204 – Developing antiracist pedagogies for early childhood education

Presentation - ECV2022-204

Developing antiracist pedagogies for early childhood education

Ryan Al-Natour, Charles Sturt University, Australia (Wiradjuri Country) (ral-natour@csu.edu.au)

Background: Antiracist initiatives in early childhood education tend to receive unfounded accusations that educators are allegedly ‘indoctrinating’ children. These accusations are fed by dominant discourses of white victimhood that belittle children with assumptions that they cannot see race and are unable to act racist. Within this context, there is a slow and steady realisation among educators that antiracist teaching activities within an Australian postcolonising context need to be about more than the acceptance of skin colour differences.

Aim: To contribute to existing dialogues among early childhood educators about the development of antiracist teaching.

Method: This paper combines two methods that focus on the topic of antiracist education in the early years. The first method involves a discourse analysis of six public commentaries/news articles published in 2021 on antiracist education in early childhood. In particular, these articles/commentaries were inspired by (1) conservative calls across North America to remove Critical Race Theory (CRT) from the early childhood curriculum, (2) an Australian politician’s demand for a review of children’s antiracism books across public libraries, and (3) a motion passed by the Australian Senate to remove CRT from the national curriculum. The second method is an integrative literature review on research into antiracism and two resources developed for early childhood educators.

Results: The mischaracterisations of antiracist teaching and literature function to maintain racial inequalities, and narratives of white victimhood propel the demonisation of antiracist initiatives for children. Also, an integrative literature review reveals how educators often feel ill prepared in addressing racism in early childhood environments or teaching children about racism. Further, this review affirms that while educators tend to portray children as ‘colourblind’, the research shows that children can express racism in early childhood centres. The development of an antiracist pedagogy for early years education is situated in a postcolonising context that should centre the experiences and aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, their families, and communities.

Conclusions: Antiracist pedagogies are necessary in articulating how early childhood educators teach diversity and difference to children. Contrary to populist misinterpretations, educators can work with children in their abilities to see race, racism, and interpret diversity and difference. Educators themselves should engage in challenging yet courageous conversations about race and racism. Starting points include challenging whiteness in early childhood curriculum materials and challenging common denials of racism.

Implications for children and families: It is important to recognise that your child can see colour and can learn about diversity and difference. Educators who work with your child need to be equipped with the skills to challenge racism and talk to your child about antiracism.

Implications for practitioners: This paper stimulates a conversation among early childhood professionals about developing antiracism teaching skills as a lifelong learning project. It is important for you to develop antiracist pedagogies that enrich your confidence in teaching diversity and difference, challenge assumptions that children are colourblind, and counter populist rhetoric that tends to attack social justice initiatives.

Key words: social justice, antiracist teaching, antiracism, review, Indigenous voices, wellbeing, vulnerable communities

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

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