The Anti-Bias Approach in Early Childhood 4th Edition

The Anti-Bias Approach in Early Childhood 4th Edition builds on the previous version’s goals of furthering the knowledge of Early Childhood Educators and challenging thoughts and comfort zones on topics which are often publicly glided over. The text achieves this by focusing on these issues from the perspectives of Early Childhood Educators, and often more importantly Peoples who embody or represent these differences within Early Learning spaces. Through these voices the reader can appreciate the perspective of “The Other” and use these chapters as an opportunity to reflect on previous actions (appropriate or not) and as a resource in approaching these subjects in the future.

The Introduction begins with an acknowledgement of the current issues of the time from COVID-19, the resurgence of Black Lives Matter and the looming crisis of Climate Change. There is also restatement of the Anti-Bias goals and Actions; recognising diversity in your own self-identity, seeing diversity in others, witnessing and recognising unfairness to diversities and acting against these recognised unfairnesses. Then present is a key guide to beginning Anti-Bias actions prioritised from the immediately actionable to those which can be developed over the continued discussion of Anti-Bias pedagogy.

The chapters expand upon these goals and provide some guidance on facilitation of actions and tips to avoid pitfalls of superficial performativity. The collection initially moves through a discussion of how “difference” is an undeniable presence in our early childhood settings, as is bias informed by individual experiences and the media presented to us. From here there is an explanation of how these presences must not be avoided but acknowledged (and in the case of difference, often celebrated) and the bias actively confronted. 
Further on the texts address how to establish early childhood settings as a place of celebrating diversity by extending the invitation to families, local organisations, and bodies of the community.

While this sounds simple, an important feature of this books is the opportunity for Indigenous voices and the voices of a variety of cultures to “answer back” to the actions of early learning spaces in the past. Having a platform to express the difficulties or pressures that can be felt in being asked, or even expected to express their culture in a place which is honestly within the public view of a close community. This highlighting of bias present in an effort for anti-bias is an important input and can offer a catalyst for deep critical reflection and sensitivity in practice.

Another idea addressed is the increasingly public and exponentially politicised subject of gender. 
Explored are examples of power dynamics in gender identities in play and how negative norms can be approached in a way that acknowledges the privileges and comforts that come from conforming to these. A concept often discussed in early childhood is the presence of men in the field. Usually emphasized are either the blanket celebration of the presence (as if being male is an extra qualification in itself) or the stigma that is expressed through passive phrases in awkward conversations. These chapters dive deeper into who it is that is expressing these anxieties around the stigma and the discussion of “masculinities”. These come from a range of cis and transgender men of various sexualities and the masculinities that are presented both personally and professionally within the field.

There is also an incredibly informative chapter on caring for children with intersex variations. The opportunity for this to be communicated when it is rarely discussed (due to cultural discomfort or the right to personal privacy) is one that educators within and beyond the Early Childhood context can all benefit from.
The dichotomy between anxiety and privacy is well documented by educators addressing their own practice, and documenting their own productive experiences against the continued bias of “Childism”; the latter being approached in a number of chapters that discuss a range of biases,  from babies serving themselves food, to school children taking up politics and marching for the future of the planet.

The fourth edition of The Anti-Bias Approach in Early Childhood is a collection offering focused explorations of themes, ideas and topics that are pertinent to the field of Early Childhood Education in a contemporary sense.. These are indicated by clear titles which will be useful when used as a resource for reference when a bias-challenged situation may come up. These chapters cover a variety of subjects while giving readers access to a perspective of “The Other” and how these subjects have been approached in Early Childhood Education settings. 

Rather than a “how to” on addressing these concepts, each chapter ends in a short selection of reflective questions using the chapter content. These questions help Educators to realise and acknowledge their own perspectives, and yes biases. Prompted by these realisations a team can be encouraged to discuss their perspectives and form an opinion that they can act on, both as individual Educators and contributors to a Centre Philosophy and team practice. There is even an “Anti-Bias Reflection Guide” complete with a format to document observed bias within an Early Learning space, address it with the Anti-bias goals and discuss strategies to move forward as a team.

Early Childhood Education is an extremely contradictory field in the eye of the public. It is often dismissed in terms of its labour, prestige or existence as a career but constantly under public (often in the form of moral panics) and governmental scrutiny. This is particularly true in recent times, where Early Childhood has been seen as both an “essential service” but one which fell through many gaps in Government funding. This work is constantly politicised but not seen as political, which could not be further from the truth. This book exemplifies how political Early Childhood Education is and how Early Years Learning is on the forefront of many issues by being immediately present with families and communities. In a fast-changing world of historic bias and myth it is Educators who are practitioners for preparing young citizens for their future by exploring these issues while tackling the biases. This book does not offer a fixed opinion or position on the subjects addressed, but used effectively will help a team form one, and inspire them to act on it.

Scarlet, R. R. (Ed.). (2020b). The anti-bias approach in early childhood (4th ed.). Multiverse Publishing.

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