Genderless Classrooms is Another Example of Extremism

From a system that offers ample extremism whilst being light on balance, comes another example of taking an idea way too far.  It may be true that gender stereotypes can be over the top, however, avoiding them altogether is not the answer.

AT the Egalia preschool, staff avoid using words like “him” or “her” and address the 33 kids as “friends” rather than girls and boys.

From the colour and placement of toys to the choice of books, every detail has been carefully planned to make sure the children don’t fall into gender stereotypes.

“Society expects girls to be girlie, nice and pretty and boys to be manly, rough and outgoing,” says Jenny Johnsson, a 31-year-old teacher.

“Egalia gives them a fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be.”

The taxpayer-funded preschool which opened last year in the liberal Sodermalm district of Stockholm for kids aged one to six is among the most radical examples of Sweden’s efforts to engineer equality between the sexes from childhood onward.

Breaking down gender roles is a core mission in the national curriculum for preschools, underpinned by the theory that even in highly egalitarian-minded Sweden, society gives boys an unfair edge.

Whether we like or not, boys and girls are different.  Most think differently, act differently and have different interests.  This is not a bad thing.  Sure, enforcing stereotypes is not fair, but neither is pretending that differences do not exist.  By limiting the scope for boys to act like boys and girls to act like girls, they are actually preventing the children from identifying themselves as a “girl” or “boy”, which is a natural instinct.

When a system decides to withold books and certain colours in response to a sterotype, what they end up doing is replacing one extreme with another.  If gender stereotpes are potentially harmful to children, so too is gender avoidance.  Both try to doiminate the child’s own sense of what is right for them.

Why can’t we stop playing games and simply support every child to be happy with who they are and respect themselves and others.  Education shouldn’t be about omitting labels or circumventing stereotypes, it should be about broadening perceptions, nurturing critical thinking and challenging false stereotypes.



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