Resource on “Talking to Muslim Children about Acts of Violent Extremism”

Dr. Aliya Saeed in partnership with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) recently released this important resource:

Talking to Muslim Children about Acts of Violent Extremism

Additional resources include:

As the report states so eloquently:

Schools exist to educate, empower, and prepare students to navigate the world. However, when students are discriminated against, bullied, and/ or marginalized, they suffer academically and miss out on developing the skills and confidence needed to succeed. As minority students, American Muslim youth are more susceptible to the long term effects of these types of behaviors. As such, a dedicated effort must be made to report and expunge Islamophobia and Islamophobic rhetoric from schools.

We couldn’t agree more!  Thank you CAIR and Dr. Saeed!


What is Christian hegemony?

It’s Real World Wednesday and this week we get to learn from both Talia Cooper & Hadar Harris!!

Talia has been working as a Jewish youth educator and organizer for the past nine years, first as the executive director of Jewish Youth for Community Action, and now as the program director for Ma’yan and a youth trainer for Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. 1929869_1659933880963006_4840128724977366613_nShe is currently reading Paul Kivel’s book “Living in the Shadow of the Cross” and is excited to share some of her learnings about Christian hegemony and how it connects to our work with youth.

Hadar currently works as the Executive Director of the Northern California Innocence Project where she works to to create a fair, effective and compassionate criminal justice system and to protect the rights of the innocent. From 2002 – 2015, she was the Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law. She is also the mom of two young boys.

This week, we asked them: What is Christian hegemony? How does it show up in schools? How does it impact kids? And what can teachers do about it?

Here are their incredibly thoughtful and thought-provoking responses:

Hello awesome people. My name is Talia Cooper.

So what is Christian hegemony? It’s a fancy sounding term that basically means Christianity is considered the norm while all other religions and peoples are, well, other. Christian hegemony is also the larger term that encompasses anti-Semitism, islamaphobia, and the oppression of other religious minorities. Note that a person doesn’t have to be a practicing Christian to still benefit from the bigger system.

Christian hegemony says things like, “Christmas is a normal, American holiday.” (Christian hegemony is also intertwined with white supremacy, which would say, “normal Americans are white.” Paul Kivel goes into more detail about the connections between Christianity and whiteness). I brought up Christmas because it’s often easiest for people to notice Christian hegemony during this time of year. But the reality is that Christian hegemony runs much deeper, affecting each and every one of us year-round, both institutionally and interpersonally, all the way down to our core psyches.

So how is Christian hegemony showing up in schools & affecting kids? Some examples include: requiring kids to make Christmas ornaments and sing Christmas songs, having no school on Christian holidays, giving tests and quizzes on other peoples’ religious holidays, and having SATs on Saturdays.

But it’s even more complex than that. Here’s one way Christian hegemonic thinking shows up in schools:

It is a Christian ethic that hard work is good and will be rewarded (and conversely that laziness is bad and will be punished). This ethic in Christianity often refers to the afterlife, but in a secular Christian culture the concept shows up as reward and punishment in this life (we see this in political rhetoric all the time, like with the notion of “welfare queens” being lazy good-for-nothings). In my Jewish culture, for example, we believe that there is inherent goodness in all people and no one needs to work hard to prove this. I should say that I know plenty of Christians who also believe this, but what I’m talking about now is the dominant Christian narrative that has invaded all of our institutions and thoughts—not individual Christians. (I’m really not trying to get down on Christians here, and neither is Paul Kivel).

Paul Kivel always used to say to me, “Hard work is just hard work. It’s not inherently good.” Dictators work hard. Donald Trump works hard (sometimes). Oil companies work hard. So are they doing good things for the world? No.

And yet we continue to teach kids the virtue of hard work.

Does that mean that we should instead teach them to do hard work that is actually good for people and the planet?

I suppose that would be an okay next step.

But for me, I believe that people inherently want to work hard and contribute to their communities. This is because doing nothing is boring. Being connected to people, deepening those connections, and finding our strengths and passions—now that’s a fun life!

I don’t think we have to drill it into our kids that they have to work hard, because most people are capable of figuring out on their own how to lead an engaged life. My friend, Megan Madison, reminds me that she has never seen a lazy baby; young ones are constantly squirming around, making eye contact and engaging with their environment.

But we don’t foster this. Instead we latch on to the dominant Christian ideology that hard work is good and should be rewarded. Then we administer rewards and punishments as needed. Kids who don’t fit the education system are told it is their fault and are punished. Kids who do succeed work themselves tirelessly. This is a disservice to everyone.

Here’s an example of how “hard work” plays out in our education system: a kid who does lots of community service and volunteering is rewarded in the college admission process. A kid who really focuses on taking care of their health and on building amazing friendships will not be rewarded in this process (and likely punished for not having extra-curriculars).

So what can we do about it? Well, big picture, I think we need to reshape the entire education system, from pre-K through graduate school so that we’re not simply producing hard workers, but instead fostering connected, curious, loving, liberation-minded beings. Let’s work together towards that!


And in the meantime, here are two other things we can try:

  1. Take out the morality and talk about logical consequences. There are different outcomes for different choices we make. For example, if we don’t brush our teeth in the morning, this does not make us a bad person worthy of punishment. Instead, not brushing teeth has the possible short-term outcome of stinky breath, and dental health issues in the long-term. The outcome of being mean to a kid in a classroom is that that person will feel hurt and it might take away from your own learning too. The outcome of having unprotected sex is that you could get very sick and/or pregnant (again, these are not punishments for being a sinner, they are just outcomes). Does that make sense? Take out the moralistic thinking. Just assume that people are inherently good and awesome, and that they might need help thinking through possible outcomes.
  2. Encourage rest and play. In addition to the regular subjects, be sure to include games and creativity as well! Teach kids to notice when their bodies need rest. Teach that playing games, making friends, creating art, and taking care of our bodies are things we get to do the rest of our lives. Teach these as highly important topics.

Start or keep doing these two things and you’ll be on the team of liberation and ending Christian hegemony.

Wow!  Thank you, Talia!  Here’s Hadar’s take:

It’s Not a War on Christmas – It’s a Campaign for Diversity!

My children were born in Washington, DC and they grew up in a “very Jewish” community for their first 7 and 8 years, respectively. Jewish day school.  Kosher markets.  Shabbat dinner with friends and family every Friday night. Even “Sunday Little League” so as not to interfere with Saturday synagogue time.   That said, they had non-Jewish friends and lived in the larger world, but life was definitely on a Jewish schedule.

This past August, we moved to the Bay Area.  I moved back to the Bay Area (I grew up here) but the boys moved here.  And while Leo started second grade at a Jewish day school, Adam started third grade in a small school for bright kids with learning differences.

It is a great school that has been transformative for his learning, but it has also been transformative in other, unexpected ways.  Mostly, his awakening recognition that he is a Jew, living as a minority in broader American culture.

Adam easily found good friends in his class of twelve boys and the transition was remarkably easy for him, but as winter break approached, we had a tearful bedtime discussion (when most important conversations seem to take place).  He was agitated about the school “Holiday Extravaganza” concert and oddly, asked me if he could stay out of school “for a week or so after break.” I asked him what he meant since Christmas would be over by then, and he launched into an apparently long pent-up monologue.  I posted on Facebook that night as my heart broke for him.

Here we go: Nine year old boy experiencing his minority religious status for the first time. Painful, heartfelt weeping about feeling excluded and judged because he does not celebrate Christmas (he is the only Jew in the class). Significant fear of being ridiculed because he will not receive Christmas presents (and everyone is already comparing notes about what they will receive – apparently some nasty comments have already been made). Frustration and annoyance of feeling invisible at a time where everything is focused on a set of traditions he does not observe (I offered to go into the class to talk about Hanukkah but the teacher never scheduled it). That said, no request to actually celebrate Christmas (good, since we don’t). No begging for a Christmas tree (unlike some family members who shall remain nameless…) There were real tears in this conversation. Another hard moment when childhood confronts reality and the world becomes a little bit harsher and more complicated…

That night I also emailed his teacher and the top school administrators, describing Adam’s reaction and concerns.  The response was swift but somewhat unsatisfying, particularly in light of the fact that I had already asked the teacher if I could come in and share our Hanukah traditions with the class (to which I had had no response). His teacher (who is wonderful in so many ways), assured me of her efforts “to remain “holiday neutral” in the classroom.”  She told me that the “Holiday Extravaganza” concert “will not be simply a celebration of Christmas. The class numbers are all about the “winter season” (lots of snow stuff)…”

And yet when I walked into the school the next day, I saw the overwhelming evidence of Adam’s feeling of “otherness.” The teacher had put “The 12 Days of Room 3” on their classroom door.  Against a red backdrop, she had made twelve windows, like an Advent Calendar, representing each of the 12 boys in the class.  Each day, they opened another window as they counted down to winter break with a short poem about each boy (they were all boys) and a picture of the kid with his favorite Star Wars or Minecraft or other figure.  At the bottom of the door it said “Happy Holidays” and there was a picture of a Christmas tree – and a menorah. It was cute – but it was clearly Christmas.  In addition, the school’s main office was decorated with snowmen dressed in red and green, poinsettas, and a banner saying “Merry Holiday.”  All week before the break, teachers were dressed up with reindeer headbands and ugly Christmas sweaters. It may have been cloaked in snowflakes and the non-denominational classic “Jiggle Bells” but it was 100% Christmas.  Let’s be honest: we don’t have snowmen or reindeer in Palo Alto – even in the era of climate change…

Further explaining her curricular efforts at “holiday neutrality”, Adam’s teacher wrote: “All of our morning journal entries have been on topics like “tell us about a holiday tradition you enjoy with your family”, “what are you looking forward to doing over the break”, and “if you could give your parent(s) any gift what would it be”.”  I realized then, that while she felt that she had truly tried to be sensitive, the pull of “Christmas hegemony” (if not Christian hegemony), and the lack of understanding of other traditions was too strong.  She didn’t “get it” that her “neutral” questions were loaded and still marginalized or excluded some of the kids in the class – maybe most especially, mine.

That said, the same week as the Holiday Extravaganza, Adam and his classmates presented their reports on the California Missions (a rite of passage for California students). The hegemony of Christmas may have been in full force, but at least the presentations and posters acknowledged the egregious abuses against the Native Peoples by the missionaries.  That certainly wasn’t part of the reporting and research when I was growing up in California.  It gave me some hope.  I guess as much as some things stay the same (Christmas), there is hope for the recognition of diverse experiences and maybe even diverse traditions someday.

Three Quick Tips for Educators/Parents:

  1. Fried latkes do not smell the same as pine needles.  Hanukah is not the Jewish Christmas.  Neither are Diwali or Eid.  None of “us” have Christmas-substitutes.  They are different holidays with different traditions and different stories underlying their creation
  2. “Holiday Neutral” Doesn’t Mean Adding Menorah Clip Art. To truly be “holiday neutral,” the central holidays of all students’ religious (or non-religious) traditions should be equally observed, discussed and respected.  These may not all occur in December (indeed, they don’t).  For the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah (usually at the start of the school year) or Passover (in the spring) are much more important holidays than Chanukah. Purim (with hamentaschen and costumes) is much more fun! Other religions have holidays like Diwali and Eid which are wonderful, tradition-rich holidays enabling true sharing of values, beliefs and traditions (not to mention (more) great food!) Valuing the key holidays of all religions enables more neutrality than simply creating Christmas add-ons to make the non-Christian kids feel a little better. Also, by highlighting other traditions before Christmas, that may sensitize the Christian children to a broader diversity of traditions (and might inspire them to be more tolerant) before the overwhelming Christmas-Is-Everywhere month of December begins.
  3. Schedule the “Winter Concert” for Actual Winter.  There is no reason that the Winter Concert needs to take place before winter break.  Indeed, winter doesn’t technically start until after the December 21 solstice – and by that time schools are usually on holiday (they were this year!)  By scheduling the concert before Christmas, there is pressure (perceived or real) to perform “holiday” (i.e. Christmas) music which will inevitably exclude – or essentialize – someone.  It’s still winter in January. Schedule the damn concert after break!

From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU, Talia and Hadar!

Join our virtual book club!

The now classic book, Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves, by Louise Derman-Sparks & Julie Olsen Edwards invites early childhood caregivers and educators to grapple with the question: What can we do to raise the next generation of young people who know and are proud of who they are, are able to be in equitable relationship with others, can recognize and name unfairness in the world around them, and are ready to take action to address it?

NAEYC’s Diversity & Equity Education for Adults (DEEA) Interest Forum would like to invite you to our virtual book club as we embark on an informal, 13-week exploration of this question together. Together, we will discuss critical issues in the field–including racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, and ableism–and build community. Join us!

Structure and Guidelines

Open discussion on our Facebook page will begin each week on Monday with a new chapter of the book and will continue throughout the scheduled week. Over the course of each week, the club’s facilitators will moderate the discussion, posting summaries of the chapter and posing open-ended questions to stimulate discussion. Participants are welcome to post their reactions, thoughts, questions or other topics of discussion. In short:

  • All levels of engagement are welcome!
  • Productive, respectful dissent is appropriate
  • Ask questions, post responses, share quotes to participate in discussion
  • Facilitators will post 1-2 questions each session, but other forum members are welcome to post as well.

In addition, we will be hosting a Google Hangout each week so that participants can discuss the book face-to-face.


Monday, Dec. 7th, 8am to Friday, Feb. 19th 2016 at 8pm

Week 1 (December 7-11): Introductions
Week 2 (December 14-18): What is anti-bias education?
Week 3 (December 21-25): Children’s identity development
Week 4 (December 28 – January 1): Becoming an anti-bias teacher
Week 5 (January 4-8): Creating an anti-bias learning community
Week 6 (January 11-15): Learning about culture, language and fairness
Week 7 (January 18-22): Learning about racial identity and fairness
Week 8 (January 25-29): Learning about gender identity and fairness
Week 9 (February 1-5): Learning about economic class and fairness
Week 10 (February 8-12): Learning about family structures and fairness
Week 11 (February 15-19): Learning about different abilities and fairness
Week 12 (February 22-26): Learning about holidays and fairness
Week 13 (February 29 – March 4): Closing


To register, click here.


To view and/or share the event flyer, click here.

Developing Democratic Family-Professional Partnerships

Happy Real World Wednesday!

This week we are pleased to introduce Margaret (Maggie) Beneke! Maggie is currently a doctoral student at the University of Kansas studying Early Childhood Special Education. Her research focuses on inclusive*, equitable practices that support young children and families from diverse backgrounds. Her current research centers on the ways adults and young children co-construct social identities and negotiate power through discourse. In collaboration with her doctoral advisor, Dr. Gregory Cheatham, she has been analyzing language interpretation during Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) meetings with families who do not speak English. Her most recent publications center on developing democratic family-professional partnerships and inclusive approaches to supporting families who speak non-standard English. Prior to beginning her PhD program, she taught in an inclusive, anti-bias early childhood program in the Boston area.

We asked Maggie to tell us about (1) what democratic family-professional partnerships are and (2) some tips for our own work with families.  Here’s what she said:

Thank you for this opportunity!

1. What are democratic family-professional partnerships?
John Dewey’s 20th-century ideals of family–professional partnership remain relevant to the 21st-century challenges of social inequity and educational discriminat
ion (Dzur, 2004; Fischer, 2004; Skrtic, 2013; Sullivan, 2005). In true democratic family–professional partnerships, Dewey explained that professionals and citizens share responsibility through mutually beneficial alliances (Dzur, 2004; Sullivan, 2005). Deference to professional expertise can be debilitating for citizens (i.e., families), particularly those from historically marginalized backgrounds (Dzur, 2004; Fischer, 2004). When teachers and families are positioned in expert–client relationships, families’ perspectives or wisdom may be overlooked. Instead, educators can deconstruct and reconstruct expectations for family–professional partnerships to be more democratic and equitable, transforming the role of educator from expert to facilitator (Dzur, 2004; Fischer, 2004; Skrtic, 2013; Sullivan, 2005).

A democratic approach to cross-cultural family–professional partnerships (e.g., engaging families in problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration) can empower families from historically marginalized backgrounds. Educators can help families to identify strengths, goals, and problems, setting the democratic agenda in the interest of the common good. Educators can then apply specialized knowledge to address these shared goals (Fischer, 2004). In these reciprocal relationships of positive interdependence, expertise is both shared and advanced (Skrtic, 2013). As families in early childhood programs become increasingly diverse and the population of practitioners remains relatively homogeneous, practitioners and families may be positioned on opposite sides of a widening sociocultural divide. A value for democracy in early childhood means calling attention to the implicit and explicit processes that create inequity for families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

2. What are some tips for our own work with families?
Developing democratic family-professional partnerships is not simple, and can take time. Self-reflection and dialogue can help educators can move toward conceptualizations of both culture and language that may support more democratic family-professional partnerships. This includes recognizing that: (a) there are many diverse, legitimate ways of speaking, thinking, behaving, and being; (b) mainstream cultural processes represent privileged ideologies that produce inequitable relationships; and (c) language enacts and produces relations of power in context.

To build awareness of families’ diverse, legitimate ways of speaking being, thinking, and behaving, educators can raise their awareness of and reflect on their own cultural participation. Using the ABC model (i.e., autobiography, biography, and cross-cultural comparison; He & Cooper, 2009; Schmidt, 1999) educators can write detailed autobiographies recounting aspects of their own family cultures and personal values, read the biography of a parent or caregiver with a different cultural background and differing values, and compare cultural and value differences between the two narratives. Exposure and analysis of cultural continua for social values and behavior may be beneficial in helping educators recognize the varied and valid ways culture is expressed (Cheatham & Santos, 2011; Lynch & Hanson, 2011).

Structured dialogue can be useful in supporting pre-service teachers to examine their own practice (Hollins, 2011). During professional development time, educators can use protocols such as those listed on The School Reform Initiative’s website ( to discuss issues about cultural inequity (e.g., inequitable parent participation expectations that may perpetuate mainstream views of family involvement; Hollins & Guzman, 2005) and grapple with what these issues might mean in their partnerships with families. Educators may also share documentation of families’ experiences to discuss deficit perspectives on family childrearing practices. Through discussions of these dilemmas, educators can engage in critical conversations as they contend with issues of inequity that may emerge in cross-cultural partnerships (Fults & Harry, 2012; Gay & Kirkland, 2003). When structured conversations about cultural bias are connected to self-reflection, educators can develop critical consciousness, recognizing the cultural values of families that may be privileged or marginalized. Practicing this critical stance can be beneficial for educators in advocating for democratic cross-cultural partnerships with families. Educators can also look at the oppressive ways in which language can function.

For instance, educators can analyze the discourses and dominant linguistic values that play out in educational arenas (Ayers, 2014). Acknowledging the dominant use of standard English and English as a first language in EC/EI/ECSE programs in contrast to language use at home and community can help teachers self-reflect on linguistic advantage and disadvantage that may influence their communication with linguistically diverse families (Delpit, 2006). Finally, pre-service teachers may also benefit from studying models and examples of successful dialogue with families from diverse backgrounds (Gay & Kirkland, 2003).

Maggie also provided the following tips for fostering self reflection for newer and more veteran professionals:

Reading vignettes about families who integrate traditional and mainstream cultures to create new parenting practices (Choi et al., 2013; Halgunseth et al., 2006) or video clips of those parents with differing cultural backgrounds who merge cultural practices in light of mutual goals for their children (Crippen, & Brew, 2013) to guide discussion with educators. Teacher educators or anti-bias leaders can then introduce and revisit a collaborative problem-solving process approach to working with families (Fults & Harry, 2012), urging educators to see the dynamic nature of culture by engaging the individual interests and needs of families.

• Given family consent, new or seasoned teachers can video or audio record and analyze conversations they have with families. Teacher educators or anti-bias leaders can then guide educators to attend to families’ subtle facial expressions, use interviewing techniques to clarify understanding, and provide wait time in conversation during their interactions with families; educators can identify linguistic processes, which contribute to pragmatic inferences about family attitudes and characteristics (Cheatham & Santos, 2011).

• Using case studies or vignettes that highlight the ways in which individual families have been marginalized based on differences in language use may help teachers to brainstorm ways to inclusively reach out to individual families.

Critically comparing conversation transcripts of educators and English-speaking families with the conversations of educators and families for whom English is a second language may help pre-service teachers identify missed opportunities for inclusive, democratic partnerships (Cheatham & Jimenez-Silva, 2012; Cheatham & Ostrosky, 2011).

Thanks for sharing all this knowledge, Maggie!

*My work draws upon Artiles and Kozleski’s (2007) expanded definition of “inclusion,” a term that typically and exclusively refers to inclusion of children with disabilities. Instead, I think inclusive education means cultivating an equitable learning community in which all children and families are regarded as valuable members. Conceptualized as a legitimizing space for multiple and diverse ways of being, Artiles and Kozleski assert that inclusive education consists of developing and advancing practices to be inclusive and equitable for those individuals from historically marginalized groups (i.e., groups who have experienced historical discrimination based on ethnicity, race, language, culture, socioeconomic status, gender, religion, etc.). Inclusive education, then, is a dynamic and flexible process that involves constant attention, reflection, and action toward understanding how historically marginalized populations of children and families can more equitably participate in educational processes and communities (Artiles, Kozleski, & Waitoller, 2011). I believe an inclusive education approach can be embraced to support positive and meaningful partnerships with families.

Building a Diverse, Anti-Bias Library for Young Children

Let’s start with some tips for being intentional as you assess your existing collection and build your library.  Check out:

Next, there are lots of online libraries and booklists to help you find the diverse, anti-bias children’s books you need:

It’s also important to note that despite the existence of all these fantastic resources, there is still a lot of work to be done.  For example:


The We Need Diverse Books campaign is actively working to improve the diversity in children’s literature (while simultaneously highlighting existing literature on their webpage and on social media).  And there are lots of ways for you to get involved!  Here are three ideas:

  1. Write your own story!
  2. Hop on social media using #weneeddiversebooks
  3. Sign this petition:

Lastly–but certainly not least–it’s super important to remember that while ensuring that you’ve got a library full of diverse, anti-bias children’s literature is necessary, it is certainly not sufficient.  The really critical piece is what you do with these books.  Research has shown that simply increasing the diversity of books and other media that young children are exposed to is ineffective in reducing bias (Aboud & Levy, 2000).  Rather, parents and teachers must select and use these materials wisely and thoughtfully.  In short, the books don’t do the work for you; they simply provide opportunities to have the conversations you need to have, to model the kinds of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors you want your little ones to learn.

This piece was originally posted by Megan Madison on her personal blog.