Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Multiculturalism: A Right, a Responsibility, or a Requirement?

Photo by Tina Phillips
The last time I derailed from my usual topic of early literacy, was when I ranted about crib bumpers. Every now and then, something gets me hot under the collar, and this is another one of those times.

The state of Colorado recently proposed a list of requirements for child care centers such as prohibiting whole milk, regulating how much juice children are offered, mandating how often snacks are provided, and one that even requires child care providers to wear clothing that covers their laps and shoulders. One of the most controversial (judging by the online responses) proposals would require child care programs to provide dolls of at least three different races. It seems that some child care providers in Colorado are not pleased with the new mandates.

One center owner said, "I think we're going a little to [sic] far. We're not giving parents a choice.We're not giving children a choice. We're not giving caregivers a choice." [In fairness, the news story doesn't make it clear if she is referring specifically to the doll requirement or all of the proposed requirements.] Another said, "requiring dolls of at least three different races seems a bit silly (why not transgender or handicapped dolls too, while they're at it)?" On the contrary, I think having dolls of different races, IS giving children a choice. And most high-quality and/or NAEYC accredited programs actually do have dolls and puppets that are handicapped. Transgender dolls (if they even exist) are, in my opinion, not relevant to this topic (apples and oranges) and may be an issue for another blog post on another day.

Many of the comments on the various websites are surprising, and quite sad to me. I'm not going to get into the politics of whether or not the government is infringing on rights. This is not the time or blog space for political arguments. I will say this: I find it sad that people would fight against something that most educators know has significant social-emotional value for children. Personally, I might be more upset about not being able to wear a sleeveless shirt than I would be about providing children with dolls, but, hey, that's just me!

I also hope that the state of Colorado isn't so narrow-minded as to believe that simply requiring dolls of different races means that a child care program is "culturally sensitive." While I strongly believe that children should have dolls that reflects society, merely putting dolls in the classroom is not sufficient. Are educators choosing dolls that have the same features but are just different skin colors? Are all of the dolls selected racially sensitive or stereotypical? Do teachers have an understanding of how to implement ethnic sensitivity in their day to day classroom practices? Do teachers provide books, posters, and other equipment (not just dolls) that reflect our society?

To me, the issue is bigger than just having three ethnically different dolls. Most responsible educators would have multiracial dolls in their classroom, regardless of the state's requirement. This blog post could go on for another five paragraphs but instead, I'll turn it over to you guys to share your thoughts on the issue. What do you think about Colorado's proposal to require dolls of at least three different races?

1 comment:

  1. I don't know if it should be a law or not, but it should be best practice. You're right -- most high quality centers do this already.



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