copied some of the pictures, the outlines of the pictures, and photocopied them for the children, because there’s a lot of dots and I made them into several, so there was a lot of colouring for the children in the pictures that I drew. So there is art work around the room and there are also some books on the bookshelf. I have some audiotapes with didgeridoos on it and the children know that sound. We have had the music teacher come in and play the didgeridoo, attempt to play the didgeridoo, so the children know the sound of the didgeridoo and what it’s like. Basically that’s about it.

Tolerance and tokenism overlooks
Tolerance and tokenism overlooks diversity

  • Contemporary lives and realities

  • Diversity as it exists in community

  • Inequities within every-day lives

  • Stories of heroes, resistance, activism.

  • From this children build knowledge that is based on stereotypes…

Tolerance tokenism and policy
Tolerance, tokenism and policy diversity

  • QIAS

    • ‘…the program requires an environment that is…reflective of the cultures of the wider community’

Questions… diversity

  • How can early childhood services respectfully acknowledge and include a variety of cultures within their curriculum while exploring both historical and present-day issues and representations? Including acknowledgement of Anglo-white culture and understandings?

  • Where might the stepping off point for this be for early childhood educators? For policy makers?

Embraced diversity

  • Context driven, shifting and community based

  • Guiding points

    • Images, activities and discussions of differences within cultural diversity must make up part of everyday life to ensure all children are acknowledged and develop a healthy sense of identity and understandings about all people

Embraced diversity

  • Guiding points

    • be respectful and fair in portrayals of other cultures and of the necessity to engage ethically with people from other cultures. How this engagement occurs however, is negotiated within relationships and dependent upon feelings of trust.

Embraced diversity

  • Guiding points

    • It involves early childhood educators, etc, being willing to reflect on their backgrounds and histories and letting go of the position of expert in order to allow for space for others voices and understandings and knowledges.

Reflections diversity

  • Our children?

  • Our community?

  • How can we begin to develop policy that leads…?

Where to from here
Where to from here? diversity

  • It is important to consider the real possibilities policy has for guiding and leading practice around cultural diversity.

  • It is important to think about how we structure both preservice education and professional development work around cultural diversity.

Where to from here1
Where to from here? diversity

  • Try an audit of cultural diversity policies and practices at your service using the approaches outlined here today.

  • Work to create an early childhood community that is respectful of difference and has space for diverse voices.

  • Approach the ‘other’ with respect and the intent and desire to learn.

Where to from here2
Where to from here? diversity

  • Avoid positioning the other as the expert to answer your questions about a specific culture

  • Avoid tokenism

  • Work to acknowledge and recognise that diversity exists both across and within cultures.