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Sexism in the Schools
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A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with Rose at school putting her things away while the kids did "Show and Share." Jade passed her troll down around, the one with purple hair that sticks straight up and a purple comb that matches. The teacher, announced, "This seems to be a girl's toy not a boy's toy. All the boys are saying 'No, thank you.' All the girls are playing with it. This is a toy for girls."

I was appalled. Here I am trying to teach my daughter that she can be a firefighter and a princess, that girls can have short hair too, that men can cry, that women should get equal pay for equal work (well, we haven't exactly articulated that one yet), and here's her teacher reinforcing sexist gender roles. I don't care if the boys were passing it along, calling attention to it only cements it. What if you are a little boy who wanted to play with the doll? How do you feel now?

John was equally appalled, so I called the assistant director and told her what happened. I did not get the answer I was hoping for. There was sort of a pause on the other end, like "And?"

The following week I was back in the classroom during "Show and Share." This time the assistant director was leading circle. Poor Jade was passing her kitty around, and the boys were dissing it. To give the assistant director credit, when a boy said, "She always brings that" in a very dismissive tone, the assistant director said, "She must love it a lot." And she did not draw attention to the fact that the boys wouldn't make eye contact with Jade and refused to play with her toy. But it still felt ugly to me, a situation had been set up so a child could feel bad about herself, and I do mean herself.

Some people might argue that there's nothing the school can do about sexism—kids bring it from home, the society.

Yes, it is pervasive. I, in fact, am guilty of it myself. But that doesn't mean the school can't be part of the solution. When Najiba was the teacher I watched in awe as a boy and a girl donned dresses from the dress up box and danced to the sugar plum fairy. This was the same boy who brought a tank to "Show and Share."

I noticed a distinct change with the next teacher (we get a new one every few months). I looked around one afternoon free play time. Boys were playing with blocks. Girls were playing in the house corner. I watched the teacher give a boy a puzzle about bugs; she had the girls gather around to do a puzzle with fancy dresses.

And just so you don't think this all me, I was talking to another parent who initiated a conversation about the bad gender issues in the classroom. She had seen the teacher ask each child what princess or superhero they wanted to be. When a little girl started to say her favorite superhero, the teacher stopped her and told her she had to be a princess.

What did you learn in school today?

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