I was introduced to this term today for the first time.
My study at the moment has been around the AusVELS Curriculum and its Cross-curricular Priorities. The Early Years Learning Framework also covers these broad areas which we believe should underpin children's learning, so we talk a lot in the industry about reflecting diversity and embedding sustainability. I feel that I'm lagging behind in the area of reflecting cultural diversity in my program. I've been hesitant because of a fear of being seen as tokenistic or culturally insensitive and so I've been confused about how to proceed in this area. At the same time personal ethics and integrity is central to how I see myself and how I want to be seen, so I really want to learn how to improve in this.
I watched a documentary during the week called 'The Celluloid Closet', which talked about Hollywood depictions of gay and lesbian people from the earliest films until today. I wasn't prepared for the shocking negativity in the earlier films, so I was quite confronted by what I saw. Some well known people spoke about the way that as children we look to movies to provide us with a view of what the world should be like. As a result when we feel that we are not represented, or are represented negatively, we come to believe that there's no place for us in society. It goes to the depths of our need for belonging and our sense of worth as people. This struck a real chord with me.
Interestingly, it was reinforced by our conversation today about how the cross-curricular priorities can be embedded into less receptive curriculum areas such as English, maths and science. This is where we have to be more creative. It's not so much a call to create entire units of work around these areas, but a reminder not to neglect the less-mainstream aspects of Australian culture when we create our programs. We need to see minority groups as integral to Australian culture rather than as separate from it. Some ideas that were suggested were to use a book about science written by a well-known Aboriginal scientist, to incorporate Japanese style poetry into a poetry unit, to explore traditional Indigenous perspectives on astronomy, and to look at the mathematical symbols in Aboriginal bark painting.
The way to assimilate minority populations into our culture is to view them as already having been assimilated. All cultures are changing, evolving, adapting things, which are continually being enriched by diversity. We can't control or own how our culture evolves, but we can have agency in improving peoples perceptions and perspectives. Naturally, as usual, children are our answer. Open-minded, accepting and having strong senses of justice, they also have the tendency to assimilate our view-points. Let's take up the challenge to question our own prejudices so we can avoid having them continue on to the next generation.