Thursday, May 24, 2012

Gendered in the Sixth Grade

Yesterday I went to see my daughter "graduate" from kindergarten, which is actually a rather ridiculous thing, but that's another post.  Anyways, the 6th graders were also graduating from elementary school in order to cross over to the other side of the building to enter middle-school.  The teacher did sort of a short bio on who each child was by giving a series of adjectives to describe them, and then sort of flushed them out.  But, what was glaringly obvious to me, although maybe not to others, was how gendered her descriptions were.

She described all of the boys (there were 9 of them) as smart, but only three of the seven girls were described as smart.  I think all of the boys were described as athletic, although none of the girls were.  She talked about what careers some of the children should pursue, including becoming a doctor, but this was done only for the boys.  Not one of the girls had a possible career described.  I will say that fortunately she did not use "cute" or "pretty" or such adjectives to describe the girls, although one was called "small" but she truly was.  The boys descriptions on average also tended to be longer than those for the girls.

Later during the service they wanted to point out how much the boys didn't like losing in sports and how well they were doing as a team, and then had them, again just the boys, stand up so we could applaud them, although three of the boys did not stand.  I guess they get excluded from wanting to win.

Now I know that I am living in a more conservative area of the state, but this was still a little shocking to me.  As I discussed it with my mother-in-law who came in for the ceremony, and who was also a teacher, she said she noticed it too, although not as much as I did, and then wondered if it upset me.

I said it did not only because you would hope that we were somewhat moving past this and the tremendous impact that this reinforces in the girls that boys are better and have more opportunities in life.  But it also upsets me because I am the father of two daughters and I don't want them to be subject to this very subtle feedback about who they are and what they can be.  Children pay attention to this stuff and they pick up on the subtlest of cues especially from those in positions of authority.

I am still trying to figure out the most appropriate way to address this.

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