An anti-bias curriculum is intended to teach acceptance, tolerance and respect for social differences. Some educators call for reform to classroom climate and teaching styles that serve only some groups of students and present barriers for other groups. Diversity advocates believe that transformation in schools is essential for the transformation of society and the elimination of injustice. The article describes a Teacher Action Research (TAR) method to improve practices related to diversity education. The method is both an individual tool that can help classroom teachers reconsider their teaching methods and a community activity that helps teams of educators assess problems in schools, enact changes, and reassess their materials and methodology. Critics of an anti-bias curriculum claim that teachers do not have time to prepare students for standardized tests and also attend to curriculum reform for diversity. Other critics feel that a multicultural curriculum focuses on differences instead commonalities and actually contributes to racism, sexism, heterosexism, and class-ism.
Keywords Anti-Bias Curriculum; Curriculum; Diversity; Multicultural Education; Oppression; Public Education; Social Justice; Teacher Action Research (TAR)
The movement to create an anti-bias curriculum is intended to remove prejudices from public education teaching methods and learning materials. This approach - also related to multicultural education, diversity education and social justice education - is intended to teach children about acceptance, tolerance and respect for social differences. While it incorporates the philosophy of multicultural education, it covers other than racial and ethnic forms of stereotypes, and includes gender, language, religious diversity, sexual orientation, physical and mental disabilities, and economic status (Anti-Defamation League, 1999).
Some educators consider this curriculum reform simply as the addition of new and diverse materials that are more inclusive of groups that have been traditionally underrepresented. Others call for reform to classroom climate and teaching styles that serve some groups and present barriers for others. Some progressive educators focus reform endeavors on institutional issues such as tracking, standardized testing, or funding discrepancies. Other activists insist on education reform measures that lead to a transformation of society (Wilhelm, 1998).
Despite differing views of anti-bias education, Gorski (1995-2008a) lists these shared ideals for those involved in reforming the school curriculum:
• Every student must have an equal opportunity to achieve to her or his full potential;
• Every student must be prepared to competently participate in an increasingly intercultural society;
• Teachers must be prepared to effectively facilitate learning for every individual student, no matter how culturally similar or different from her- or himself; and
• Schools must be active participants in ending oppression of all types, first within their own walls, then by producing socially and critically active and aware students.
Gorski (1995-2008a) prepared a working definition of multicultural education that also applies to anti-bias education. He believes that schools are essential to laying the foundation for the transformation of society and the elimination of injustice. Gorski proposes three strands of transformation to affect social change:
• The transformation of self;
• The transformation of schooling; and
• The transformation of society.
Regarding transformation of self, Gorski (1995-2008a) deems that educators must be in a constant process of self-examination to determine how their own biases and assumptions inform their teaching and thus affect the educational experiences of their students.
Related to the transformation schooling, Gorski proposes a student-centered pedagogy in which all aspects of teaching and learning in schools are refocused from standardized test scores and school rankings. He advises that students be encouraged to think critically about materials and media and consider whose voices they are hearing, whose voices they are they not hearing, and what bias the author or filmmaker may bring to their works.
Concerning the transformation of society, Gorski believes that curriculum reform can bring about social justice and equity in schools which, ultimately, will form a society that applies and maintains social justice and equity for the entire human collective. He suggests this will come about when educators, educational theorists, researchers, and activists practice and apply multicultural teaching and learning principles both inside and outside of the classroom.
Kohl (2001) suggests it is a sad statement on the moral sensibility of schools and society that we must advocate for the teaching of social justice. His position is that one cannot assume an idea or cause will be embraced merely because it is just and fair. He believes it is a moral and social necessity to shape a curriculum focused on compassion and the common good.
There are many online resources for educators, students, and activists that provide information related to curriculum reform based on anti-bias and diversity.
• The "Multicultural Pavilion," at www.edchange.org/multicultural/index.html, presents lesson plans, classroom activities, research results and links to many related websites.
• "Rethinking Schools Online," at www.rethinkingschools.org, makes available information for educators who desire reform throughout the U.S. public school system, especially related to the formation of an inclusive curriculum.
• The National Association for Multicultural Education, at www.nameorg.org, was founded in 1990 to bring together individuals and groups with an interest in multicultural education from diverse educational institutions and occupations.
• The Social Justice Education group, at www.socialjusticeeducation.org, promotes the use of multi-media and pop culture in a social justice curriculum that has a youth leadership component.
Teacher Action Research (TAR)
Gorski (1995-2008b) describes the Teacher Action Research (TAR) model of engaging educational practitioners in the assessment and improvement of practices related to diversity education. It can be both an individual tool, helping classroom teachers to reconsider their teaching methods and a community activity, helping teams of educators to assess problems in schools, enact changes, and...
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