Kindergarten. A place where you learn how to get along with others. Where the most fundamental concepts of math are introduced. And apparently where you learn that men are the dominant and most important gender.
Exhibit A. Take a look at this project done by a Kindergarten girl who happens to be my younger sister, Addison. While visiting her school during open house and ooh-ing and awing over the awesome work she has done throughout the year, there was one thing that caused me to stop and question what she has been learning.
While going through the books that she “published”, I was alarmed to find that a page devoted the author was tailored to only the boys in the classroom (despite there being an almost 50/50 split between boys and girls). When I asked Addison why there were only he/him and no she/her, she was confused because she didn’t know any differently.
You might be like my dad who saw this and think nothing of it. Or you could be like my mom and I who saw this and instantly began to fume. It’s simple instances like these that speak volumes. The teacher (a woman) chose to use the male gender as the default. No He/She circle for which one applies. No fill in the blank. Nope. Just him/he with the expectation that the girls will just add in their correct pronouns. Her reasoning? It’s too confusing for the kids. But don’t you think teaching these kids that men are more important than women is confusing as well? Not to mention more damaging.
It’s frustrating that this is the type of example that is being set in kindergarten of all places. When kids enter school, they’re sponges. Eager to learn. Excited to see the world from a new perspective. But the fact that these simple and fixable errors of inequality are happening reverses many of the efforts that are in motion today in regard to gender equality. Education is the single most important aspect of change, and to think that we are teaching our future this incorrect and biased information is heartbreaking and absolutely aggravating.
I’m not suggesting that the teacher make all of the pages female dominant, therefore making the boys aware of what it feels like to have to work to be called the correct gender for themselves (even though it would be interesting to see if the kids notice a change). Rather, why can’t a little bit of extra effort be put in to accommodate both genders? One of the issues with trying to reverse the gender norms that are in place is that they are ingrained into our ways of thinking. That’s why we have so much hope for these future generations of leaders. Heros. Change makers. But we aren’t going to get anywhere if teachers are still favoring the boys.
So please, if you’re a teacher, parent or someone who knows either one of those people, call this to their attention. Make it be an important issue. Because it is. Some people just don’t realize it yet.
Reader submission by Liesey Burns