Posted: August 6th, 2022

Critiquing Books for Bias and Stereotypes

Complete the “Children’s Book Bias Assessment” form based on two books (including picture books) intended for infant, toddlers, and preschool  age children. Using the online resources below, by selecting one classic and one contemporary children’s book and complete an assessment for each. Use the “Child’s Book Assessment” attached for the classic book assessment and for the contemporary book assessment.  See the word document labeled “Week 6” resource as well

EDUC 6357: CHILDREN’S BOOK BIAS ASSESSMENT

Title of Book:

Copyright Date:

Illustrations – Stereotypes: Look at the illustrations throughout the book and in pay close attention to any stereotypes you notice. Are there any exaggerated characteristics and styles of dress? (Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards, 2010). Write your observations in the white space below.

Illustrations – Tokenism: Look to see if there are more representatives from one group v. another. For example, is there “one African-American child among many White children?” (Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards, 2010, p.1) Write your observations in the white space below.

Story Line Analysis: Does the story “depict people of color, girls, children from low-income families, and children with disabilities as dependent or passive, while depicting White people, boys, members of the middle-class, and ‘able-bodied’ children in leadership action roles?” (Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards) Analyze the overall story line for who is presented as the “doer.” Write your observations in the white space below.

Relationships Between People: “In the book, is there a balance of power among the characters? Who are the central figure, and who serve as the supporting characters?” (Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards, 2010, p.2) Write your observations in the white space below.

Values of Heroes\Heroines: “Does this book include [heroes\heroines] of color, from low-income families, or with disabilities…Whose interests is the [hero\heroine] really serving?” (Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards, 2010, p.2) Write your observations in the white space below.

Couples: Does your book depict couples? If so, does their depiction seem to indicate a heterosexist view? Are there any reference or depictions of same-sex couples? Write your observations in the white space below.

Families: If this book includes families, what types of families are included? If ranges of families are included in the story – are there any obvious stereotypes, which might shape one’s views of family types? (e.g., single parent families are shown to be poor whereas dual parent households are shown to be healthier, happier, and more financially secure). Write your observations in the white space below.

Loaded Words: Are there words used throughout the book that contain prejudicial overtones? For example, words containing prejudicial overtones used to describe people of color that carry racist overtones might include: savage, primitive, backward (Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards, 2010). Write your observations in the white space below.

What Else Did You Notice: Using your own life experience and the Learning Resources from this course, notate other examples of bias that you noticed while review this children’s book. Write your observations in the white space below.

EDUC 6357: CHILDREN’S BOOK BIAS ASSESSMENT

Title of Book:

Copyright Date:

Illustrations – Stereotypes: Look at the illustrations throughout the book and in pay close attention to any stereotypes you notice. Are there any exaggerated characteristics and styles of dress? (Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards, 2010). Write your observations in the white space below.

Illustrations – Tokenism: Look to see if there are more representatives from one group v. another. For example, is there “one African-American child among many White children?” (Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards, 2010, p.1) Write your observations in the white space below.

Story Line Analysis: Does the story “depict people of color, girls, children from low-income families, and children with disabilities as dependent or passive, while depicting White people, boys, members of the middle-class, and ‘able-bodied’ children in leadership action roles?” (Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards) Analyze the overall story line for who is presented as the “doer.” Write your observations in the white space below.

Relationships Between People: “In the book, is there a balance of power among the characters? Who are the central figure, and who serve as the supporting characters?” (Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards, 2010, p.2) Write your observations in the white space below.

Values of Heroes\Heroines: “Does this book include [heroes\heroines] of color, from low-income families, or with disabilities…Whose interests is the [hero\heroine] really serving?” (Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards, 2010, p.2) Write your observations in the white space below.

Couples: Does your book depict couples? If so, does their depiction seem to indicate a heterosexist view? Are there any reference or depictions of same-sex couples? Write your observations in the white space below.

Families: If this book includes families, what types of families are included? If ranges of families are included in the story – are there any obvious stereotypes, which might shape one’s views of family types? (e.g., single parent families are shown to be poor whereas dual parent households are shown to be healthier, happier, and more financially secure). Write your observations in the white space below.

Loaded Words: Are there words used throughout the book that contain prejudicial overtones? For example, words containing prejudicial overtones used to describe people of color that carry racist overtones might include: savage, primitive, backward (Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards, 2010). Write your observations in the white space below.

What Else Did You Notice: Using your own life experience and the Learning Resources from this course, notate other examples of bias that you noticed while review this children’s book. Write your observations in the white space below.

Urban Education
Volume 44 Number 4

July 2009 389-409
© 2009 The Author(s)

10.1177/0042085909338686
http://uex.sagepub.com

389

The Intersection of Race,
Culture, Language,
and Disability
Implications for Urban Education

Wanda J. Blanchett
University of Colorado Denver
Janette K. Klingner
University of Colorado at Boulder
Beth Harry
University of Miami

To date, few researchers have sought to examine the effect of issues of race,
culture, language, and disability, let alone to look specifically at the intersec-
tion of these issues, as it relates to special education identification, special
education service delivery, and students of color’s access to an equitable
education. Thus, this article will attempt to help urban education researchers
and educators understand (a) why the intersection of race, culture, language,
and disability is an urban education issue; (b) how issues of race, culture,
language, and disability affect students’ and their families’ quest for an equi-
table education; (c) how to advocate for and provide culturally responsive
services to racially, culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse stu-
dents and their families; and (d) the implications of the intersection of race,
culture, and disability for urban education practice, research, and policy.

Keywords: race; culture;language; special education; disability; urban
education

An overwhelming majority of children of color throughout the United States attend schools that are largely made up of students of color, and
the quality of their schooling experience seems to be affected by the inter-
section of issues of race, culture, language, and disability. According to
Orfield, Frankenberg, and Lee (2003), almost three fourths of African
American and more than three fourths of Latino children attend majority
student of color schools. This reality suggests that despite decades of
desegregation mandates and careful attention to attempting to integrate

390 Urban Education

American schools, segregated schooling is not a thing of the past as some
would like for us to believe, but rather, it is still quite prevalent in the
American public school system and in fact has been steadily increasing for
the past decade.

The resegregation of students of color is a significant societal issue that
warrants immediate attention and action because schools attended by stu-
dents of color tend to be schools in which the vast majority of the student
population qualify for free or reduced lunch. As Kozol (1991, 2005) so
vividly documented, the resources and overall quality of education afforded
students who attend high-poverty schools are vastly different from what is
available in schools that serve students who are White and middle class and
often result in students of color facing a life of challenges and continued
poverty. Not only do students of color attend high-poverty schools, they are
also more likely than their White peers to actually live in poverty them-
selves. According to the Department of Education’s National Center for
Education Statistics (NCES, 2005), 70% of African American students,
71% of Hispanic students, and only 23% of White students live in poverty,
and these numbers are even more disparaging when it comes to students
concentrated in urban environments.

Race and ethnicity also seem to play a significant role in determining the
extent to which students are likely to attend high-poverty concentrated
schools with students of color being more likely than their White peers to
attend schools at which more than 75% of the students live in poverty
(NCES, 2005). For example, 47% of African American students and 51% of
Hispanic students attend high-poverty schools compared with only 5% of
White students (NCES, 2005). On the surface one might ask, as the U.S.
Supreme Court recently concluded, what is the problem or why is it that we
as a society should be concerned about the fact that students of color, a dis-
proportionate percentage of whom also live in poverty, are concentrated in
schools together? The answer to this question is simple but very alarming.
A considerable body of research (e.g., Ayers & Ford, 1996; Blanchett, 2006;
Kozol, 1991; Losen & Orfield, 2002) clearly shows that schools that serve a
majority student of color population are quantitatively and qualitatively dif-
ferent in terms of their resources and the quality of schooling afforded their
children from those attended by predominately White middle-class students.
In addition to robbing students of color of an equitable education, having
students of color concentrated in schools with other students of color (many
who also live in poverty) also robs them as well as their White peers of an
opportunity to attend and benefit from racially, culturally, and linguistically
diverse schools. As the U.S. Supreme Court concluded in its decision in
the University of Michigan’s cases (American Council on Education), “The

Blanchett et al. / Race, Culture, and Disability 391

benefits of diversity are substantial,” the Court said, citing evidence that
diversity helps to break down stereotypes, improves classroom discussion,
prepares students for the workforce and citizenship, and permits universities
to “cultivate a set of leaders with legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry”
(p. 1). Thus, segregated schools both create and perpetuate educational ineq-
uities for African American and other students of color while at the same time
perpetuating White privilege and dominance.

To date, few researchers (e.g., Ferri & Connor, 2005; Harry, 1992;
Klingner, Blanchett, & Harry, 2007; Sleeter, 1987) have sought to examine
the effect of issues of race, culture, language, and disability, let alone to look
specifically at the intersection of these issues, as it relates to special educa-
tion identification, special education service delivery, and students of color’s
access to an equitable education. Thus, this article will attempt to help urban
education researchers and educators understand (a) why the intersection of
race, culture, language, and disability is an urban education issue; (b) how
issues of race, culture, language, and disability affect students’ and their
families’ quest for an equitable education; (c) how to advocate for and
provide culturally responsive services to racially, culturally, linguistically,
and economically diverse students and their families; and (d) the implications
of the intersection of race, culture, and disability for urban education practice,
research, and policy.

As Klingner, Blanchett, and Harry (2007) noted, failure to place issues
of race, class, culture, and language at the center of educational considera-
tions and decision making assumes that the American education system,
special education, and human and community services systems that provide
service to families are race, class, culture, and language neutral. In this
article, we would like to extend our previous work to more carefully look
at the experiences of individuals with disabilities of color and their families
as they have tried to navigate an American education, special education,
and human and community services systems that are not responsive to the
intersection of race, culture, language, and disability.

Why Is the Intersection of Race, Culture, Language,
and Disability an Urban Education Issue?

African Americans and other students of color who are identified and
labeled as having disabilities often experience what Blanchett, Mumford,
and Beachum (2005) and Fierros and Conroy (2002) call “double jeopardy.”
Blanchett et al. (2005) used the term to refer to the fact that not only do

392 Urban Education

many African Americans and other students of color experience all the edu-
cational inequities associated with living in poverty and attending urban
schools that are often insufficiently funded and resourced, but, in addition,
these students are labeled as having a disability and many of them also expe-
rience inequities that are inherent in the special education system, including
segregated classrooms, limited access to the general education curriculum,
and poor post-school outcomes (Blanchett et al., 2005). In addition, when it
comes to development disabilities, African American and other students of
color have to contend with yet another set of issues and challenges in their
quest for an equitable education. These issues and challenges include, but
are not limited to, institutionalized racism, White privilege, and an increased
risk for being identified as having developmental disabilities not because
being African American or of color results in a disability but instead due to
being more likely to live in poverty, receive inadequate prenatal care, and
have limited access to early intervention services (Ford, Blanchett, &
Brown, 2006; Harry & Klingner, 2006). When there is indeed the presence
of a developmental disability and families of color seek services, they are
likely to encounter systems and structures that are not prepared to help them
navigate services while living life at the intersection of race, culture, lan-
guage, and disability, which results in them ultimately receiving culturally
unresponsive and inappropriate services and interventions.

Even though the civil rights movement provided the foundation for spe-
cial education, special education like the larger educational system has
been associated with the inequitable treatment of African American stu-
dents and other students of color since shortly after its inception. African
American students and other students of color have a long history of being
disproportionately represented in special education, which has been a
debate in special education for more than 35 years. It is astonishing that
only in recent years have claims that disproportionality is indeed connected
to issues of race, culture, poverty, and language been taken seriously. This
is in part because researchers have been able to document that the experi-
ences of students of color in special education are very similar to the expe-
riences of students in urban settings, and they have been able to use the
urban education research to effectively make this case by applying an
equity lens to contextualizing the treatment of students of color with disa-
bilities. Similarly, in recent years, researchers have also drawn on critical
pedagogy, critical race theory, and disability studies to question the social
constructions of disability, disability categories, able-ism, and deficit con-
ceptualizations of disability. Despite this significant progress, the intersec-
tion of race, culture, language, and disability still remains largely unexplored

Blanchett et al. / Race, Culture, and Disability 393

and largely a missing component in the urban education research literature
because urban education rarely addresses disability as a component of the
larger urban education agenda, even though, like race, disability has been
and is still being used as a method of sorting, stratifying, and excluding.

Public Schooling and Race, Culture,
Language, and Disability in the United States:

Sorting, Stratifying, and Excluding

Race has figured prominently in the evolution of public schooling in
the United States since its inception. The latter half of the 20th century
was marked by a struggle for equity within general and special education
(Bullivant, 1993). The arguments concerning the role of schooling as a means
of social reproduction (Bowles & Gintis, 1976; Oakes, 1985) rather than as a
vehicle for social mobility (Blau & Duncan, 1967; Sewell, Haller, & Portes,
1969) are well known and we do not detail them here. Suffice it to say that
although schooling has achieved a certain degree of social mobility for some,
its structure, content, and methods of inculcating knowledge are readily rec-
ognized as being developed to suit the goals of the majority White American
society, and until the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the social mobility
of students of color was not a goal of American education.

Special Education: Equity and Efficiency in Conflict

Progress toward universal schooling for children regardless of handicap-
ping condition was fueled by the civil rights movement and deeply influ-
enced by its rhetoric of equality and solidarity. Although envisioned as
parallel movements, it is not far-fetched to say that the special education and
civil rights movements were actually on a collision course (Harry &
Klingner, 2006). Special education became a way to provide separate serv-
ices for some students, a disproportionate percentage of whom were students
of color. The advocates for the right of all children with disabilities to a
public education framed special education as one of the answers to the ineq-
uities of eras past. For the parent groups and other advocates who lobbied
for the passage of a federal mandate for these programs, this was the pur-
pose and vision of special education. Indeed, the establishment of the
Bureau of Education for the Handicapped in the 1960s and the passage of
the Education for all Handicapped Children Act (EHA) in 1975 followed
in the wake of the civil rights movement. There is no doubt that, for the

394 Urban Education

thousands of children for whom there was no available schooling prior to
1975, the EHA represented the achievement of the society’s goal of equity.

The issue of placement of non-White children in classes for students
perceived as “slow” or mildly retarded came to public attention after the
Brown desegregation decision. The reluctance of many states to comply
with the Brown ruling led to the first official allegations of the use of special
classes to continue covert forms of racial segregation. Prasse and Reschly
(1986) noted that such allegations were reported in San Francisco as early
as 1965 and that the first legal suit on the subject was Johnson v. San
Francisco Unified School District (1971), which charged that the district
was “dumping” African American children in classes for the “mildly
retarded.” The landmark Larry P. v. Riles case was filed just months after
Johnson (1972), charging that biased IQ tests resulted in gross overrepresen-
tation of African American students in mental retardation (MR) programs.
The argument was based on the fact that, although African American stu-
dents made up 28.5% of the total student body in the school district, they
made up 66% of all students in classes for MR. The courts supported the
plaintiffs’ charge that the IQ tests being used to place children in the MR
category were biased against African American children and declared that
the disproportionate representation of African American students in pro-
grams for students with mild MR was discriminatory. They banned the use
of IQ tests with African American students and ordered the elimination of
overrepresentation of African American students in MR programs. Around
the same time, similar charges were brought by Mercer (1973) concerning
the high rates of placement of Hispanic children in MR programs in
California. The most influential cases on this topic centered on language of
testing, with Diana (1970), in California, arguing that Hispanic children
were being inappropriately tested in English even when they only spoke
Spanish, and Guadalupe (1972), in Arizona, making similar charges con-
cerning both Hispanic and Native American children. In both of these
cases, the plaintiffs were supported by the courts. These landmark court
cases of the 1970s provided impetus for the mandate for nondiscriminatory
assessment procedures in the civil rights legislation of Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that laid the groundwork for the requirements
for nondiscriminatory testing and the due process safeguards against mis-
classification in the passage of the EHA (Jacob-Timm & Hartshorne,
1998).

Prior to 1969, the American Association on Mental Deficiency (AAMD)
used a cutoff score of 1 standard deviation from the mean (i.e., an IQ of 85).
This definition was changed by the AAMD in 1969 to 2 standard deviations

Blanchett et al. / Race, Culture, and Disability 395

from the mean (i.e., an IQ of 70). Mercer (1973) pointed out the irony in
this change, noting that it brought about a “swift cure” for many who had
previously been determined to be retarded. Since then, many states have
used a variable guideline of a score between 70 and 75 on an IQ test. This,
however, has only compounded charges of subjectivity and ambiguity,
because a leeway of just 5 points actually results in large differences in the
percentages of students who qualify (MacMillan & Reschly, 1998). Such
debates highlight the arbitrariness of placement decisions and the social
construction of disability (i.e., decisions about who has a disability and who
doesn’t have a disability).1

With the passage of the EHA in 1975, the special education and deseg-
regation movements officially collided (Harry & Klingner, 2006). The
concept of deficit had become a well-established part of the educational
belief system and would become the driving force behind decisions about
how to educate those who appeared different from the mainstream. Students
of color who had once been excluded from schools with Whites would now
be placed in special education at rates greater than their percentages in the
overall school-aged population.

The Overrepresentation of Students
of Color in Special Education Programs

When the disproportionate representation of ethnically and linguistically
diverse students in high incidence special education programs (mental retar-
dation, learning disabilities, and emotional disturbance) was first brought to
the nation’s attention by Dunn in 1968 and studied by a National Academy
of Sciences panel (Heller, Holtzman, & Messick, 1982), the focus was on
the overrepresentation of African American and Hispanic and high-poverty
students in MR programs.2 Between 1948 and 1966, there had been a 400%
increase in the number of students identified as MR, and in 1975 when the
Education for All Handicapped Children was passed, MR had the highest
count of any exceptional child diagnosis. Although the MR category has,
historically, been the source of most controversy with regard to ethnic dis-
proportionality, it is now used much less frequently than in the past. Whereas
the numbers in the learning disabilities (LD) category have increased almost
sixfold over the past two decades, the rates of placement for all ethnicities
in MR have been reduced by almost half. Nonetheless, among those students
who are designated MR, African Americans are more than twice as likely
as students of other ethnicities to be identified (Donovan & Cross, 2002).

396 Urban Education

Thus, although MR rates have declined overall, we still see significant over-
representation of students of color in this category.

Disproportionate representation by ethnic group. Although dispropor-
tionate representation is most apparent among African American students
when nationally aggregated data are the focus, there are marked differences
across states and notable instances of overrepresentation among other eth-
nic and linguistic groups when data are disaggregated and population sub-
groups are examined (Artiles, Rueda, Salazar, & Higareda, 2005; Oswald,
Coutinho, Best, & Singh, 1999). Compared with all other groups combined,
African American students are 2.99 times more likely to be classified as
having MR, 1.17 times more likely to be classified as having autism, and
1.65 times more likely to be identified as having developmental delay. In
contrast, Hispanic students are about half as likely to be classified as having
MR and/or developmental delay (U.S. Department of Education, 2003).

As the disability rights movement has taken hold, overall more students
with disabilities are being included in general education classrooms. But, this
is not the case for students of color. Unlike their White peers, students of
color are often excluded from inclusive education programs and the general
education curriculum (Fierros & Conroy, 2002; LeRoy & Kulik, 2003).
Instead, they tend to spend 60% or more of their school day in segregated
special education placements (i.e., in separate classrooms or separate schools
from those attended by their nondisabled peers; 24th Annual Report to
Congress, 2004). They are also more likely to have uncertified or provision-
ally licensed teachers and to graduate with a certificate of attendance/comple-
tion versus a high school diploma (Chamberlain, 2005). Once students of
color exit special education, most common by dropping out or receiving a
certificate of attendance, they experience high unemployment rates, a lack of
preparation for the workforce, and difficulty gaining access to postsecondary
education (Ferri & Connor, 2005; Losen & Orfield, 2002).

Assumptions About the Causes of
Disproportionate Representation

Disproportionate representation is a complex phenomenon that cannot
be explained by simplistic views that focus narrowly on the role of poverty
or students’ presumed lack of intelligence or other deficits and that pay too
little attention to the role of context and other factors external to the child
(Klingner et al., 2005), including but not limited to institutionalized White

Blanchett et al. / Race, Culture, and Disability 397

privilege and racism (Blanchett, 2006). By context, we mean the various
nested systems that influence a child’s experiences as well as how the
child is perceived, from the classroom, to the school, to the local commu-
nity, to the larger society, much as with Bronfenbrenner’s (1977) ecologi-
cal systems model.

Assumptions about the role of poverty. We question the notion that stu-
dents of color are overrepresented in the MR category because they are more
likely to have a disability because of an impoverished environment. In other
words, although poverty and associated risk factors, such as low birth weight,
exposure to alcohol during pregnancy, tobacco and drug use, malnourish-
ment, and exposure to lead, are often described as causal factors in the devel-
opment of language or cognitive deficits or maladaptive behaviors (Donovan
& Cross, 2002), poverty itself does not automatically result in low learning
potential, as evidenced by the significant number of children and schools who
“beat the odds” (Donovan & Cross, 2002; O’Connor, 2002). O’Connor
argued that there is nothing about poverty in and of itself that places poor
children at academic risk but, rather, it is how structures of opportunity and
constraint come to bear on their likelihood for achieving competitive educa-
tional outcomes. O’Connor and DeLuca Fernandez (2006) noted that a focus
on poverty as the explanation for the overrepresentation of African Americans
in MR programs oversimplifies the concept of development and conse-
quently underanalyzes how the normative culture of society and thus schools
(i.e., of the White middle and upper classes) situate minority youths as aca-
demically and behaviorally deficient in comparison. They assert that it is the
culture and organization of schools (and not poverty) that places minority
students at heightened risk for special education placement. Skiba, Poloni-
Staudinger, Simmons, Feggins, and Chung (2005) made a similar argument
based on their research in school districts in Indiana.

Assumptions about intelligence. One of the most lasting legacies of
Western racism is a deep-seated belief in the inferior intelligence of indi-
viduals of color. Consider, for example, the effect of the best-selling book,
The Bell Curve (Herrnstein, 1994), which, despite its numerous flaws (e.g.,
Fraser, 1995), was taken seriously by a large segment of the mainstream
population. Although many scholars have pointed out the arbitrariness of
race and the fallacies inherent in attributing presumed variations in intelli-
gence to racial differences (e.g., Gould, 1981), beliefs about inferior intel-
ligence have been institutionalized in the policies and practices of our public
schools (Steele, Perry, & Hilliard, 2004). Much has been written about

398 Urban Education

drawbacks when using intelligence tests with nonmajority populations, yet
most school districts continue to classify students as MR based on IQ test
scores. IQ tests reflect the cultural, social, and linguistic knowledge of the
mainstream (e.g., Hilliard, 1994; Samuda, 1998) and thus, in comparison,
students of color are more likely to appear deficient when in fact they are
not. Because of concerns about the biased nature of IQ tests, numerous
scholars have recommended the elimination or reduction of IQ testing.
Hilliard (1995) contended that we need “either a paradigm shift or no mental
measurement” (p. 6). The National Research Council (Donovan & Cross,
2002) emphasized that cutoff points for “disability” or “giftedness” are
“artificial and variable” (p. 26) and called for an end to the requirement for
IQ tests as a “primary criterion” (p. 313) for eligibility. They stated,

IQ tests are measures of what individuals have learned—that is, it is useful
to think of them as tests of general achievement, reflecting broad culturally
rooted ways of thinking and problem solving. These tests are only indirect
measures of success with the school curriculum and imperfect predictors of
school achievement. (pp. 284-285)

Although eligibility criteria for intellectual disabilities still include IQ,
despite the limitations of IQ tests, the field of LD is moving away from
using the IQ-achievement discrepancy formula for identification purposes.
At the U.S. Department of Education LD Summit (Bradley, Danielson, &
Hallahan, 2002), experts in the field agreed to recommend discontinuing
the use of the IQ-achievement discrepancy identification model and instead
move to an approach that considers the extent to which students respond to
valid interventions (Stuebing et al., 2002; Vellutino, Scanlon, & Lyon,
2000). The reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Improvement Act (IDEA 2004) includes Response to Intervention (RTI) as
way to identify specific LD without reference to IQ.

Assumptions about the importance of contextual issues. Students of color
are at greater risk of being identified for special education when too much
emphasis is placed on finding within-child deficits through a decontextual-
ized assessment process that does not account for their opportunity to learn.
Donovan and Cross (2002) emphasized that context matters. They discussed
the significance of classroom context in terms of teacher effectiveness:

The same child can perform very differently depending on the level of
teacher support. . . . In practice, it can be quite difficult to distinguish internal

Blanchett et al. / Race, Culture, and Disability 399

child traits that require the ongoing support of special education from inad-
equate opportunity or contextual support for learning and behavior. (p. 3)

Students of color are disproportionately educated in inner-city schools
that lack the resources of schools in wealthier neighborhoods. Teachers’
degrees, qualifications, and licensing or certification status in affluent com-
munities are impressive and increasingly improving, whereas teachers in
high-poverty schools are underprepared and know too little about teaching
culturally and linguistically diverse learners (Villegas & Lucas, 2002). In
their investigation of the disproportionate representation of students of
color in special education in a large, diverse school district, Harry and
Klingner (2006) found that teachers in inner-city schools with predomi-
nantly African American populations had fewer advanced degrees, were
less qualified, and were more likely to demonstrate weak instructional and
classroom management skills than teachers in other schools in their sample.
Kozol (e.g., 1991, 2005) focused the nation’s attention on the failure of
U.S. schools to improve the status of education for children of color from
low socioeconomic backgrounds. This substantial inequality in practice
actually serves to perpetuate the status quo (Gutierrez, Asato, Santos, &
Gotanda, 2002).

Educational and Service Access Issues and
Barriers for Diverse Individuals and Families

Like students and families of color in urban settings who are not affected
by the presence of a disability, diverse individuals with disabilities and their
families experience a number of challenges in trying to navigate the urban
education, special education, and human and community services systems.
Consequently, in the next section, we portray service delivery access issues
and barriers for diverse individuals with developmental disabilities and
their families. These include, but are not limited to, differing cultural per-
spectives of disability, limited access and unfamiliarity with available
service delivery options, service providers’ lack of understanding of the
effect of families’ race, social class, cultural values/beliefs, experiences,
and perspective of disabilities on service delivery, and families’ lack of
access to culturally and linguistically responsive curriculum and services
(e.g., Harry, Kalyanpur, & Day, 1999; Rueda, Monzo, Blacher, Shapiro, &
Gonzalez, 2005).

400 Urban Education

Families’ Cultural Beliefs and the Institutional
Culture of Special Education Disconnect

Because families’ cultural beliefs and cultural frames of reference affect
their understanding, acceptance, and perspectives of disability, it is impor-
tant that educators and service providers understand how issues of culture
influence families’ perceptions of disability and ultimately their experiences
in securing services for their loved ones with developmental disabilities.
Research has clearly documented that parents’ culture, values, and beliefs
influence how they perceive and respond to their child with a disability (e.g.,
Harris, 1996; Harry, 1992). Most families go through a process of grieving
the birth of a child with significant disabilities and eventually move through
various stages toward acceptance of the reality that their child has a disabil-
ity that may alter their child’s life as well as their dreams for their child. Yet,
parents’ adaptation to and acceptance of their child’s condition vary. For
example, in research comparing the attitudes of mothers toward the birth of
a child with a developmental disability, Mary (1990) found that Hispanic
mothers were more likely than White or African American mothers to adopt
an attitude of “self-sacrifice toward their young child with a disability.”
Similarly, in her research with African American parents and Hispanic par-
ents, Harry (1992) found that these mothers were more likely to see the birth
of their child with a developmental disability as a “gift from God” and, as
such, believed that it was their responsibility to care for their children and
not the responsibility of external caregivers.

Parents’ cultural perspectives of disability also affect the extent to which
they seek out relevant services. Parents’ cultural perspectives also play a
role in how they experience the American special education system. For
example, according to Kalyanpur and Harry (1999), special education is
grounded in three core American macrocultural values that are major tenets
of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1990: individualism,
equity, and choice. In providing an explanation of how these core macroc-
ultural values affect special education, they indicated that

the value of individualism underlies the principles of due process and indi-
vidualized, appropriate education, whereas the principles of parent participa-
tion and the LRE are grounded in the right to freedom of choice. Similarly,
the value of equity is embedded in the principles of zero reject, nondiscrimi-
natory assessment, and parental participation. (p. 20)

To work effectively with ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse
individuals with developmental disabilities and their families, educators

Blanchett et al. / Race, Culture, and Disability 401

and service providers must be aware that special education is a cultural
institution that may or may not reflect the values, beliefs, and cultural per-
spectives of all parents. This is true, in particular, for parents of color as
well as parents who are not native English speakers. Hence, it is critically
important that educators and service providers engage in dialogue that will
allow parents to share their perspectives on developmental disabilities in a
nonthreatening manner and to have those perspectives respected and
included in the provision of service delivery options afforded them.

Limited Access and Unfamiliarity
With Available Services

The professional literature is replete with documentation of individuals
of color with developmental disabilities and their families’ limited access
to or unfamiliarity with available special education and human and com-
munity services. Although people of color with developmental disabilities
across all socioeconomic levels experience access issues, access to appro-
priate services and unfamiliarity with available services seem to be further
compounded by lower socioeconomic status and living in either rural or
urban areas (Gammon, 2000; Reichard, Sacco, & Turnbull, 2004). This is
especially true for families who are caring for adults with MR or develop-
mental disabilities because they tend to be more isolated, less supported,
and more in need of comprehensive services than parents of younger indi-
viduals with MR or developmental disabilities (Black, Cohn, Smull, &
Crites, 1985; Hayden & DePaepe, 1994). In addition, once individuals of
color with developmental disabilities exit the public school system, their
families and caregivers encounter even greater hardships and more access
difficulties because available services are severely limited, especially in
rural areas (Gammon, 2000).

Families of color experience greater difficulties in access and utiliza-
tion of social services and, as such, they are less likely than majority
families to receive innovative or best practices services such as “family-
support system” and “supported employment” (e.g., Traustadottir, Lutfiyya,
& Shoultz, 1994). The barriers to access for individuals of color with
developmental disabilities and their families often are issues related to
poverty, racism, and a lack of culturally relevant services. As a result of
not receiving access to innovative services, individuals of color and their
families with developmental disabilities must continue to rely on the tra-
ditional supports of supplemental security income (SSI) checks and health
insurance in the form of Medicaid (Children’s Defense Fund, 1974).

402 Urban Education

African Americans with developmental disabilities and their families may
tend to rely heavily on the traditional supports of SSI and Medicaid
because they are often so consumed with the struggle for survival as they
deal with the realities of living in poverty while serving as a caregiver that
they just do not have the energy or time to pursue special programs and
services (Harry, 1992).

Another issue that affects families of color in their pursuit of appropriate
services for their children with developmental disabilities is the availability
of health care providers who both take Medicaid and are adequately trained
to treat individuals with developmental disabilities (Donovan & Cross,
2002; Reichard et al., 2004). Although this is a problem for many families,
regardless of their race, families of color are disproportionately poor, and
when they also live in rural areas, it is difficult for them to identify physi-
cians and dentists who are both trained and willing to treat patients with
developmental disabilities because of the additional time involved in treat-
ing these patients and the often limited means of communication. Even
when individuals of color with developmental disabilities and their families
have access to needed special education and relevant social, community,
and adult services, these services are often not culturally and linguistically
sensitive and even more rarely are culturally and linguistically responsive
(Gammon, 2000; Harry, 1992).

Traditional Versus Culturally and
Linguistically Responsive Service Delivery

Traditional service delivery models have tended to approach develop-
mental disabilities from the perspective that race, class, cultural beliefs and
values, and language do not influence service delivery options and the qual-
ity of the services ultimately provided to individuals with developmental
disabilities and their families (Ford et al., 2006). In recent years, research-
ers (e.g., Ford et al., 2006; Harry, Kalyanpur, & Day, 1999; Reichard et al.,
2004) have emphasized the need to reexamine assessments, educational
and social service practices, and interventions to ensure that they are cultur-
ally sensitive and better targeted toward diverse individuals and their fami-
lies. However, despite numerous calls (e.g., Gammon, 2000) for the
curriculum, assessments, and services used with students with developmen-
tal disabilities to be culturally responsive and tailored to students’ learning
styles, family values, and cultural and linguistic frames of reference, they
continue to be largely monocultural.

Blanchett et al. / Race, Culture, and Disability 403

To ensure that the values, beliefs, and perspectives of diverse individuals
with developmental disabilities and their families are considered when
conducting assessments and developing and implementing services, it is
important for service providers to be knowledgeable of what it means to
provide culturally and linguistically responsive services. As stated earlier,
culturally and linguistically responsive services are those services that rec-
ognize, value, and infuse individuals of color with developmental disabili-
ties’ ethnic, cultural, and linguistic knowledge to inform pedagogical and
service delivery practices and to employ that knowledge to design instruc-
tional strategies, communication strategies, assessment tools, and service
delivery models. Service providers who provide culturally and linguisti-
cally relevant services acknowledge that the American special education
system is grounded in American macrocultural values concerning commu-
nication and language, and as such, it disproportionately favors parents for
whom English is their first language and those who speak and comprehend
the “official” language. The term official language is used here to refer to
the professional jargon that is most commonly used by teachers and profes-
sionals in the special education system that draws heavily on White middle-
class communication and language patterns and styles.

Implications for Working Effectively
With Diverse Students and Families

In response to the many issues and challenges we have described, we
offer several suggestions for working with students of color with disabili-
ties and their families:

1. Recognize the effect of issues of race, class, culture, language, and social class
on families’ access to relevant special education and social and community
services. For example, educators and service providers who work with diverse
students and families need to be educated about how race, class, culture, lan-
guage, and social class may serve as barriers and thereby result in diverse
families having limited access to relevant special education and human and
community services.

2. Acknowledge that special education and related service provisions are based
on White middle-class English-speaking cultural norms and values and may
not reflect the cultural beliefs and values of diverse families, especially
those who live in poverty and for whom English is not their first language.

3. Communicate with students and families in their native language using a
professional interpreter versus a family member.

404 Urban Education

4. Communicate using lay and cultural terminology and avoid overreliance on
professional jargon.

5. When meeting with families, ask about their hopes and dreams for their
child and recognize that these may be different from those typical of main-
stream culture (but are just as valid).

6. Make sure that printed materials are prepared in the native language.
7. Learn about and respect cultural, communication, and language norms and

mores.
8. Be familiar with and acknowledge within-group ethnic, cultural, linguistic,

and social class differences. For example, educators and service providers
must recognize that even though diverse families might be members of a
larger ethnic, cultural, racial, or linguistic group, they are individuals and
should be treated as such.

9. Whenever possible, provide services to ethnically, culturally, and linguistically
diverse families within the context of relevant community or cultural centers.

10. Involve individuals of color in the development of appropriate Individualized
Education Programs and Individualized Family Service Plans that reflect
their values and priorities.

Implications of the Intersection of Race,
Culture, Language, and Disability for Future

Urban Education Research and Policy

If we as educators and researchers take seriously the complexity and
importance of understanding the intersection of race, culture, language,
poverty, and disability and the need for children and families of color to
receive educational and human and community services that are both equi-
table and responsive to their ethnic, cultural, and linguistic needs, those
committed to urban education must do the following:

1. Broaden our conceptualization of urban education to include all oppressed
and marginalized groups including but not limited to those affected by the
intersection of race, culture, language, poverty, and disability.

2. Broaden our conceptualization of urban teacher education to include the
preparation of both general and special education teachers for urban envi-
ronments. Currently, despite the fact that the most significant special educa-
tion teacher shortages are in urban settings, few teacher preparation
programs prepare special education teachers with a focus on teaching in
urban settings.

3. Broaden our conceptualization of urban education policy to include special
education policy as a component of urban education policy.

Blanchett et al. / Race, Culture, and Disability 405

4. Conduct research that illuminates the complexity of the intersection of race,
culture, language, poverty, and disability using a strengths-based versus a
deficit conceptual framework.

5. Continue to conduct research on what is working in urban education and
urban special education versus what is not so that we build an extensive lit-
erature base that documents the effectiveness of culturally responsive peda-
gogy across a wide range of students and settings including students affected
by the intersection of race, culture, language, poverty, and disability.

6. Advocate for educational policies that require general and special education
teachers as well as other essential school personnel to be educated together
in merged urban teacher preparation, counseling, and administrative leader-
ship programs with a strong foundation in the essentials of urban education
and urban teaching.

Conclusion

The only way we’ll get freedom for ourselves is to identify ourselves with
every oppressed people in the world.

—Malcolm X

Malcolm X made the above statement in reference to African Americans’
struggle for civil rights and freedom in the 1960s, but this statement rings true
today as we continue the fight to ensure that all children, most notably chil-
dren of color, many of whom live in poverty, receive an equitable education
in the American educational system. We dare say that the only way we will
get an equitable education for all marginalized children and families affected
by the intersection of race, culture, language, poverty, and disability is to
identify them with oppressed children and families in urban settings and
everywhere in the world. In conclusion, urban education emerged as a field
of study or discipline to make known the gross injustices and oppression
experienced by children and families in urban settings and, more important,
to illustrate to the world the many assets that reside in these communities that
are so often unfairly portrayed as “broken” and “in need of repair.” Although
a few scholars in urban education, such as Banks, Cross, Gay, Hilliard, and
Sleeter, have addressed special education issues as a component of their
urban education research agendas, they are the exceptions rather than the
norm. Thus, it is our hope that this article has enlightened those urban educa-
tors who ask, “What does special education and disability have to do with
urban education?” More important, we hope that we have communicated the
urgent need for urban educators and urban special educators and all others

406 Urban Education

concerned about urban education to work together in our fight for equity in
the interests of all of our children who experience life at the intersection of
race, culture, language, poverty, and/or disability.

Notes

1. For further discussion of the social construction of disabilities, see Gergen (1994) and
Reid and Knight (2006).

2. Mental retardation, learning disabilities, and emotional disturbance are the labels used
by Donovan and Cross (2002).

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Beth Harry is a professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at the University of
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tional research.

For reprints and permissions queries, please visit SAGE’s Web site at http://www
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EDUC6357: Diversity, Development, and Learning
“Start Seeing Diversity: Physical Ability and Characteristics”

Program Transcript

FEMALE SPEAKER: Bias based on physical disabilities or characteristics, or
ableism, is any attitude, action, or institutional practice that subordinates people
because of a disability or other physical characteristic. In our program, one day, a
group of children were playing with picture cards. And one child said–

FEMALE SPEAKER: “People in wheelchairs can’t be mommies.”

FEMALE SPEAKER: The teacher asked, “Why do you think someone in a
wheelchair can’t be a mommy? What is this woman doing to take care of the
baby? How is it like something a mommy might do?” The teacher then suggested
simple research to provide further information. Let’s look in our books and see if
we can find other people in wheelchairs taking care of children. Children can also
broaden their knowledge by sorting pictures into different categories. This set of
pictures shows people with disabilities in active roles in their homes.

We also challenge bias about physical characteristics by providing images of lots
of different body types. While grouping pictures into family and friendship groups,
a child said, “Ooh, he’s fat. I wouldn’t be friends with a fat person.” The teacher
responded, “People come in many shapes and sizes. I have friends who are fat
and friends who are thin.” This simple comment made a direct positive statement
about diversity and used a teacher herself as a model of other possible ways to
think about difference.

Children’s books are another important tool in an anti-bias approach. Some
stories model anti-bias behavior or provide opportunities for children to think
about how they can act against bias. In fact, Fat Rose Marie, a child is teased
about her size. She is supported by her friend who takes action against the
teasing. Teachers ask questions to help children think about what happened in
the story.

FEMALE SPEAKER: What do you think about what Rose Marie’s friend did?
What else could she have done? What could you do if someone teased your
friend?

FEMALE SPEAKER: This process empowers children to take action themselves
by giving the message that responding to bias is important. It models cooperative
problem solving and creates concrete suggestions for what to do. The same kind
of work can be done with stories that teachers create or adapt from classroom
events using puppets or dolls to act out the story. Children can brainstorm ways

Page 1

to help the puppets address the bias they face. The Streets are Free, which tells
the story of a community taking action to create a safe place for the children to
play, inspired the children in our center to take action on their own behalf.

They felt that the lunch service was unfair because there was no extra food if
someone spilled something. They wrote letters and drew pictures expressing
their concern. Then they called the lunch service and requested a meeting at
which they presented their letters. Their concerns were heard and the meals
improved. As often happens, however, one anti-bias issue led to another. When
this child, the biggest in the class presented his letter, the man said, “I can see
why you want more food.” A lot of the children laughed. The adults were so
stunned we didn’t do anything. This story makes a great discussion starter for
children or adults. What could we have done in the moment or later to support
this child and counter the bias?

Page 2

EDUC6357: Diversity, Development, and Learning
“Start Seeing Diversity: Race/Ethnicity”

Program Transcript

NARRATOR: Bias based on race, or racism, and ethnic bias, or ethnocentrism,
are any attitude, action, or institutional practice that subordinates people based
on the color of their skin or on their ethnic background. Racism and
ethnocentrism and are deeply interwoven. We are all affected by the racial bias
in our society, whether our classrooms or communities are mostly white, racially
mixed, or mostly people of color.

One teacher did not believe preschoolers in her all white group were affected by
environmental bias, such as constant TV news stories linking crime to men of
color. Then she showed each child a series of photographs of diverse people and
asked the children to tell her about the people in the pictures. In response to this
photograph, one child said, he’s a robber, he has a brown face like a robber. The
teacher asked, why do you think people with brown faces are robbers? He said
he had seen them on TV.

This story shows the bias the children are developing whether or not they come
in contact with people who are different from them. A color blind approach that
does not acknowledge skin color ignores this, and also teaches children that
something is wrong with the differences they do see. Children do notice skin
color– we all do. And young children are specifically being taught to notice and
named the colors they see. Pretending that we don’t see skin color keeps us from
building pride and mutual respect, and challenging prejudicial thinking that can
grow into racism.

The teacher in the story was convinced of the need to deal with the impact of
racism on the white children she taught. Using positive images of men of color,
the teacher asked questions like these to specifically acknowledge skin color
along with other similarities and differences: can you describe the people in these
pictures? How are they similar or different from you? What are the people doing
in this picture? Is it like anything that happens in your family?

She also asked questions like these to help children make comparisons to the
stereotypes they had encountered: how are these men with brown skin like the
ones you’ve seen on television? How are they different?

In photo games, children collect pictures with common themes, like grown ups
carrying children. As they play the games, children and teachers talk more about
the pictures, asking questions like, what kind of work do you think this man does?

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We often discover new ground for anti-bias work by observing and listening to
children. For example, from observation, teachers noticed that one child
consistently refused to play with dolls of color. Rather than making assumptions
about the reasons for this, they asked the child why she didn’t want to play with
the brown dolls. The child said she didn’t want to play with the dolls that were
dirty. The teachers created an experience to respond to this thinking. They set up
a bath time for the dolls and asked what happened to the different skin colors
after each doll was cleaned. After this experience, this child included brown and
black dolls in her play.

We continually increase our consciousness of bias in the environment by keeping
informed about things like major movie releases and analyzing their impact on
children. It is next to impossible for children to escape the impact of children’s
media. Popular movies and videos make great baby sitters for busy parents.

Even if children don’t see a particular movie, they are bombarded with biased
messages from related toys, books, advertisements, and friends who do see the
movie. Although we can’t avoid the media, we are able to assist children in
recognizing the biased messages.

In popular children’s films and stories, the villain is too often black or dressed in
black. For example, in the Disney version of Aladdin, as this article points out, the
evil Arab, Jafar, is strongly connected to dark skin tone, the color black, and
Semitic features. The good Arab, Aladdin, is connected to lighter skin tone, the
color white, and European features. To address these stereotypes, this teacher
began by asking children to make comparisons between themselves and several
pictures of Arabs. Her goal was to help children move beyond simplistically
seeing people as good or evil based on characteristics like skin color and facial
features.

We constantly reevaluate the messages we give to children. During an art
activity, a teacher said, don’t mix all those beautiful colors together– it’ll come out
all brown. Later, another child said, she won’t let me play with her because I’m
brown. The teacher responded by talking with the other child: saying Sade can’t
play because her skin is brown hurt Sade’s feelings. It would hurt your feelings if
she said you couldn’t play because your skin is white. I can see you do have a
problem: you both want to play with this game. Let’s think together of a different
way to solve the problem.

Discussion following that incident led teachers to rethink the remark about mixing
paint. They realized they needed to describe black and brown as beautiful colors,
and to make sure that black and brown materials were readily available in the
classroom. Teachers also realized that not only is it important to intervene when

Page 2

hurtful incidents happen, but it’s important to be proactive. We need to challenge
bias we know children are likely to be exposed to rather than waiting until
someone gets hurt.

This process begins with our choices about what diversity to include as we create
our environment and develop curriculum. We begin by choosing materials and
themes that reflect children in the class. Then we expand our focus to include
people with whom the children will come in contact, and others about whom they
will develop ideas and attitudes, even though they may never actually meet.

One way to develop respect for ethnic differences is by affirming the linguistic
diversity represented in school and in the broader community. Here children are
playing with Hebrew alphabet puzzles and dancing to songs and Haitian Creole.

MALE SPEAKER: I’m really pleased they use Creole in the classroom.
Respecting my language is part of respecting me as a Haitian.

NARRATOR: After we learned Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes in English and
Creole, Su Khyun, a teacher intern, taught us the song in Korean. She also
developed this Korean English name and photo matching game. These children
made box drums after a visit from a Dominican drummer and created simple
verses in Spanish to go with the drumming. We used stories, music and poetry,
and Black English, and forms of English that reflect diverse geographical and
ethnic backgrounds.

During a theme and communication, children learned sign language and
developed respect for the many ways people can communicate. This helps to
create an environment that is welcoming of all children. It also develops respect
for linguistic diversity.

Where possible, field trips into diverse neighborhoods where children will hear
unfamiliar languages provide teachers with more information about children’s
thinking. Children’s reactions to what they hear and see– for example, they talk
funny– can form the basis for new problem stories and follow up curriculum.
Experiences with ethnic diversity can also be increased in the classroom through
visual images. The best pictures are those that encourage children to make
comparisons in which they find differences, and make connections between
themselves and the people in the images through something that is familiar, like
playing on swings.

Helen remembers how the images first affected her.

Page 3

FEMALE SPEAKER: In going through the whole process myself, I wouldn’t have
bought into it if it didn’t validate who I was. Seeing pictures of black people in
games was like seeing myself. It really made a difference. And the images of so
many other people doing familiar things, it made me think, I do have something in
common with people I thought were so different.

NARRATOR: In order to choose books and pictures for the classroom, we need
to change some of our own perceptions by making comparisons between reality
and the stereotypes. We use the same strategy in the classroom, comparing
stereotypical images like this one, which depicts native people living in tee-pees,
wearing feathers, and sitting cross-legged, with pictures like this one of
contemporary native people.

As children played games using these images, the teacher gives information and
ask questions such as:

MALE SPEAKER: These are Indians, or native people. How are they the same or
different from what you thought Indians and native people were like?

NARRATOR: A child makes a connection to her own experience as she notices
that these children are drawing with crayons. A child looking at one of the picture
said,

FEMALE SPEAKER: Those are not real Indians. Real Indians wear feathers.

NARRATOR: The teachers responded by providing new information and helping
children understand by making a comparison to their own lives.

MALE SPEAKER: Sometimes Indians wear feathers at important ceremonies
known as pow-wows. Do you have any clothes you wear for special occasions?

NARRATOR: As the children compared the images, they learned to detect
stereotypes themselves.

FEMALE SPEAKER: I’m really proud of my daughter Sade. At age five she’s
going through books we have at home looking for stereotypes. She wants to
throw everything away. And I bought all those books with those stereotypes. I
wouldn’t buy the same books now. But it took me time to unlearn the biases and
stereotypes I grew up with. At least Sade can learn to recognize them now
instead of having to unlearn it all later.

NARRATOR: In an anti-bias approach, we are not limited to the diversity within

Page 4

our school or our country. We make choices about what we include based on
what is relevant to the people in our program, and on our goal to address bias.

Children in this class saw TV stories about starvation in Africa. They thought
Sade would starve, too, if she went to visit her grandparents in Nigeria. So we
addressed that bias by inviting her father to come to school. He brought
photographs in answered lots of questions from the adults as well as children.
How will the airplane land in the jungle? Where will you get food? What’s your
house like? We saw pictures of the airport, supermarkets, and homes.

In doing this work, we are constantly learning new things. For example, choosing
non stereotypical materials takes practice. We bought this book, which is clearly
intended to develop respect for diversity. It wasn’t until later that we recognized
the stereotypes it contains. This drawing shows the most dramatic styles from
each culture or country. What of white people from the US without tattoos, fancy
jewelry, and hairdos? What of people of color from the US? They’re not
represented at all. What of people in other parts of the world who live in urban
settings and wear jeans or suits? The differences are so overemphasized that
similarities are hard to find.

We had another learning experience with this puzzle chain. We made it with
pictures from Caribbean countries in an effort to make the classroom a more
familiar place for Caribbean children. We realized we were perpetuating a
stereotype that people’s lives on the islands were all rural, when a parent said,
this is a great idea– the pictures of the small villages are nice– but did you know
there are also big cities in the islands?

New pictures, some given to us by children’s families, were added to the puzzle
chain.

Recognizing the existence of diverse cultural practices and diverse perspectives,
and really becoming open to those perspectives, is critical to an anti-bias
approach. But it is a process that takes time. Even after unlearning many
stereotypes about native people, we still had much to learn, and strategies to
develop for bringing new perspectives to the classroom. Because of school
closings related to Columbus Day, we decided to use an idea of Bill Bigelow’s
from this book.

FEMALE SPEAKER: We tried a role play in which one teacher supposedly
discovers another teacher’s pocketbook and claims it for herself. In discussion,
we made comparisons to Columbus’s so-called discovery of America, and asked
how the story might be told from an Indian or native perspective.

Page 5

NARRATOR: The next year, one of the children who had been involved in this
experience entered first grade. When his teacher said, Columbus discovered
America, Kamal raised his hand and said, I don’t think you can discover a place
where people are already living. The teacher angrily put him out in the hall.
Kamal’s mother, having participated in activities about diverse perspectives
through the anti-bias approach, supported her son’s thinking. She provided his
teacher with new information and shared her expectations that her son would be
encouraged to question information and explore ideas.

Encouraging children to experiment with diverse ways of doing the same thing
also helps to build a foundation for respecting diverse perspectives. A child saw a
picture of a baby being carried in a basket and said,

MALE SPEAKER: Babies don’t go in baskets.

NARRATOR: Choosing from different props, and getting ideas from photographs,
this child tried wrapping her doll on her back. She’s learning an important lesson
of anti-bias curriculum: there usually isn’t just one right way.

Page 6

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

The Importance of Including Culturally Authentic Literature
Hall, Katrina Willard
YC Young Children; Jan 2008; 63, 1; ProQuest One Academic
pg. 80

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

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