Monday, August 14, 2006

Michelle Selden Rocks!

And who is this Rockin' Michelle Selden, you may ask? Well, she's an 8th grader who lives in Livingston Parish, Louisiana. Why does she rock, you may ask? Because when faced with the somewhat insane policy of segregating boys and girls in her school district, because of how our brains work differently, she stood up and said, "Uh, Hello?" She got the ACLU involved, and they sued the school district on her behalf. From Salon's Broadsheet:
The school board made its initial decision based on impressively retro theories of girl- and boyhood. Among the sources defendants cited in the proceedings was Dr. Leonard Sax's "Why Gender Matters," which argues for the biological need for boys to practice "pursuing and killing prey," and girls to "practice taking care of babies." Sax stops short of calling for an end to all scholarly pursuits and a reversion to hunter-gatherer days, but he does suggest that these biological predilections should dictate playground behavior: Boys should be allowed to roughhouse; girls should not.
Also from Salon's Broadsheet, here is a quote from the letter that Miss (perhaps Ms.?) Selden wrote to the school board in her lawsuit:
"I just became certified as a scuba diver. I am a firefighter cadet, which is a junior volunteer firefighter. I have a purple belt in Shaolin Kung Fu. I don't know whether most girls would be interested in these things or not. I have done these things because I wanted to, whether or not the 'average girl' would want to."

I do understand that men's brains and women's brains are wired differently. Ted is reading this book about women's brains, which he found out about here, that goes into a lot of detail...not so much pointing out the differences between men and women, but just talking about how women's brains work specifically.

What is dangerous, however, is to assume that the way to teach children is to exaggerate these differences, to teach boys that caring for children is for women, and to teach girls that to be athletic is for men. Check out the lawsuit, if you're's pretty amazing stuff. One thing that struck me was not only that the program was so sweeping in its assumptions about boys and girls, about how they should be pigeonholed into these stereotypes, but that it was to be a district wide decision, meaning that if parents didn't like the program, they really didn't have anywhere else to go. Parents and students were not included in the making of this asinine decision, either.

When we decide that all girls need to be happy homemakers, and that their primary skill and interest is to care for children...that boys don't really like to read, and if your son DOES like to read, he needs to spend more time outdoors with 'normal' boys until he recovers...that girls couldn't possibly be interested in things like sports and science....that boys couldn't possibly be interested in caring for children, teaching, cooking, or other "female" pursuits, we are selling ourselves incredibly short, and setting ourselves up for a lot of depressed, unhappy children, both boys and girls. Depressed, unhappy adults, both men and women. It seems to be that our society has come too far in these last few decades, and we can't give it up under the ill conceived guise of serving our children's biology...

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