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The First R: How Children Learn Race and Racism Paperback – December 11, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0847688623 ISBN-10: 0847688623

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (December 11, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0847688623
  • ISBN-13: 978-0847688623
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.7 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #361,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Decades of "adultcentric" research have led social scientists to deny the existence of racial awareness in young children. Yet childrenAeven very young onesAare clearly able to understand sameness and difference, say sociologists Van Ausdale and Feagin after studying 58 children, three to six years old, in an urban nursery school. According to their findings, children learn to identify racial or ethnic markers (skin or hair color, eye shape, accent) and use them to gain social control, even in a nursery school with an antibias, pro-tolerance curriculum. Van Ausdale, the fieldworker of the two, spent 11 months listening to the children chat and observing their play, effacing her presence as much as possible. While the authors' validation of the child's perspective is compelling, and their societal approach to the race problem sensible, their study itself is underwhelming. First, the school's racial mix is curiously skewed: of 58 children, 24 are white and 19 Asian, and there is only one nonwhite teacher. The authors continually assert that Van Ausdale functioned as an invisible observer, although this concept is questionable. The most problematic aspect of this report is the anecdotal presentation of the findings. Readers are left wondering about the actual frequency of various types of racist behavior, data that would have given the study more credibility and depth. While the jacket is appealing, no one browsing this book would mistake it for a lively read. Still, early education professionals and interested parents will find it an important addition to their collections. (Jan.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The premise of this challenging study by Van Ausdale (sociology, Syracuse Univ.) and Feagin (sociology, Univ. of Florida, Gainesville) is that children are complex individuals from very early on. They are not "too little" to understand race or ethnic identity, and they can and will use those concepts to discriminate and segregate. Van Ausdale arrived at these conclusions after spending 11 months in a day-care center as a nonsanctioning adult observer. She describes many comments of the children, who were aged three to five, and the use of ethnic identity in their play. Often, when she reported what she had observed, teachers and parents responded with disbelief, arguing that the children must have picked up that attitude elsewhere. As a parent of children raised in diverse neighborhoods, this reviewer has some quarrels with the underlying meaning the authors attribute to what Van Ausdale observed. Certainly, many of the authors' opinions on race relations are well taken, but readers may have real reservations about some unsubstantiated claims made concerning the children's motivations. As the authors state, much more in-depth research needs to be done in this field. An extensive bibliography is included. Recommended for academic libraries. Margaret Cardwell, DeKalb Technical Coll., Clarkston, GA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Dorothy Weiss on February 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Young children are capable of learning facts if you break them down to their level, authors Van Ausdale and Feagin write, and the sooner this open and honest dialogue occurs, the better little children can develop a strong sense of fairness. Age 3 is not too young to introduce basics- things children visualize and can touch like skin color, eye shape and hair texture. Waiting for middle school is too late, so the burden of teaching differences in a positive way falls to parents. The authors emphasize if diversity, tolerance and fighting bigotry are taught at home with parents imparting their values there will be no room for misunderstanding when children begin to interact with others. Much of the data presented comes from studies made at several multiethic child-care centers where children had little interaction with people of other ethnic groups, and probably had not been taught about race. Their revealed misconceptions and attitudes were often disconcerting. This book offers a comprehensive look at America today, the issue of race, and how to help our children better understand and cope with the reality of racism before the "hurtful confrontation". Interested readers, not only parents and teachers, will learn a lot from this book. It is a step in a positive direction.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Abdul-Malik on December 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The premise of the study done by Van Ausdale and Feagin was that from an early age children conceptualize race and racial identity. Their suggestion is that from a very early age, people's perceptions of race and ethnicity become impregnated into their psyche. Through various social exchanges children learn and regurgitate what is learned. These perceptions can be developed from any area of social interaction.
Throughout history it has been thought that children were not active participants in any of these spheres. It had been thought that children were imitators of adult and are the initial recipients of these ideas and perceptions. Van Ausdale counter these popular conceptions about children and how they acquire information. The study, which seeks to show that children actively form and interpret concepts of race at very early ages, used 58 children from the ages of three to six as subjects. Through their work the authors emphasize the social space (the daycare) as a microcosm of America's racial pecking order.
Chapter one the authors give a literature review of child development theory thoroughly examining the pros and cons of these theories as they relate to children's acquisition of race. The author's challenge how these theories fail to delve into how children learn and perpetuate social constructs. An area of primary concern is the fact these theories take responsibility away from the children.
The author introduces a concept called "adult-centered" orientation, which is a research technique that rules out any serious cognitive qualities in children. It merely looks at children as adults with deficits, and lacking the realist ability to be engaging in abstract concepts such as race, class and ethnicity.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Auntynae on October 25, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I needed The First R: Race and Racism for a Rethinking Multi Education class. When I started reading the first chapter I thought the book would be dry and boring, but After getting out the needed facts about previous studies dealing with children and the laying the groundwork for the rest of the book, the reading turned out to be quite interesting.

I even think I feel comfortable suggesting it to non students who want to learn more about early childhood and young people's developing the ability to recognize and react to race and how the 'do' race and racism.
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