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Teach Your Children Well—And Early

 Did you know that children who are brought up thinking and learning about other cultures are better equipped for the future? Considering the frequent use of modern phrases such as global economy, melting pot, and world wide web, it seems fitting that the earlier we teach our children to respect a diverse world, the better off they will be.

While research in this area is still in the beginning stages, studies that have investigated the long-term benefits of exposing children to a variety of cultures, and recent findings are telling:

  • Children who are taught to respect cultural differences become well-adjusted adults.

A 1996 study by G.K. Tanaka discovered that campus climates supportive of multiculturalism have positive effects on a sense of community, cultural awareness, commitment to promoting racial understanding, and overall satisfaction.  While this study was conducted on college campuses, one can argue that the same rings true for students of all ages. The key word here is supportive: people respond most positively when they feel nurtured, safe, and supported.  Children who see model of encouragement and support will also encourage and support.

  •  Familiarizing young children to diverse cultures at an early age promotes better development.

A more recent research analysis in Australia revealed that when early childcare centers promote respect for diverse cultures, the children have better cognitive, motor, social, and language development, according to The Bernard van Leer Foundation. This just makes sense:  children are naturally inquisitive, and allowing them to see and experience things they don’t know about (i.e., cultural differences) will inspire their curiosity.  Feeding that curiosity builds education, and all of this combined assists with strengthening their overall development.

  •  Introducing children to a variety of backgrounds and ethnic traditions prepares them to be more productive in the classroom and in the workplace.

The U.S. Supreme Court found in Grutter v. Bollinger that there are substantial and real benefits to a diverse student body, including:  promoting better racial understanding, enhancing classroom discussions, better preparing students for an increasingly diverse workforce and society.  In an educational setting with a mixed population, teachers and administrators share the responsibility of encouraging that understanding and enhancing those conversations so that students have valuable, meaningful experiences in diversity—not merely sitting side by side with someone different.  This is crucial for educators to keep in mind, since students will grow into adults who are working together as a team with co-workers who won’t necessarily share their backgrounds.

The token phrase “it’s never too soon to teach a child” rings true for most things we want our children to know.  In this case, it’s never too soon to teach a child about diversity.  In fact, the earlier we do instill these lessons, the more we all will benefit. Global Kids Oz offers over 2,000 multicultural resources from all around the world to aid teachers and careers with cultural resources that support cultural education 

For more reading, consult the following sources:

Article:  The Educational Benefits of Diversity:  Evidence from Multiple Sectors by Jeffrey F. Millem, The University of Maryland

Tanaka, G. K. "The Impact of Multiculturalism on White Students." Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles, 1996.

The Bernard van Leer Foundation

 Article written on behalf of Global Kids Oz by Charlotte A. F. Farley

Multicultural resources, Indigenous, Maori, Cultural Diversity in childcare, multiculturalism, cultural learning resources