In my last post, I shared thoughts on how multicultural education and global citizenship starts with us – the early childhood professional and parent. I want to revisit this conversation to address two ideas that we should consider before introducing multicultural education, global citizenship, and new technologies to young children.
One foundational piece of multicultural education and global citizenship is remembering and recognizing that everyone, no matter their cultural background and heritage, has value. In a period of time when ethnocentrism can be mistaken for patriotism, we need to be conscious of our approach to interacting with children, families, and professionals of diverse ancestries and traditions. This doesn’t mean that we have to agree with others or perform their practices, customs, and values. It means that we acknowledge their cultural worth, have genuine curiosity in learning about their culture, and conduct steps to gain this information and understanding. In early childhood, we know relationships are key, and communities matter. Developing these relationships and communities can be challenging if we view others as inferior due to our beliefs about their cultural practices.
Another factor to consider is acknowledging that there are plenty of cultures that we don’t know. This means our role as adults has shifted from being the keeper of answers and correct information to being people that may have incorrect answers or may not have the right answers or responses. We have to be comfortable saying, “I don’t know”, which may not feel like the most natural reaction. This unknowing feeling or thought could happen in a conversation with students about a particular holiday that everyone doesn’t celebrate or explaining the reason a character looks and acts a certain way on a television show. We have to be willing to figure out the answers and deal with that uncomfortable feeling. It is a process that doesn’t usually have a quick response and right answer. In some cases, we could end up saying, “I don’t know”, and in others situations, we may have a response that doesn’t translate easily to young children.
When I reflect on being a better professional and caring adult in promoting multicultural education and global citizenship, here are some tips I keep in mind:
- I embrace the role as a learner and take full advantage of it by asking good questions and researching.
- There is always room to grow. As Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.”
- Thoughtful questions and dialogues are ways of building sustainable relationships.
- My culture doesn’t make me a better person nor does someone else’s culture make him or her superior or inferior.
We need to have the courage to be honest with ourselves and work towards advancing our own multicultural education and global citizenship. I have found this is not always easy and sometimes in daily conversations, I make a statement and recognize my own ignorance (or a peer does that for me). It is the commitment to being a global citizen and residing in a multicultural society that helps me stay focused and in practice. Each experience is an opportunity for improvement and expansion.
Before we use new technologies with our children and students, we need to be clear about who we are, what we’re supporting in young children’s development, and our intentions. Are we using digital tools and online resources to find out about other cultures so that we can affirm reasons to deem it inferior or invaluable? Or are using technologies as tools to help us learn and understand different cultures in an authentic way to empower ourselves and young children? We must first take time to reflect on who we are as multicultural and global citizens before we can help children understand their role as global citizens and members of a multicultural society. It takes time and energy, but it’s definitely needed to be an early childhood parent and professional in this century.