green alien

Diversity in my child’s Irish school book (or lack thereof)

Lack of disability representation is a big issue as is lack of representation of minorities in general. Over the past few weeks I’ve been sharing snippets from my child’s schoolbooks. I’m annoyed that I didn’t pay more attention to them before this lockdown lead me to teaching her at home again. Posts are highlighting anything from the ambiguous phrasing in maths books to the stereotypical depiction of gender roles. The cover of her Irish book would have you fooled. There’s a picture of a green alien ” excellent” I thought, “this book will be full of diverse people”. I mean if they’re including life forms from other planets they’ve surely got it all covered in terms of diversity!

I accept that I have to spend a significant amount of time as a parent balancing the images and ideas my child is bombarded with on tv, YouTube, toys, advertising and other people outside of our home and now also her schoolbooks. By doing this I know that at least she gets a balanced view of the world instead of one that is shared by the privileged at the expense of those who are not. Lack of disability representation is something I am very conscious of.

There are 120 pages in her Irish book. There are approx 300 people in the book. Besides the green alien there is approx another 15 % people who are not white. So there’s been some attempts at ethnic diversity. In the 120 pages here’s also what I found, or more correctly did not find :

  • Same sex couples 0
  • Non-gendered people 0
  • Children or adults with any physical disability 0
  • Children or adults using AAC, hearing aids, wheelchairs or anything along these lines 0

Another parent sent me on a picture from her son’s Irish book by a different publisher which showed a class gathered around the teacher. There was a boy in a wheelchair so I guess that was this publisher attempt at disability representation. And it is a start but it’s in no way enough. Why wasn’t the teacher a wheelchair user? Why are our children not seeing images of disabled people in positions like this?

At training sessions it’s often suggested that we teach children Acceptance. My response to this suggestion is always that children learn by example. If the adults feel it’s ok to exclude entire groups of people from the pages of their children’s books then I fear that our children learn a lot more than just the intended subject. Lack of disability representation in our schoolbooks leads to lack of Acceptance in society. Children learn that it’s acceptable to exclude others. They learn that people who are missing from the pages of the books aren’t an equal part of our society. They learn that minorities don’t matter. They learn things that we never intended to teach them because we didn’t know we were doing it ourselves.

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