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Racial bias in preschool

Dan Gorenstein Sep 28, 2016
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A new study found implicit bias against black children present in preschool teaching.
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The effects of racial bias likely start from the moment a kid gets to preschool, according to new data released by the Yale Child Study Center.

Researchers tracked the eye movements of classroom teachers to see which students they watched most closely. They used that data and more to reach the conclusion that there is a lot of implicit bias in preschool teaching.

Walter Gilliam, professor of child psychiatry at Yale, said, “Our teachers expect black children, and in particular black boys, to misbehave. So they spend a lot more time looking for misbehavior in those children.”

African-American children are more than three times as likely as white children to be suspended more than once from preschool. Some of that disparity, said Gilliam, has more to do with issues of poverty and hunger. 

But Dan Losen, who runs the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA, said the Yale study helps him understand a new piece of the so-called “school-to-prison pipeline” that begins to trap young black men even at age 4 or 5.

There’s a tendency to think of kids as the problem,” he said, “or we need to blame the parents.”

Losen believes the study shows that “adult perceptions are infected by negative stereotypes of children and their families.”

The need for unconscious bias training for teachers, said Losen, is critical. 

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