It’s Christmas again . . .
It’s 35 degrees. Michael Bublé is crooning in the aisles of Woolworths. He sings: you better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why, Santa Claus is coming to town. You realise that this is terrible behaviour guidance that teaches children to repress their feelings in order to please an authoritarian all-knowing bearded man . . . Bublé continues: he’s going to find out who’s naughty or nice.
Christmas is a fertile time for “doing” anti-bias in your curriculum. Even if Christmas is not a meaningful or celebrated cultural event in your community, it is almost impossible to avoid the huge commercial Christmas onslaught in the shops, the media and the streets. Because of this, it is important to think about how you might engage with Christmas in your setting.
When considering Christmas with an anti-bias lens, questions of equity quickly arise. For example, writing wish-lists of desired presents to Santa is commonly practised in many households, and children and educators often want to make wish-lists in their early learning settings too.
In any given setting, there will be children from across the socioeconomic spectrum, and children with a wide range of cultural practices surrounding Christmas. Some children may reasonably expect to receive hundreds of dollars worth of gifts, while others may receive something small or nothing at all.
While this is not something you as an educator can change, you can keep reflect as a team on anti-bias goal number 3 – each child and educator will increasingly recognise unfairness, have language to describe unfairness, and understand that unfairness hurts themselves and others (Scarlet, 2020a) – then question the whether, how and why of promoting wish-lists in your setting?
Christmas could also be a time to reflect on aspects of anti-bias goal number 2: each child and educator will express comfort and joy with human diversity (Scarlet, 2020a). The historical and religious tradition of Christmas is the story of a Middle Eastern baby, born in the town of Bethlehem, which is in modern-day Palestine. If Jesus and his family and community were Middle Eastern, why are they always white in Western iconography? How might you discuss this with children?
Another anti-bias “way in” to Christmas might be researching the story of Syd “Doc” Cunningham, a Yuin man who, throughout his life, raised money to deliver presents as Black Santa to Aboriginal children in western NSW.
Whether you decide to mark Christmas or not in your setting, the anti-bias goals are a wonderful thinking tool for your planning, documenting, reflecting and teaching. Just make sure to keep the Michael Bublé off the class party playlists . . .
How might you identify the different experiences people have when particular public celebrations, ceremonies and commemorations come around each year (Scarlet, 2020b, p.18)?
How might anti-bias approaches identify the inclusions and exclusions that can occur when some celebrations, ceremonies and commemorations are part of the curriculum without critical engagement and careful planning (Scarlet, 2020b, p.18)?
Alongside children, how can we critically reflect on the prevailing commercialism of Christmas in Australia?
Scarlet, R. R. (Ed.). (2020a). The anti-bias approach in early childhood (4th ed.). Multiverse Publishing. https://multiverse.com.au/product/the-anti-bias-approach-in-early-childhood-4th-edition/
Scarlet, R. R. (2020b). Pedagogical provocations. Multiverse Publishing. https://learning.theinclusionroom.com.au/courses/pedagogical-provocations