Early Childhood Studies – a Global Perspective

Exploring the concepts on early childhood studies through the lens of people across the globe


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Practicing Awareness of Micro-aggressions

 

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Micro-aggressions are direct and indirect forms of indignities conveyed through verbal, personal or environmental mediums usually racial-segregation-67788_640targeted towards the minority – women, children, gay/lesbian and peopleof color. It could be presented through micro assault, when a person blatantly insults a person; micro insult, when a person knowingly or unknowingly degrades another; or, micro invalidation, when a person diminishes the feelings of another on issues such as race, gender, sexual orientation, or economic status.

Tracing the roots of micro-aggression dates back from colonial period where exploitation, violence, and denial of human rights and resources were reinforced by a hierarchical and patriarchal society. It is a discrimination-60512_1280learned behavior that has penetrated into the systems at different levels – institutional, interpersonal and internalized. Exposure to micro-aggression at different levels has permeated into the beliefs and practices of individuals, families and the larger community.
At different levels and forms, micro-aggression can be witnessed in our daily lives. In the adult world, being a Southeast Asian and a woman, I have always been a target of derogatory remarks that even my Western friends would unconsciously mention. I remember a male American colleague who married a Lao woman. Most often, even in front of the wife, he would complain about how ‘typical’ Southeast Asian women would choose to marry Westerners for financial comfort. I would remind him right away that I am a Southeast Asian woman who is independent and had never depended on anybody to raise west-923075_1280my child. As well, I would remind him how insulting and hurting his remarks could be for his wife. He thought his wife does not understand a lot of what he says, so he could make any comments he wants. There have been numerous conversations trying to understand why he thinks the way he does and constant explanations as well about stereotyping and insulting women of color. Many times, I would give him examples of a counter practice to make him see that people are different and whatever predicaments they are in, cannot be judged by the naked eye. Another instance was a friend who went on holiday with me to an island in my home country. She observed how many older Western men go for a holiday with very young local women. So she would tease me, “Do you want to find a partner? You could be a mail order bride?” For her, it was a comment to inject an element fun in our conversation, but it was an insult for me as well. Without being upset, I started a conversation about the different reasons why these women could be in the situation they are in as well as questioning why these Western men go after the young girls from Asia. Scrutinizing the issues behind these people make people like my friend become thoughtful of what they say.
In the world of children, they adopt the perceptions that they witness in their environment, from the people around them, from the relationships of which they are a part. One instance was witnessed in a playground when children aged four to six years old were playing together. An East Asian girl came up to me in tears and said, “The girls didn’t want to play with me because they said, “their game is only for blonde girls”. chess-145184_1280Another recent experience that I witnessed was a five-year old girl remarked, “I don’t want to sit next to a boy” after the seating position on the carpet was rearranged. Both these situations were teaching moments to capture the children’s thinking and help them reflect on the message conveyed in their words and how it could affect others. It took and will take many opportunities to help the children relearn the acquired biases and prejudices and becoming aware of these is the starting point.
Micro-aggressions take place anytime, anywhere. It is when we do not let these moments slip by and continue to be vigilant so that people will become aware of the indignities that they commit can we slowly combat the long standing culture of oppression. If there could be anythingstop-1001080_1280 early childhood educators can contribute to this battle is to be the frontrunners of advocating for a bias, prejudice and stereotype free society in different and creative ways they could affect the children in their programs.


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Perspectives on Diversity and Culture

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Interviewing individuals about diversity and culture is by itself an exploration of diversity and culture. Curious if the people around me share the same perspectives that I have, I chosen to interview three people with whom I have very close relationships.

Andy is my partner. Also a teacher, we met at a school where we both worked. Although Canadian, he has spent two-thirds of his life outside his home country. He has lived in five continents, lived and worked in 18 countries, and visited 39 countries.continents-975927_1280

On Culture:

“It includes beliefs, values, and mores encompassing religion, and education of a specific group. It reflects they way people grew up, and how they were taught. Culture can change when one picks up different pieces of culture depending on what you come across with and what you are exposed to. We have our own culture as young children, but we add to it as we expand, explore our experience and environment.”

On Diversity:

“It is being able to accept other cultures – race, literature, music, arts, and food. It is being empathetic and accepting. The more you are exposed to different cultures, the more diverse you become. It is also being able to assimilate different cultures, being able to show that you can follow the belief system of another and not just your own. Diversity is about open-mindedness and being a global citizen.”

Maria is my daughter. From age five, she started attending international schools in and outside our home country. She now goes to a university in Canada. She intends to continue traveling and to find work that would allow her to do this. She has lived in three countries and visited seven countries.

On culture:

“It is a system of signals and behaviors that help us understand ourselves and the environment of which we navigate through. Signals are gestures, customs, traditions, as well as how the community functions and communicates. Tradition can be part of a family culture, but it does not mean there is a presence of one culture only. Every individual within a family takes on a different interpretation and aspect of a culture.“

On Diversity:

“It is home – it is where everyone belongs. There is a variety of nationality, ethnicity, history, and culture. Privilege, as manifested in biases and prejudices, destroys the essence of diversity in its attempt to create a monoculture. Where there is a presence of a dominant culture, one assimilates to blend in.”

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Same but also different

As her mother, I was curious to dig into her thoughts so I asked, “Could you keep your culture as you assimilate the culture of others? She replied I keep my culture as I practice in private. Then, I preserve it within myself.”

I raised the question, “Would you say you are not in a diverse community?” Her response was “My school? No. But I compromise so I won’t struggle.”

Beckie is a colleague, neighbor and also a friend. She worked in an international school in her home country her whole life and after retirement, has decided to work outside the country. She has visited more than 30 countries.

On Culture:

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A culture in a sea of cultures

“It is all that pertains to traditions, language and way of life. There is family culture, a school culture, a town culture and a country culture. The people involved in a group; their way of life; and the geographical contexts including the resources where they live form their culture. Thus, even the nutrition and diet of the people depending on the places they live depict their culture.”

On Diversity:

“It is multi-cultural. Language is diverse. Although there are differences in the cultures of different groups, they look at commonalities and assimilate and modify ways if necessary. Where there are differences in religions, languages, and thinking, diversity is when there is an absence of cliques, clans, and instead there is openness, tolerance, and acceptance.”

Gleaning from the lens of these people from different generations, they all present what culture is all about – that it is not restricted to race, language, and food, but all the many ways of life. Beckie made an interesting point on how the physical environment shapes one’s culture while Andy and Maria both mentioned about the diversity of experiences and how they expand one’s culture.

If I were to analyze the identity of each based on the perspectives presented, Andy and Beckie seem to have established who they are already. They have formed a solid definition of what they are and what they choose to practice. Maria, who is quite young is still exploring how to make her culture visible in a context where the dominant culture is different from hers. In an attempt to tolerate the dominant culture while preserving hers, she finds a way to “compromise” – the third way. Maria thinks that diversity is ‘home’ because everybody is comfortable in what they do, say, feel and think. It is the very essence of what Derman-Sparks (2010) among many others claim about diversity.

Reference:

Laureate Education (Producer). (2011). Culture and diversity [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Laureate Education (Producer). (2011). Family cultures: Dynamic interactions [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu


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My Family Cullture

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Coming from a family that is almost transient – we moved houses every two to three years between the two cities from where my parents originated. Thus, the artifacts that tell the story of our family seem to decline in number through the years. More than a decade ago, our house that belonged to my parents was broken into. It has left a lot of bad memories that there were many things that we left behind. As an adult, I have been travelling with my daughter and have only brought with us mementos in a box that we want to take with us through the years. Now that my daughter is an adult, we are miles apart, and still uncertain where she will choose to live.

If I will have to shrink the culture of my family from a small box to three pieces of artifacts, I will keep my daughters’ memory book, a photo album of my family, and the books that my daughter gave me.

Memory book – It is a collection of anecdotes and photos from the time my daughter was born. Written on it is the history of
photoour family, her milestones, and the memories that we shared together. This book has a collection of stories that my daughter and I talk about repeatedly. It brings us back together no matter how much distance separates us. It also includes letters that my daughter wrote to me since she was six. Being a teacher, I have always managed to help my daughter develop life skills in a fun way. Her appreciation for writing has developed as we used it as a medium to tell messages to each other. Through time, this has become a part of our mother-daughter tradition. We write to each other to share our pains, excitement, boredom, anger and most especially, our joys.

Family Album – Although it does not show all the years of my childhood, it includes all the many memories of our families. It shows the changes we have gone through all these years – all the additions to our family including the moments when a few members have gone. It brings back the places we visited, our celebrations, the things my siblings fought about and the moments of victory when one was able to assert herself, the clothes we shared as hand me downs, and all the many stories we now share with each other as adults.

Picture books from my daughter – We both love reading picture books even now that she is an adult. Although far from eachphoto1 other, we would have times that we read pages of our favourite stories to each other. From the time my daughter has learned that she can actually make money from baby-sitting, she always bought picture books about mother and daughter whenever there is an occasion or when she knows she would be in ‘trouble’.

Parting with the things that I have already narrowed down to keep would be very difficult for me. These are not only material possessions, but they are a representation of my relationships, experiences and stories that explain who I am. They are pieces of a puzzle that encompass how philippines-652971_1280my identity has been shaped by my family culture and the years of connections and experiences from assimilated culture that have reshaped my identity. The reasons why I am a survivor being a middle child, a single mother and an Asian woman living and leading at work in the world where the dominant culture comes from the West. I maintain the culture of my roots while I partly assimilate the different culture in my environment. I have remained grounded on who I am because there have been people who see beyond my skin colour, and my English accent. People accept me “with whatever resources and richness that I come with” (Laureate Education, 2011).

Reference:

Laureate Education (Producer). (2011). Family cultures: Dynamic interactions [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu