Recently, students in my Introduction to Early Childhood Education course and I were discussing the topic of communication in early childhood programs. I began the class by showing the students the picture below. I asked them, “What thoughts come to mind when you look at this picture?”
Samantha, a White woman in her 30s said, “I feel like the spoken language is just people trying to be politically correct with their words. Everyone is so concerned about saying the right thing and not hurting anyone’s feelings and no one can really tell the truth…what’s really on their mind.”
“Politically correct…can you tell us more about what you mean by that?” I asked.
Suspension and expulsion in early childhood education is troubling. Most troubling is the fact that, while Black boys account for less than 20% of the students enrolled in programs, they account for more than 50% of the children suspended and expelled. This is only the beginning of the issue.
The questions I like to ask in my classes and trainings are “Why…?” In this case, why would any early childhood professional feel it is appropriate to suspend or expel young children from an early childhood program? Why are Black boys disproportionately overrepresented? Why is the disproportionality a national trend? The short answer…that only leads to more “why” questions is implicit bias against Black boys.
Since our children were infants, we have always talked about human sexuality bluntly. We refer to body parts using the anatomically correct name, we don’t hide or shame the early sexual curiosity, and babies do not come from storks. Of course, at six years old when my oldest asked, “Daddy, I know babies grow inside their mommies belly and come out of their mommy’s vagina, but how do they get in there?” I turned flush red and surprised the children with the news that mommy was coming home with donuts. I was very relieved that she forgot she asked the question…especially since that is very, very unusual. She has not asked since…but when she does, I’m a little more prepared, because I know it is critical to talk about sex when children are young. However, when she asked me about child sex trafficking, I was not prepared.