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Dr Kylie Smith – a research fellow at Melbourne University and contributor to the Victorian education curriculum – has called for classrooms to open up “possibilities for children to imagine different futures that represent their identity performances”.

“We know that children by the age of three years have clear ideas about the ‘correct’ role that boys and girls should and can take up, what is ‘normal’ or ‘right’ ways to perform girlhood and boyhood and what it means to transgress this.”

“It is imperative that we draw on anti-bias principles in the classroom to challenge stereotypical beliefs about being ‘male’ and ‘female’,” Dr Smith wrote in a recent paper.

“Teach children about what is fair and unfair about how children include and exclude each other based on gender and sexuality related to themselves and their family.”

“For some educators their construction of childhood limits their ability to see outside the perception of the young child as innocent and in need of protection from the evil, adult world.

“This perception can be traced back to Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s writing about nature and the child.
Rousseau staunchly believed that children are born into an originary natural state of  essential goodness, but both their affiliation with Nature and the natural goodness and innocence associated with it are threatened by the corrupting influences of society, or what he scathingly referred to as the degenerative ‘hands of man’.”

“Because of this some educators continue to believe that children are too young and innocent to understand that they are speaking and acting in sexist or homophobic ways. In fact, many would argue that the child is not being sexist or homophobic because they do not understand what the words mean and the effects of the words.

To raise issues of sexism and homophbia would be to corrupt the child with ideas that they do not understand. Anti-bias writers would argue that children notice differences early on and that as children navigate their worlds they are influenced by society’s biases.”

The goal of antibias work is:
1.  To free children from constraining, stereotypical definitions of gender roles so that no aspect of development will be closed off simply because of a child’s sex.

2. To foster children’s healthy gender identity by enabling them to gain clarity about the relationship between biological identity and gender roles.

3. To promote equity of development for both sexes [and I would argue that this needs to shift to include all sexes including transsexual people and push back against the notion that there are two sexes – male or female] by facilitating each child’s participation in activities necessary for physical, cognitive, emotional and social growth.

4. To develop children’s skills for challenging sexist stereotypes and behaviours

9 News reports, Dr Smith claims childhood educators should “push back on dominant discourses”, challenging inherent biases and opening up “possibilities for children to imagine different futures that represent their identity performances”.

“As a teacher working to achieve anti-bias goals I have to take risks and speak and act my politics in and outside of the classroom. So I will start to develop stories and dramatic play opportunities for children where the two princes and two princesses or the two mum and two dads meet, fall in love, get married and live happy ever after. I will not wait for our government to legislate for marriage equality (but demand it of them) and I will not wait for media co-orporations to develop marriage equality stories on the big screen or in picture books (about humans rather than animals),” wrote Dr Smith.

Do you think the key to acceptance is starting from a younger age?

Share your comments below.

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  • i can understand that they will see it as normal somewhat so there will be less bullying but they are little kids and already are un-judgemental and un-biased so is this really the right way to go about it? Maybe high school is more appropriate.

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  • Sensible words. Children are never too young to learn how gender and sexual orientation affect our (and others’) worlds

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  • Teaching more acceptance is never a bad thing!

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  • my daughter is 6 and knows about same gender relationships. i think as society grows so do we as people. we adapt to what is going on around us. Children are little sponges and see what is going on. I agree, i dont believe that our children should be forced to undertake such a conversation at pre school, i think they will ask questions when they are ready

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  • Why dont we just let kids be kids?

    School should be for teaching reading, writing, maths, etc

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  • Personally I think that children make clear when they’re ready to get information when they have questions. I’m all for clear and open answers on age appropiate level on the questions they ask, whether it’s about sex & conceiving, same sex marriages or gender roles. It makes the conversations on later age so much more open and easier and without shame.

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  • I think the context of this gets missed in these discussions. You wouldn’t wait until your child is of an “appropriate” age to discuss with them issues around racial diversity or religion or disabilities. Why should LGBTQI subjects be any different?Children see all of this already, and having discussions with them at preschool age about how it’s ok to be different, and one isn’t better than the other etc isn’t a bad thing. Talking about a grown up concepts is something that we do with our little ones, with information they can digest. This should be no different. Why can’t the “Mummy, why are those two boys kissing?” question simply be answered with “Maybe they’re in love like like your Daddy and I”. That’s not robbing them of their innocence or making them grow up too soon. It’s simply preparing them for another facet of the world they live in, one that you are obligated to give them the tools to navigate.

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  • I don’t know how I feel about this as I’m so over the political correctness of day to day things but it is becoming a normal thing where children are going to have 2 Mums or 2 Dads. Children are curious & will ask “why?”

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  • I certainly think that it is way to young. And I certainly think that parents should have the option of pulling their child from a class that teaches this like they can currently request their child to not participate in classes that promote religion/religious activities.

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  • I 100% disagree. I do not agree with preschool, year 1 etc being taught this. Let children be children. They are born as a male or female.
    This is “equality” and “political correctness” in the extreme.
    Why do we feel the need to push adult subjects towards our children? Why can we not just let our children be children?
    Some girls prefer playing with cars, some boys like dressing up and playing with mummies makeup, this doesnt make them gay, transexual etc, it is just children exploring their world. Add elements as it is actually necessary, keep their minds innocent. It wont change their orientation to allow things to develop at a natural pace, but it could cause confusion in children.

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  • Wow, such a hard one, but I guess it needs to be done. I raised my kids to be thoughtful and respectful of everyone, regardless of age, sex, ethnicity, religion

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  • I think teaching children to be respectful and kind to everyone is the key. I also believe it is important to explain the people are different but I wouldn’t feel comfortable fur my 4or 5 year old being taught about sex and sexuality.

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  • I think that young children should be taught to be kind and respectful to each other and to accept differences, but discussions of a sexual nature should be left until they start to reach puberty. That’s just my opinion.

    Reply

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