Following two blogs I posted which generally showed that studies have found that gearing education towards gender differences leads to more successful learning,...
Mixed Gender Behaviors in the Classroom
Following two blogs I posted which generally showed that studies have found that gearing education towards gender differences leads to more successful learning, (Facing Gender Differences in Education and Are Single Gender Classrooms Better?), CNN recently had an article discussing the growing trend towards neutralizing gender terminology and gender behaviors as a way to control bullying and encourage greater freedom of self expression.
6 Ways to Embrace Gender Differences at School notes that a Montessori school in Houston has trained its staff to support students who deviate from gender norms, such as boys wearing girls clothing or girls who prefer being called “boy”. They claim that embracing diversity will lead to a more inclusive society and greater understanding and respect between all people.
The pro-gender-neutralization team states that children are expressing their gender identity preference as young as in kindergarten and sometimes even earlier. Squelching this self expression might be harmful to their self-esteem and development.
Advocates for this policy state that everyone is entitled to an education without discrimination based on gender identity. This is protected by federal, state, and local laws including the US Department of Education’s Title IX. Already, at least 160 cities have passed laws assuring that schools prohibit gender identity discrimination.
A headline news story from 2011 discussed a couple who chose to keep their child’s gender under wraps until the child could “naturally” choose their gender preference. The parents felt that children are subjected to an enormous amount of gender leaning messages stunting a person’s choice of what they really like and how they want to behave. Not even the grandparents knew the child’s gender who was 4 months old at the time of the article. Calling their baby “Storm”, the baby announcement read, “We’ve decided not to share Storm’s sex for now–a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm’s lifetime (a more progressive place? …)”
The CNN article offered the following suggestions as a way to help unify students without stressing gender and gender behaviors:
1. Don’t separate children into groups by gender. Instead, use other creative systems like clothing color or the first letter of their last name.
2. Start the day with inclusive language and stick with it. Instead of saying, “Good morning boys and girls” say “Good morning class”.
3. Feature diversity in books, posters and other workbooks which use non-stereotypical pictures and messages. Welcoming Schools, Gender Spectrum and TransYouth Family Allies offer bibliographies and other resources for classroom materials featuring diversity in various forms.
4. Create a plan to help educators develop a transgender system for education.
5. Have strong policies to support transgender students with regards to such things as extracurricular activities, student records, and confidentiality.
6. Engage the entire school community in order to set community norms and create a platform for people to ask questions.
Add your ideas to the How to Neutralize Gender and Gender Behaviors in Students list on list.ly!
What are your thoughts on these ideas? Have you had experiences in your school with these issues? I’d love to hear from you.