What Political Correctness Means to Early Educators

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?”

Skilled Dialogue

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.

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Discussing the Roots of the Suspension and Expulsion of Young Black Boys

CaptureSuspension 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.

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Explaining “Normal” to a Seven Year Old

Separate is never equalA few months back, after reading the book Separate is Never Equal, my daughter, Addi asked me:

“Daddy, why are the white people so rude to Sylvia’s family?”

My initial thought was, “that’s an easy one.  We’ve talked about racism and discrimination so many times.  I can reference back to many of our previous conversations.”  However, the answer that came out of my mouth was a little more nuanced than usual. “Because Sylvia’s family does not like what is normal for their school district.”

As I moved throughout the rest of my evening, and for several months to follow, I asked myself, “what is normal?” My goal was to advance Addi and my conversations about prejudice, discrimination and inclusion as well as develop a better understanding of the social world she/we live in?

What unfolded over time was the creation of the Cycle of Normal…and a daughter who is more aware of prejudice and discrimination.

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Dear Inclusion, It’s Time To Evolve!

Redefining-inclusion-PD-blogIn 2009, the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) of the Council for Exceptional Children and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) published a joint position statement on inclusion in Early Care and Education (ECE). The statement focused on the inclusion of children with disabilities.

The joint position statement said:

“Early childhood inclusion embodies the values, policies, and practices that support the right of every infant and young child and his or her family, regardless of ability, to participate in a broad range of activities and contexts as full members of families, communities, and society.”

For many years I welcomed and promoted the position statement with both appreciation and skepticism.  On the one hand, I thought it was a unified step forward towards effectively serving children with delays and disabilities in ECE programs.  On the other hand, I was concerned that the statement seemed to disregard the influence of other forms of diversity on inclusion.

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How Patriarchy Has a Grip on Early Childhood Care and Education

Cape Town, South Africa, teacher and kids at playschool
As a teacher, father, and advocate, early childhood care and education has been central to who I am since 2003. Over the years, a handful of experiences have helped me understand what it truly means to be a man in the lives of young children. Some have been funny, others worth a casual nod. But far too many have been disconcerting. They lead me to feel like men don’t belong in early childhood care education (ECCE).

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Inclusion for One is Inclusion for All: Unite!

Third in a three part blog series on social justice by Dr. Andrew Goff…because #OurKidsAreListening.

On paper, the classrooms I taught in were labeled “inclusive”…meaning children with group identities of disabled and non-disabled. But, the classes were more than simply inclusive to children of diverse abilities, they were also inclusive to children of diverse racial, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, family unit, economic status, and more. During those years, and more so in the years since, I have come to realize that the practices I used were more than practices for the inclusion of children with disabilities. The strategies used in the classrooms I taught in were inclusive for all, regardless of group, cultural, or self-identities.

In this blog, I provide three resources, that when unified, can help support programs and classrooms that are inclusive to all children and families. I wrote the blog with early childhood professionals and advocates for social justice and equity in early childhood education in mind. I conclude with a call for early childhood professionals to unite and address injustice and inequity! Because #OurKidsAreListening…not just at home.

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Supporting a Child Who Wants to Become Woke: Engage!

The term “stay woke” was originally coined by musician Erykah Badu in her 2008 song Master Teacher. In the song, Badu sings, “Baby sleepy time, to put her down and I’ll be standin’ round until sun down…I stay woke.” I was introduced to this song last March on an episode of the highly recommended podcast, Code Switch.

At the time, I was sitting on a bus riding through downtown Denver. My destination was a regional conference where I was scheduled to deliver a presentation titled: Facilitating a Developmentally Appropriate Conversation on Social Justice and Equity with Young Children. The presentation was built around my personal experiences growing up, talking with my daughter, Addi, and reflections from my twelve years as an early childhood educator. At the core of the conversation was how Addi and I work to stay woke. This second of the three blog series outlines three lessons I have learned. We must Engage! Because #OurKidsAreListening.

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