The First R: How Children Learn Race and Racism

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9780847688616: The First R: How Children Learn Race and Racism
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Writers since Piaget have questioned when and how children assimilate racist attitudes-or simply become aware of racial differences. This remarkable book offers stirring evidence that the answers may be more surprising than we ever imagined. The rich accounts of children's behavior around race are drawn from Van Ausdale's ethnographies, conducted in several multi-ethnic day-care centers. When she persistently divested herself of any authoritative role, children as young as 3 years gradually revealed to her a surprising array of racial attitudes, assumptions, and behaviors--most of which they normally withhold from parents and adult companions. The careful ethnographic analysis, conducted over many months, lead the authors to question many of our long-held assumptions about the nature of race and racial learning in American society.

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About the Author:

Debra Van Ausdale is assistant professor of sociology at Syracuse University, where her research interests continue to focus on children and racism. She is also conducting ethnographic research on the American motorcycling community.

Joe R. Feagin is graduate research professor in sociology at the University of Florida. Among his many books are Living with Racism: The Black Middle Class Experience (1994, with Mel Sikes); and White Racism : The Basics (1995, with Hernan Vera). Living with Racism and White Racism have won the Gustavus Myers Center's Outstanding Human Rights Book Award.

Review:

A wonderfully vivid account of how children learn about the 'first R'―race―even before they start school. The authors show how children as young as three have entered into and are experimenting with the tangled ideologies of race of the adult world. (Barrie Thorne, author of Gender Play: Girls and Boys in School)

A landmark study that should change our understanding of the social genesis and maintenance of racism and the dynamics of hegemony. It is a must-read for anyone, especially parents and teachers interested in how these dynamics come into being, and it should be required reading in all school systems and universities. (Lewis R. Gordon, Professor of Philosophy and Africana Studies, University of Connecticut)

A sensitive and politically sophisticated work of on-site observation and engaging scholarship which ought to shake our nation from its equanimity. The lessons we were given long ago by Dr. Kenneth Clark and, nearly a hundred years ago, by W.E.B. Du Bois have yet to be internalized. Perhaps, as the authors of this valuable and stirring work suggest, it is our children who will prove to be our wisest teachers. (Jonathan Kozol, author of Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools, author of Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools)

Vivid and provocative. (Kirkus)

Van Ausdale and Feagin challenge conventional theories of child development that are 'adultcentric' and removed, based mostly on attitude testing and behavioral checklists. The authors spent a year at a racially diverse day care center, observing children from three to six years old. The authors suggest that racially hostile and discriminatory behavior among children needs far more study and attention than it has had to date. (Booklist)

Van Ausdale sought honesty from the children by never playing the role of 'sanctioning' adult, so that children learned to act more freely in front of her than they did in the presence of teachers. . . . The implication [of the author's work] is that racism will be much harder to root out than once believed, which makes the active teaching of tolerance all the more important. (The Instrumentalist)

Early education professionals and interested parents will find it an important addition to their collections. (Publishers Weekly)

The primary value of the book lies in its numerous interactional vignettes. This is an empirically rich book. (CHOICE)

This is a scrupulously researched book. (Times Educational Supplement)

A groundbreaking study of children's behavior, attitudes, and assumptions around race. (EBONY)

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