American history has disproportionately reflected the experiences and achievements of those belonging to dominant groups within our larger American society. Within the last century, the efforts of many, including human rights and social justice advocates have led to gained recognition for various underrepresented groups through the establishment of events and celebrations that honor and promote varied achievements throughout history. This is why we now have nationally designated month-long celebrations such as February’s Black History Month.
Black History Month serves an undeniable purpose in offering education and exposure to Black history. I myself find that I am repeatedly impacted throughout the month by the stories and histories I learn. That said, I also believe that when it comes to shifting children’s awareness and understanding of the richly diverse cultures that make our country unique and worthy of our pride, it has proven to be inherently more impactful when that awareness is intentional and ongoing.
As educators, we have the opportunity to broaden and deepen students’ understanding of American history and culture by intentionally and consistently incorporating the stories, perspectives, and experiences of all Americans throughout the year within our curriculum, not just during certain months. When we look at the four goals of anti-bias education, particularly as they are framed within the Learning for Justice Social Justice Standards, we see not only an invitation but also a framework for supporting children in building a strong sense of pride in their own identities as well as awareness and understanding of those who are different from them. Within that framework we also see opportunities for children to feel a sense of empowerment and advocacy for themselves and others.
4 Core Goals of Anti-Bias Education
Children will demonstrate self-awareness, confidence, family pride, and positive social identities.
Children will express comfort and joy with human diversity, use accurate language for human differences, and form deep, caring connections across all dimensions of human diversity.
Children will increasingly recognize unfairness (injustice), have language to describe unfairness, and understand that unfairness hurts.
Children will demonstrate a sense of empowerment and the skills to act, with others or alone, against prejudice and/or discriminatory actions.
An increasingly wide-array of books, films, and other resources depicting stories from multiple perspectives are becoming available to educators, which makes fostering these goals more possible than ever before. If we think of stories as windows and mirrors – a concept first introduced by educator Emily Style – it makes sense that what we see through those surfaces should not only reflect the struggles people have faced but also the joy, greatness, and successes they experience as well.
So, while teachers at BCD certainly take the month of February to acknowledge and honor the achievements of Blacks throughout history, we also use the Learning for Social Justice Standards ongoing to regularly examine our culture and curriculum to ensure we are consistently honoring the diverse accomplishments, cultures, and views of all Americans.