“As people who benefit from privilege, we cannot sit idly by and observe...” when I read this on Corrie and Lee’s platform @thetinyactivists I knew I had to share their work with you guys. They made the conscious effort to use their privilege to raise culture awareness and inclusion both in the classroom at home. They had every reason on why they didn’t have to... but still they did. Corrie and Lee not only consistently share stories that are inclusive and supportive of culture, i.e. African, African-American, indigenous, Latin, etc. but they also include books LGBTQ students. Why is this important? Because as common as racial stereotypes are, so are gender bias and assumed roles. As educators they've seen first hand the constrictions placed on people of color, girls, and boys. Allowing children a safe space to understand all parts of themselves is crucial. Check out our interview with them to see what they had to say about stereotypes and the educational system:
What is the mission of The Tiny Activist? Our mission is to review & amplify the best books in order to make education transformative instead of transactional, and to inspire people to create bookshelves that are inclusive and use a "windows and mirrors" approach to selecting books.
Why do you think diversity in education is important? It's crucial to have inclusive and diverse education because everyone deserves to have their lived experiences validated and included in both education and on their bookshelf.
How was your experience in school growing up? Both of us are white, able-bodied, and queer. So it's safe to say that our educational experience reflected back the white and able-bodied experience back at us. But both of us learned the same whitewashed and Eurocentric historical narratives that the majority of us did that attended public school. We weren't taught the social justice education and critical thinking skills that are crucial for kids to learn as early as possible. That's one of the reasons why we strive to promote the books that we do, because they benefit and teach kids a more holistic history.
As a teacher, what effects did you see happening in class in regards to gender stereotyping? When Corrie was a classroom teacher, she mostly taught 4-5 year olds. She noticed the typical statements of kids saying things were "boy colors" and "girl colors" but that it stemmed from offhand comments that parents would make that reinforced the gender binary (one particularly horrific comment came from a mother talking about how she was glad her daughter was being pressured by her friends to wear more dresses). People are very invested in thinking what will happen down the road if they let their son wear a dress and play with dolls, or their daughter have short hair and only wear shirts with firetrucks, instead of focusing on the moment and letting them do what they want to do and express themselves how they want to. These expectations box kids in, and also teach them to police others who do not conform to rigid and outdated gendered expectations.
What advice can you give to parents who may not even realize they are gender stereotyping their children? To let kids express themselves how they want to, and not worry about the future. Don't make assumptions about what a child "should" like because they're a girl, let them lead the way in terms of hobbies and personal expression. Three books I highly recommend are: Delusions of Gender, Parenting Beyond Pink & Blue, and Pink Brain Blue Brain!
What injustices have you seen in the education system in regards to children who have a diverse background? The education systems that I have seen have centered whiteness and a Eurocentric historical narrative, and the publishing industry does the same. The majority of books published have either white or animal protagonists, with BIPOC protagonists having a very small margin of representation. It's crucial for all lived experiences to be normalized to have an inclusive bookshelf, and for everyone to learn that we can all be problem-solvers, inventors, and superheroes.
What advice can you give to teachers on creating more inclusive content? To make sure that the books, photographs, and historical figures used in curriculum are inclusive. Seek out books that fight against stereotypes, and make your classroom a safe space for LGBTQ students.
What resources would you recommend to parents and/or teachers? Besides our website, The Conscious Kid is fantastic! Teaching Tolerance has excellent resources, so does the website Gender Spectrum. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has an excellent website with tons of resources, as does Dr. Debbie Reese's blog "American Indians in Children's Literature"!