Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Teaching Gender Roles and Sexual Identities

I know I've said this before, but this time I have a picture.

Forbidding teachers to bring sexual orientation and gender identity into their classrooms is a hopeless cause. Yes, even and especially when talking about K-3 or K-5.

Children's books are loaded with families, which is not surprising--families are a huge part of a child's world. However, every one of those books says something about how families are built. That's why conservatives had a small cow over a married pair of lesbian polar bears on Peppa Pig--because even though their sexual identities and gender roles are not discussed at any length, the mere fact that they exist in the show means that they might shape a child's idea of what is ordinary.

What's ordinary in traditional books? You've got series like the Little Critter books or Classic Clifford (we have not yet dipped into new, improved, tv-derived Clifford), where Mom stays home (usually in an apron) and Dad goes to work. There are more mysterious books like the Llama Llama books, where dad is not in evidence because Mom is the actual caregiver of the child. As a stay-at-home father, I appreciate the occasional book in which it's ordinary for the dad to be staying home, doing the laundry, making the meals, etc etc etc, but they're rare. For that matter, we get pretty excited when we find a book about twins. And you will never see the kind of excitement that you get when a little sees their own name in a book.

Because it's nice to look in a book and see your own life.

Children's literature tells them what is ordinary in a family all the time. It shows them what is ordinary in sexual orientation and gender identity all the time. 

I've made that argument often, but this week I was reminded that it's more than that. Here's a paper that the Board of Directors brought home from kindergarten.

"Bed" rhymes with "wed," as depicted by this nice couple. To be clear, I have no beef with this assignment at all. Do you think this assignment could get someone in trouble in Florida or other states where teaching sexual orientation and gender identity is illegal? Traditional gender identities and sexual orientations are still gender identities and sexual orientations, and we currently teach them all the time. 

Just keep this in mind for the next time somebody says, "But of course nobody thinks we should teach kindergartners about sexual orientation or gender identity."

1 comment:

  1. No, because of course the "correct" gender identities are fine! Slightly off topic, I thought these kind of exercises were not very useful when my son had exactly the same kind when he was in first grade almost 30 years ago, He was dyslectic, and maybe this would have helped him, but the teacher would say them really fast and he couldn't catch them and didn't always know what they were from the pictures. Though the ones I'm thinking of were more, which word starts or ends with the same letter? I remember one was "hedge", and he had no idea what that was. And in the pictures you show, he might think "friends" for wed, he wouldn't know the word "wed"; as far as the concept he might know "married" maybe wedding, maybe not; he probably wouldn't know "label"; is that a couch or a sofa?; hen or chicken?; mouth or lips? The teacher at one point was all happy because she said he was getting better at it, but he told me he couldn't tell from the sound, he had just gotten used to which letter he was supposed to pick because they used a lot of the same pictures. But he did not associate the letters with sounds. I think it might have been better for them to have no pictures and just circle the letter the word started with that he heard.