The effects of Discrimination...Race, Disability and Diversity on Children

By Karen Elzinga 6/06/2018

In relation to this topic l believe in political activist Dr Martin Luther King Juniors 1963 monumental history- making speech; in it, he said "One day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed...that all men are created equal" (Luther King, 1963). I believe we all have a responsibility and obligation no matter our race, colour, gender, or ability, to help our fellow person to achieve full equality in any context. I believe this should start with the education of diversity within our early childhood education and care (ECEC) centres because children from as early as 3-5 years old begin to formulate racial opinions. These ideologies than manifest in children's play as cultural and racial interpretations of the society, to which the child is exposed (Keys Adair & Doucet, 2014). Because this cultural awareness is active at an early age, the promotion and discussions about respectful and equal ways to interact with others should be incorporated into children's programming. This could provide adequate and significant meaning and understanding, to change unjustified stereotypical judgements and unfair racially motivated behaviours (DEEWR, 2009). This essay will look into the consequences for stereotypical behaviours, racial inequality and the impact on children, the perceived bias for the white race over the black race in mainstream media representation, and how we can better utilise technology for quality educational purposes. It will also touch on disabled inequalities and how early childhood education and care (ECEC) centres need to address these issues in a proactive way to be inclusive of all children. By taking proactive pedagogical approaches, l believe ECEC centres can bring a new future free of racial, discriminatory or stereotypical behaviours.

I believe this stereotypical or racial inequality is a prevalent and widespread social issue in today's society. This discriminatory behaviour can produce detrimental effects on children such as physiological and also psychological trauma (Grigg, Menderson, 2015) and is generally experienced by children from minority groups (Porter, 2016). These racial inequalities when presented in a negative and repetitive way either directly by name calling, or indirectly by exclusionary tactics, unfortunately, compel children to accept their status in life (Kids Matter, n.d.). A view going against my own is the perceived outcome from these more racially intolerant people often referred to as 'white supremacists', neo-Nazis or as far reaching back as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) of their suggestion that the white race is superior to all others. They believe that people of the same should stick together and not mix with people dissimilar to them. This ideology is not isolated and extends all the way to the President of the 'free' world with the United States of America's President Trump, constantly being accused of being a white supremacist by high profile people, political opponents and the general community (Chait, 2017). 

However when people have such hatred, it manifests over time, and relationships can become open to hateful acts and sometimes to extreme barbaric and heinous crimes. This was evidenced by Hitler's "ethnic cleansing" Holocaust, and the displacement and murder of people 'culturally different' from himself (Browning, 2000). The fact is when children are faced with racial discrimination, the effects may lead to self-esteem and self-concept issues, feelings of unworthiness and damage to how children feel, relate to and distinguish their culture (Porter, 2016). For racially effected children they may lose their sense of belonging, and this exclusion is unfortunately long-lasting as children become unable to visualize this outcome changing due to the permanence of their ancestry, culture and/or the prevalence of skin colour (Porter, 2016). Professors Griggs and Manderson from the University of Witwatersrand and Monash University amongst professional others present evidence that racial intolerance leads to:


Depression and a sense of hopelessness

Higher prevalence of substance abuse

Decrease satisfaction with life

Anger and self regulation issues

Truancy and delinquency

Higher rate of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder issues

Higher rate of cardiovascular disease (Grigg, Manderson, 2015; Howarth, 2009; Pachter & Coll, 2009).

These children's feelings and issues can be minimized or alleviated however through a process of counteraction. Proactive ways that can encumber this approach are through utilizing multicultural policies and curriculum approaches, and providing links for families to connect with other center families and the community (Kids Matter. n.d.). Highlighting diversity through books and simple play techniques are other approaches, as is the inclusion of cultural speakers including parents to give children presentations (Porter, 2016). When expectations within ECEC centers around diversity, attitudes and prejudices are repealed by equal opportunity, empathy and respect, the fostering of racial and discriminatory actions can be relieved by the establishment of interconnected relationships (Porter, 2016). 

Early Childhood Education and Care environments (ECEC) l believe need to establish these informed relationships by maintaining high levels of equality, and focusing on the benefits of diversity (DEEWR, 2009), something which does not happen in mainstream media. The perceived bias for white people over black people highlighted by television and media presentations, or the notion that white people are portrayed as good, and black as evil, has long been linked to popular culture (Keys Adair & Doucet, 2014). Educators can efficiently debunk this myth by viewing all children as race- neutral incorporating a centre ideology in line and according to the EYLF policy 4- Respect for diversity, and the EYLF practice- Cultural competence (DEEWR, 2009). This neutrality means educators can preserve the innocence of children's thoughts and opinions in play or technological viewing contexts against the current societal view, effectively taking race out of the equation (Keys Adair & Doucet, 2014). A proactive way to do this is by utilising technological assets like lpads, camera's, computers and televisions to portray quality cultural content. I believe technology can enhance children's learning as long as it is done correctly and for the right reasons, but not all hold my view. The use of these creative technologies in ECEC is a hotly contested debate between those who are for, and those against the use of digital learning equipment (Stephen & Plowman, 2014), it is resistance due in part to ECEC centres themselves stating that predicted costs of equipment and teacher professional development to correctly teach utilising it, outweighs the benefits for early childhood (Zevenbergen, 2007). That said Bolstad (2004), believes the integration of digital aids such as cameras and the associated printed images hung around the room can highlight diversity. These digital based vessels can support children's creative endeavours and help them to express their ideas, diversity, culture and emotions through explorative technological play (Stephen & Plowman, 2014; MacNaughton & Williams, 2009). This is supported by evidence contained in the EYLF outcome 5.5, where children use creative technologies to investigate and inform their thinking (DEEWR, 2009), and NQS -1.2.3- Child directed learning, where children are enabled to make decisions and choices that influence events relevant to them (ACECQA, 2018). In order to for fill children's social and emotional needs and provide children with learning opportunities like the use of technology, the National Quality Standard's (NQS) quality areas of 1,2,3, and most predominately area 5 could also be used to highlight and promote areas of diversity and inclusion (ACECQA, 2018). By building environments that are supportive, vibrant, and flexible where a child's social competencies are inclusive of all areas including technology, and the focus stems from the child's abilities and interests then educators are in essence helping to build a "whole child" (Appl &Spenciner, 2008; Arthur, Beecher, Death, Dockett, Farmer, 2014). When a child feels complete this aids in other areas of development (Appl & Spenciner, 2008). I believe ECEC philosophies need to include carefully how to include diversity.

Equality and neutrality l believe should be defined terms within any core philosophy of an ECEC centre. This inclusive practice should be aimed at all children regardless of their social, cultural (race, ethnicity, beliefs/values), linguistic or disability diversity, and must be upheld and respected. I believe this wholeheartedly when l was in primary school, l would bring Dutch artefacts to school for show and tell, children were always fascinated because of the uniqueness of the objects. If my school wasn't proactive and inclusive in cultural knowledge acquisition for students, l would never have been proud to say my ethnicity wasn't all authentically Australian. This vision of inclusive practice has also been adopted by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in 2008, through collaborative efforts with federal state and territory relevant departments. This united approach has been devised to improve protection against discriminatory actions by 2020, and stems from the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (CWITH) and the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (QLD) (The State of Queensland, 2016). Current legislative documents highlighting actions that approved ECEC centres must execute are:

National Partnership Agreement on the Early Childhood Education

National Partnership Agreement on the National Quality Agenda for Early Childhood Education and Care

National Indigenous Reform Agreement (closing the gap)

National Disability Strategy 2010-2020 (DEEWR, 2009).

This is a positive step forward by the governing body, once upon a time the government heralded segregation policies that separated disabled children from nondisabled children or having children reach bench marks before achieving acceptance into 'normal' schools (The State of Queensland, 2016). I totally disagree with this, when l was in primary school around 1980, there was a special school right next door, occasionally students from my school would visit to do activities with the disabled students. I looked forward to this activity, especially at an earlier age. Later in primary school students became more aware of physical differences, students would yell abuse over the fence, and throw sticks into the disabled school. I honestly believe this was due to the great divide, separated through a fence there was no transparency, normal students could only imagine a disabled child's life and as a consequence, they assumed it was all bad. Not everyone including political senator Pauline Hanson has a shared goal or a common view like me on the integration of disabled children into mainstream ECEC environments being a productive activity. Hanson stated in parliament "Let's get rid of these people" stating that disabled and autistic children should be segregated from able-bodied children in schools (Norman & Borrello, 2017). I believe these narrow-minded and ill informed opinions whilst they open up conversations and debates, can be divisive within the community. Educators understand that children and families will come to the ECEC with varying experiences and beliefs of what and how their child will learn. Because of this, educators need to work inclusive of the stakeholders to achieve pedagogies and a centre philosophies that enriches all children's learning both individually and as a whole (Farmer, S. 2014). The beauty of non-segregation today and why inclusive practice is so important is because it means normal children can witness firsthand differences. They can be pleasured by disabled children's good and positive traits, thus making the societal gap less evident through exposure to each other. This exposure runs both ways, whilst it provides able bodied children with a greater tolerance, empathy and understanding; disabled children receive a better long term outcome (Wang, 2009). For this productive outcome to occur Fleer (2003) suggests adopting Wenger's (1998) expression and terminology. He suggests building upon children's unique social and cultural strengths. Whilst a theoretically developed framework from philosophers Vygotsky, Rogoff, Wenger, Lave and Fleer called cultural-historical perspective, utilises varying viewpoints such as interpersonal, historical, socially derived and cultural impact approaches to teaching children cultural beliefs, diversity, empathy and understanding (McLachlan, Fleer & Edwards, 2013). In 2012 a statement was published about the inclusion of disabled children in ECEC centres by Early Childhood Intervention Australia (ECIA), and Early Childhood Australia (ECA). The statements aims were to showcase the importance of children's rights, and to create facilities where all children of diverse abilities are able to have their needs, wants and desires met with equality and fairness, these included:

The child's best interest

Family importance

Social incorporation

High expectations for the inclusion of equality and diversity practices

Centres utilize policy practices that are evidence based (The State of Queensland, 2016).

 By teachers engaging alternate strategies in education, such as incorporating cultural variations within more traditional curriculums, diverse practices can aid children's knowledge, whilst strengthening independent ideology of self and others (McLachlan, Fleer & Edwards, 2013). I believe regardless of a child's disability, race, ethnically or culture, ECEC centres need to continually challenge the curriculum and pedagogical approaches to children's learning to be more inclusive to diversity.

In conclusion, ECEC centres need to continue to address the stereotyping and racial inequalities presently found in society today in order to counteract what children are exposed to, see and hear and thus respond to. This essay has looked at the effects of racially driven behaviours on children and how they have major impacts on lives and families. It has delved into ways to utilise technology for good, rather than the biased and racial portrayals highlighted by the media in using colour for representational effect, such as the depiction of good (white) versus evil (black). This essay has also looked at the historical approach versus the current mainstream approach of assimilating disabled students with able students and how to strengthen children's resolve through the use of cultural historical perspectives to engage children in cultural respect and understanding. ECEC educator's needs to understand that families have diversity and that every one of them should be treated with equality and fairness for society to move onward and upwards.


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