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How We Learn to Be "Girls"

How We Learn to Be "Girls"

Remember lining up in separate girl and boy lines in grade school? Or hearing the teacher say "Good morning, boys and girls"? These simple habits, which call attention to gender, are responsible for passing on narrow gender roles to children.

A study compared two types of classrooms: one in which the teacher never mentioned gender, using terms like "children" or "friends," and one in which the teacher called attention to gender. In the classrooms where teachers used gendered language, children were less likely to play with kids of the other gender and more likely to subscribe to stereotypes (such as only girls should play with dolls, and only boys can become firefighters), even though the teachers never mentioned such "rules" or had children compare themselves.

The developmental psychologist behind the study points out that we would never say "good morning black children and white children" and claims that segregating children by gender is as damaging as separating them based on race — so, no all-girls schools? The stereotypes can impact how kids judge what they're good at and what they want to do when they grow up.

While I think it's important for teachers to make sure that boys and girls interact with each other and know that their life choices won't be limited by their genders, do you think teachers should stop mentioning gender altogether?

Image Source: Thinkstock
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