“Whatever they look and whatever limitations they face, children should be given the signal in every possible way that they can become whatever they want,” Knack Editor Ann Bateman writes in her weekly column De Zoetzure Zondag.
He must be five years old. Right before going to sleep we sat on his bed talking about it later. I told him he could become anything he wanted. My son answered: Yes, but not a doctor, of course. Only girls can become doctors. It took a while before it became clear to me how convinced he was. The only doctors he could think of were family doctors. Dr. Els and Dr. Lynn. So two women.
It happens quickly and unconsciously. If you only see doctors, teachers, TV faces, or business leaders who are nothing like you, you will almost automatically believe that this future is not yours. Although we often think that in 2022 everything will be fine. In every series currently, an actor with an immigrant background and a character with a disability plays a character? And advertising has also become more comprehensive, right? Not nearly enough to convince kids of all sizes and colors that they can be anything they want, it turns out. Recently, animated videos of African American girls emotionally interacting with a preview of a Disney movie went viral. the little Mermaid. As soon as they realize that a black actress plays Ariel, they begin to cry, gasping for breath, their mouths literally opening in disbelief. They had never seen a heroine of this caliber look like them.
The same applies to children who, for example, are in a wheelchair, suffer from Down syndrome or are visually impaired. On television, on social media, in advertisements, and even at school, they hardly ever encounter peers or adults like them. Not in a neutral context and certainly not in an impressive role. Even their games usually don’t look like them, they don’t recognize themselves in textbooks and their teachers usually look very different too. Without anyone ever uttering it, they would automatically believe that someone like themselves could never stand a class and ineligible for a whole host of other professions.
Inclusion begins with Disney Princesses, Playmobile characters, ad campaigns, TV shows, and game books.
In recent years, more and more so-called games have been brought to the market. Coloring box with pencils for every skin tone or a doll with Down syndrome or a plush guide dog for the blind. Everything is very beautiful, but you usually can not find such things in ordinary game stores. However, the major brands are slowly starting to jump onto the inclusion bandwagon. For example, Playmobil school buses and the Lego bus station are now wheelchair accessible. The new Barbie set includes colorful dolls, with a prosthetic leg or with a hearing aid. They are small steps in the right direction.
It is important that newspaper pages are constantly written on this topic. Just as images from Bol.com’s new gaming brochure were shared on social media last week. It wasn’t the play kitchens and promoted race tracks that caused a stir, but the models they played on did. The cover shows Romy (11), a girl with Down Syndrome, and Jedediah (10), who has white spots on his arm due to the vitiligo skin disease. Also inside the folder are completely different children who are depicted. Boys and girls, white and colored, jumping and in a wheelchair. It looks like a real community.
If we want more inclusion in education, in the labor market and in society as a whole, this is the way we urgently need. Children need to point out in every way that they too, no matter what they look like and whatever limitations they face, can become anything they want to be. Only if they think for themselves that that school, that training, and that job is available to them as well, can things change. It starts with Disney princesses, Playmobil men, ad campaigns, TV shows, and game books.
In the meantime, my son is definitely not going to become a doctor. This has nothing to do with our GPs. Meanwhile, Dr. Lin had recruited a colleague. The fact that my son did not choose medicine but started a completely different study is because as a white boy without a disability he eventually learned he could become anything he wanted. From the adults around him, from the programs on TV, from the advertising brochures on the bus and yes also from the dolls he played with.