Appreciating Diversity

I was browsing in a toy store at the Dubai Mall looking for some educational type gifts for my nephew and I stumbled upon this…

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At first I laughed, took a picture, and sent it to my family.  I was actually really impressed with what I saw and annoyed with myself that I laughed.  For many families living in the GCC this is their reality even if they don’t come from a gulf (Khaleej) family.  This traditional dress is what all expat and local kids see in their communities daily.  In Dubai, local women traditionally wear a black abaya and men wear a white kandura (dishdasha).

As I reflected on upon my initial reaction, I realized that growing up in the USA, I never saw these toys in the toy store.  I never saw a toy or doll that looked like me or my family.

A little more poking around led me to this:

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I was very impressed with these toys, and looked them up and found that they are made by a company based in the UK called elc.  I would love to see these types of toys in a center in an early learning classroom.

“Another way to ensure diversity in children’s lives is to choose toys, books and media that reflect all types of people (e.g., include images of people with a variety of backgrounds, ages, abilities, characters that break stereotypes about men and women, art supplies in a wide range of skin, eye and hair colors). “

(Bias-Free Foundations: Early Childhood Activities for Families, 2001)

How are you ensuring diverse experiences and materials for your students or children?  Comments welcome.

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6 thoughts on “Appreciating Diversity

  1. I think this is a very important aspect of teaching and parenting. I grew up in a diverse community, and I wanted that for my children. When I selected a school system and a place to live, cultural diversity was a high-ranking priority. As for as these toys I think it is incredibly important that teachers learn how to create a culturally diverse classroom (whether the class is diverse or not). The key to it all for me is never place my children in an environment where they are not open to embrace a “new” variety of humanity. I can go on-and-on about how the lack of cultural relevant teaching destroys the learning process, but for this purpose I say, “HAPPYLAND makes me happy!”

  2. I think diversity starts initially with good parenting then makes its way into the educational system. Growing up in a diverse city taught me about people and their hearts. Color, religion, economic status, intelligence, sexual preference….that all never made an impact on me. Why? Because my parents taught me that we all are people, and we all were made exactly the same. If the educational system reinforces this notion, those who were less fortunate, those who didn’t have the parents (or caregivers) that taught their kids about ‘humanity’, would hopefully learn by their educators that we are all created equally. Sadly, there are many many people who turn their ignorant heads in the opposite direction if someone just ‘looks’ the wrong way. How can we teach our children that every person is someone’s child? I just believe that everyone should be given the same opportunities. Society would be aLOT less dysfunctional if there were just more understanding hearts out there….

  3. I grew up with a very diverse group of people through my school years. We had many great times learning about our differences, but more great times enjoying our similarities. Differant races were something we did on the playground. Color difference is something we learned about in our Art classes (thank you Mr. Glenn). We went to each others bar mitzvahs, confirmations, or 13th birthday parties. Our high school was even listed as a National School of Excellence.

    When leaving the military I decided to live where I know my son would get a worldly education like I did growing up. I wanted him around not only people from his multicultural backgound but people who would embrace him. He got a great education and had friends of every ethnic background, color, gender, and sexual preferance. By taking classes, eating lunch, and going on field trips with all of these people he too was able to have an enriching educational experience.

    As I continue to work with students I strive to let them know that it is better to find out who people are before judging them. You might find that the other person is not only cool to hang out with, but a cool study partner.

  4. I failed to mention one very important factor re: the educational system; integration of children must start EARLY and I mean EARLY on and equally important is the integration of children with special needs. If they learn from the getgo that every child is just as important as they are, they’d never have the chance to think otherwise. We all bleed the same blood , breathe the same air….

  5. Its great to see that growing up folks did have a diverse experience at school or training at home (or both) that all people were created equal. Although I was taught at home this principal and the idea that I have the same rights as others regardless of my race, color or creed. I was not as fortunate as many of you to have that experience extend beyond the home. There were several occasions both in school and in every day social settings where it was an educators (teacher or counselor) or non-student of colors prerogative to remind me of the color lines that had existed and continued to exist through my freshman year in college. Growing up in the south requires that you see color and as a person of color it also requires that you develop thick skin because without it you may end up confused and lacking a sense of self-love. Thank God for my parents (family) because without them I would probably be bleaching my skin and wearing a fly weave right about now. But because of them and the experiences that they required of me and my siblings we are much more open than most people who are traditional “Southerners”. It is our responsibility as the “Enlightened” to ensure that we create these types of positive experiences for everyone, we encounter, because it is only through those experiences that we will change the world!

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