Friday, February 24, 2012

The Original Gender Neutral Preschool

There's a lot of hype these days about making education gender neutral.  There's even a preschool in Stockholm where they are taking it to the extreme. At this school there are rules banning any form of dress, speech or even bathrooms alluding to a difference between sexes.  "No Hes, No Shes, No Hers, No Hims.  There are no dresses allowed or even gender specific hairstyles.  Even the bathrooms are going to be completely gender neutral, meaning there will be no urinal and the bathroom is for both sexes."

Now this might seem odd, revolutionary, forward thinking, crazy, intriguing... the list goes on, but it's not all that different from what Montessori kids have been experiencing for years.  Eva's classroom doesn't have a single doll, kitchen set, toy truck or any of the other - usually gender specific- things you often see in preschools.  They also have just one bathroom for boys and girls.

The following in an excerpt from Eva's teacher that I pulled from our monthly newsletter: 

One year my class was studying dinosaurs and another teacher gave them a big plastic dinosaur that she found at the garage sale for scrubbing. Both of us thought the boys would think this was great work.  Well, weren’t we surprised to see that it wasn’t the boys, but rather the girls that found the work very exciting! So I decided to ask some boys who were intensely concentrating with heads down, engaged in an activity, “Hey, I thought you boys would love this dinosaur scrubbing work.  How come you’re not doing it?”  “Cause we’d rather do this,” they casually replied as they were sewing a button on a piece of fabric. Children have the opportunity to experience a wide variety of activities, not just what is expected of them because of their gender. This creates an atmosphere of acceptance and respect for the interests of others.

Love it!

P.S. I know some of you are scratching your head thinking, "Wait, Eva is a total girly girl. She is in no way gender neutral!"  You are correct, she is very "girly" in the socially understood sense of the word, but 1) she has mostly chosen it herself, I do not force her to wear dresses, on the contrary, she begs to wear them and 2) I don't mind her being girly at home or out in public, but in a learning environment I'm happy that she sees education as an open field.  Boys don't do one thing at school and girls do another; everyone does everything as everyone is equal.  I don't remember the article I read but it was recent and it said that almost 100% of kindergarten girls say they could be president someday.  Re-ask the same question at 6th grade and something like less than 40% still believe it is an option for them... and the number keeps dropping as girls get older.  That is shameful and I pray Eva will grow up knowing she can do anything she sets her mind to. 

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