Each morning I drop my son off at daycare. He sees familiar faces of his little friends playing on the floor, parents dropping off other kids, and the teachers moving about the room. When I toured the center, of course I had my first impression about whether a person seemed friendly or approachable, but I never really stopped to think what judgments the children may be making about who these people are. You expect them to have their favorite friend or a teacher they are drawn too, but a bias toward race? How can this idea of bias settle into toddlers?
The NPR article, How the Hidden Brain Does the Thinking for Us, describes how bias against race can be seen in three years olds! As a parent that is alarming. We try to teach our children kindness and acceptance for others, but societal norms seem to be shaping what is “okay” or “bad” in a questionable direction. If children learn what seems safe or normal by watching the world around them, then we need to inject more diversity. Easier said then done.
As children move up in education, it’s not like this bias goes away. Societal norms become even more prominent, further shaping the bias toward others. The challenge is this bias of the hidden brain is not intentional. It not like we go out of our way to group people into buckets of good or bad. Like the NPR article said, the brain is wired to form associations. However, associations described about context come from society, and society gravitates toward what is common, not what is different.
Embracing diversity and having an inclusive mindset has the potential to bring immense benefit to society, workplaces, and the classroom. In the article, How Diversity Makes Us Smarter, socially diverse groups are the ones that bring innovation and creativity. Those are characteristics we all want in the classroom setting, from preschool to college. Somehow as a society thought we have to find ways to integrate more diversity into our everyday. If starting at a young age we were exposed to more races, ethnicities, etc, then bias might be reduced. We can also be more aware and cognoscente of our own biases. These are small changes, but they have the potential to nudge us in a less biased way of thinking.