Gender Issues in our Elementary Schools
I am graduate student in elementary education, hence this post. 🙂 Currently, we are studying gender issued in our elementary schools. At the same time, I am also extensively studying about children’s literature. I made a connection: children’s literature is infused with predominantly male characters and interests. Where are the women in these stories? Well, they usually take on passive roles. If a story does happen to portray a female main character, she usually needs the help of a stronger male character to accomplish her goals. There is also a strew of stereotyping found in children’s literature. Although children are not aware of the effects, this is one of the first exposures for children to a sexist society! We start our children off at an early age with defined and separate roles for males and females. Our early childhood and elementary educators can counteract this continuing trend of gender stereotyping by selecting quality literature that portrays both male and female points of view, interests, and positive/strong male and female main characters that are never limited by their gender.
Not only should teachers avoid stereotyping in literature, but the classroom environment should also promote equality by allowing students to equally participate in various classroom roles. For example, allow both males and females to be class line leader or classroom cleaner. Additionally, portray both males and females in a variety of occupations. For example, show males as nurses and females as farmers. Encourage students to pursue their interests rather than limiting them because that interest is traditionally male or female. These are only a FEW solutions to gender issues in our classrooms.
I found an article that speaks to my argument. Here is a good quote from the article:
“Children’s books frequently portray girls as acted upon rather than active (Fox, 1993). Girls are represented as sweet, naive, conforming, and dependent, while boys are typically described as strong, adventurous, independent, and capable (Ernst, 1995; Jett-Simpso n & Masland, 1993). Boys tend to have roles as fighters, adventurers and rescuers, while girls in their passive role tend to be caretakers, mothers, princesses in need of rescuing, and characters that support the male figure (Temple, 1993). Often, girl characters achieve their goals because others help them, whereas boys do so because they demonstrate ingenuity and/or perseverance. If females are initially represented as active and assertive, they are often portrayed in a passive light toward the end of the story. Girl characters who retain their active qualities are clearly the exception (Rudman, 1995). Thus, studies indicate that not only are girls portrayed less often than boys in children’s books, but both genders are frequently presented in stereotypical terms as well.”