From: Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves


(NOTE: There may be minor issues with formatting in the anti-bias education glossary text below. This happened during the conversion of the original PDF file. Also, the PDF file pages are out of order.)

As awareness and social conditions change, so do the meanings of terms. The definitions below reflect our (Louise and Julie’s) meanings and are the terms we and many other people who advocate for social and economic justice use.

Ableism (or Ableist): An attitude, action, or prac­tice of an individual or institution, back d by societal power, that undermines human and legal rights, accessibility, or economic opportunities of people defined as having a disability.

Ally: A person who stands up against unjust treatment of members of ·an identity group other than his or her own. An alliance is when people from two or more identity groups act together to stop inequitable treatment of either or both groups.

American: Commonly used to refer to residents of the United States. However, because.people in Canada, Central America, and South America also live in the Americas, the term “U.S. American” is sometimes used for greater clarity.

Bias: An attitude, belief, or feeling that results in and helps to Justify unfair treatment of a person because of his or her identity.

Biracal; Multiracial; Multiethnic; Mixed heritage child: A child whose parents are from two or more different racial/ethnic groups. These terms cover a wide range of racial identity and ethnic combina­tions. A biracial or multiracial family may be a family in which the parents are racially or ethnically different from each other, or a family in which one or more parents Identify as mixed heritage. See also transracial.

Blended family: Parents and children from two or more previous families that have combined into a new family.

Classism (or Classist): An attitude, action, or practice of an Individual or institution, backed by societal power, that gives preferential treatment to or treats as superior those with more economic resources ·or higher social status and treats as inferior or denies access to those with fewer economic resources or less social status.

Conditionally separated family: A family in which a member is absent through a situation such as distant employment, military service, incarcera­tion, or hospitalization.

Cultural continuity/discontinuity: The degree to which a:person does or does not experience a match between his or her own culture’s ways of doing things and another culture’s ways; a clash between a child’s home culture and his early child­ hood program’s culture ls an example of cultural discontinuity.

Discrimination: Action by an institution or individual that denies access or opportunity to people based on their social identity (such as gender or racial identity). Outcomes of such actions, rather than their Intent, are the basis for use of the term.

Disability: A physical, cognitive, or emotional chal­lenge, such as a vision or hearing impairment, dys­lexia, cerebral palsy, or developmental delay. (This book uses the wording “child with a disability” to identify a child’s humanity before his or her partic­ular disability, as in “a child with autism spectrum disorder” rather than “an autistic child.”)

Dominant group/culture:The dominant group within a society has greatest power, privileges, and social status. It may or may not be the majority of the population. In the United States, the domi­nant group has historically been White, Christian, affluent, and male. A dominant group achieves its position by controlling economic and political institutions, communications/media, education and health institutions, the arts, and business. The dominant culture is the way of life defined by the dominant group as “normal” and right. 

Economic class: The financial conditions in which a person or family lives, which determine access to social institutions and financial security. Across a person’s lifespan, he or she may live in different economic circumstances (e.g., grow up in poverty, become middle class, then return to a very low income level through divorce). This book uses terms such as lower-income, upper-income, or working-class rather than lower-class and upper­ class, which imply value judgments.

Equity (or Equitable): Treatment that is fair and just, taking into account the capacities of individu­als, while not discriminating because of racial identity, ethnicity, gender, religion, ability, or any. other aspect of their identity. The concept of equity goes beyond equality, the latter implying identical treatment of individuals or groups despite their differing needs.

Ethnic group: A sizable group of humans whose members identify with one another through a common heritage derived from where their ancestors lived (e.g., Puerto Rico, Ireland, India). Ethnicity refers to the identification of group members based on such shared heritage and distinctiveness that make the group Into a “people.”

Extended family: Family members beyond the immediate family unit of parents and their children (e.g., grandparents, aunts, and uncles), especially when these relatives have major roles in a child’s upbringing.

Family partnership: An approach to working with families that presumes  that families have as much to teach early childhood ‘professionals about their children as professionals have to teach families. This two-way connection contrasts with parent education, which implies a one-way flow of information and expertise from professionals to families.

Foster family: A household ‘in which a child Is a temporary member, with formal or informal guardianship passed to the new family. This “temporary” period might be  as  short as a few days or  as long as an entire childhood. A kinship care family Is a foster family in which there Is a legal or informal arrangement for one of the  parent’s relatives, such as the child’s grandparent, to care for the child.

Gender (or Sex): The biological state of being ana­tomically male or female.

Gender constancy: The understanding that peo­ple’s gender does not change even if they change their behavior or dress (an understanding usually developed by age 7 or 8).

Gender identity: The awareness and acceptance of one’s own gender.

Gender role: The behaviors, attitudes, and appearance that a particular society or culture defines as “masculine” and ascribes to males, or as “feminine” and ascribes to females.

Heterosexism (or Heterosexist): An attitude, action, or practice of an individual or institution, backed by societal power, that assigns legal, social, and cultural advantages to people who are heterosexual, while denying those same advan­tages to people who are homosexual. In contrast, homophobia is about Individual feelings and behaviors that reflect the above.

Internalized oppression: Belief in societal nega­tive misinformation about oneself and one’s social identity group(s) that leads one to engage in self­ restriction, self-limitation, and self-hate.

Internalized privilege: Belief in the entitlement and superiority of oneself and one’s social identity group(s), based on societal myths and misinforma­tion. This leads to the justification of mistreatment of groups outside the entitled group.

lntersex; Transgender. lntersex refers to people who are born with anatomy that is not unambigu­ously that of one gender or the other. Transgender refers to people whose self-perception of their gen­der Identity does not match their gender anatomy.

“Isms”: The many forms of institutionalized preju­dice and discrimination based on social identities such as ability/disability, culture/ethnicity, economic class, gender, sexual orientation, racial identity, and others. (The resultant isms are ablelsm, ethnocen­trism, classism, sexism, racism, and the like.)

Nationalicy; Citizenship: Nationality is the status of belonging to a particular nation by origin, birth, or naturalization. Citizenship is the legal status of being a citizen of a country. The term national includes both citizens and noncitizens.

Nuclear family: A married man and woman and their children.

Overt; Covert: Explicit and direct social messages (overt), in contrast to those that hidden, Indi­rect, and subtle (covert). Covert messages have a very strong impact on children, in part because they are not discussed, analyzed, or evaluated.

People of color: A socially created category refer­ring collectively to the groups that have histori­cally been and currently are  targets of  racism in the United States—for example, African Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans, Latino Americans, Native Americans, and Arab Americans. (Use of the inclusive term people of color in this book is not intended to deny the significant differences within this group.)

Prejudice: An attitude, opinion, or feeling formed without adequate prior knowledge, thought, or rea­son. Prejudice can be prejudgment for or against any person, group, or gender.

Pre-prejudice: Beginning ideas and feelings in very young children that may develop into real prejudice if reinforced by societal biases. It may be based on young children’s limited experience and developmental level, or it may consist of imitations of adult behavior.

Race: A social construct that fraudulently cat­egorizes and ranks groups of human beings on an arbitrary basis such as skin color and other physical features. Historically, it has been used as a rationale for colonization of other peoples’ lands, enslavement, and war and oppression by one group against another. The scientific consensus is that race in this sense has no biological basis in the human species.

Racial identity: How one is classified by other people and by social institutions. In addition, it includes how one comes to understand and feel about one’s racial group membership.

Racism (or Racist): An attitude, action, or practice of an Individual or institution, backed by societal power, that undennines human and legal rights or economic opportunities of people because of specific physical characteristics, such as skin color. Cultural racism is the imposition of one racial group’s culture in such a way as to withhold respect for, demean, or destroy the cultures of other groups.

Sexual orientation: The direction of one’s sexual interest: heterosexual (to the opposite sex), homo-sexual (to the same sex), bisexual (to both sexes), asexual (not attracted to either sex). A lesbian is a woman attracted to women, and a gay man is attracted to men.

Sexuality: The state of being  sexual  and  the choices individuals make about how to live their sexual lives. Choices may include: sexual partner only within marriage, one partner for life, one partner at a time, multiple partners (in the same period of time), celibacy, alternating periods of sexual activity and celibacy. People of all sexual orienta­tions make choices about the above.

Shared-custody family: Parents share legal respon­sibility for their child(ren), who may alternate living with each parent or may live with one parent and regularly see the other. Sometimes called joint custody.

Soclal identities: As compared with individual Identities, this denotes memberships in groups that are defined by society, are shared with many other people, and have societal advantages and disadvantages attached to them. These identities include gender, economic class, racial identity, heritage, religion, age group, and so on.

Stereotype: An oversimplified generalization about a particular group, which usually carries derogatory implications.             ··

Transnational family: A family who live part of each year In a different country. Children may be cared for by different people In each country, or the whole family may move together.

Transracial adoptive family: A family in which the racial identity group(s) of the parents differs from· that of their adopted child.

Typically developing: Children whose development occurs within the age ranges commonly accepted as usual in human growth and develop­ment. (“Children who are typically developing” is preferred to terms such as “normal children” or “regular children,” which Imply that other children are defective rather than different.)

Whites: A socially created “racial” group who historically and currently receive the benefits of racism in the United States. The category includes all the different ethnic groups of European origin, regardless of differences in their histories, ethnicities, or cultures.


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