The history of gendering in early education:

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People are more open to discussing gender differences and sexual topics now more than they have ever been.  Discussions about race, sexism, classism, and gendering have become common even among the United States youngest students. Theologists, psychologists, and other social scientists engineered today’s early childhood educational content to include sex stereotypes, sex differences, and gender identity as part of the discussion alongside reading, writing, and arithmetic in American schools. In 1974, Eleanor Maccoby and Carol Jacklin published The Psychology of Sex Differences. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Anna Coffey and Sara Delamont researched ways that teachers can minimize gendering in classrooms. Single-sex classrooms became a research reality compared to co-ed classrooms

Maccoby and Jacklin’s research focused on learning processes that are accomplished through imitation, praise, discouragement, socialization, past experiences, inherent capacity, motivation, interests, and other genetic and environmental factors. Early socialization was believed to directly shape a child’s gender identity. Sex-typical behavior theories expect girls to be better at repetitive tasks and memorizing whereas boys are expected to be less motivated to repeat task or memorize things.

Carol Gilligan who believes that women’s motivations and moral commitments are misunderstood wrote a book, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. She started a revolution by making women’s voices heard for the first time and by impacting the social science community and the academic world with the idea of a female personality. The book inspired new research, educational initiatives, and political debates. Women all over the world began to think of themselves differently.

Gilligan argued that education and educational institutions are constructed by men. Maccoby & Jacklin claim that physical differences of gender are obvious but the psychological differences are not. Karin Martin and Sara Delamont disagreed arguing that social forces gender the obvious human body and that the education system is a microcosm that reinforces gender roles that are similarly enforced in the macrocosm of society. Sex is used to separate bathrooms, and to organize assistance in classroom management. Martin claimed that sexual and reproductive bodily differences construct inequality between men and women.

Contemporary theorists believed that integrating feminist perspectives by creating co-ed classrooms and changing teacher’s gender perspectives that teachers could be held accountable for gender inequalities and that teachers could use the “‘privacy’ of classrooms as opportunity rather than risk to encourage feminized spaces, and use management strategies that foster democratic and social justice values. Teachers were instructed to construct an education where children are treated as individuals and not a gender stereotype.

Barbara Bianchi and Roger Bakeman wanted to redefine the aspects of a child’s life that were defined as being for one sex or the other. Their research shows that students who were taught by teachers who deconstructed gender displayed less sex-stereotyped behaviors and attitudes and that boy and girls interacted more, but that though the children adhered less to sex-stereotypes, the stereotypes appeared in the other social areas. They concluded that the children were influenced by a gendered world. Howard Cole and his colleagues produced contradictory findings. Cole found no conclusive evidence that children cared for in a daycare that adhered to a non-sexist child-rearing philosophy showed less culturally typical patterns of gender role behavior.

Margrét Ólafsdóttir’s motto was “Segregation is the method, integration is the goal”. She begin experimenting with the first single-sex classroom using the Hjalli Model in Iceland in 1989. She wrote, “Kids Are Both Girls and Boys in Iceland”. Girls were taught to be daring and make noise while boys were taught massage and ways to express caring. “Ólafsdóttir’s findings and theories were later to be used in the United States”. Rosemary Salomone’s decided that single-sex classrooms are legal and her critique of the research on single-sex classrooms is that they do not look at the issues of race, class, and culture, nor how they intersect and complicate gender. What she found is that “all-girl settings provide girls a certain comfort level that helps them develop self-confidence.

Today’s teachers are taught to treat children as individuals. Certification requires that student-teachers must work in at least one classroom that is diverse and that they obtain diversity education to recognize their own biases. Gender is grouped under the umbrella of diversity where race, class, and culture are interwoven with gender. One of the most important part of a child’s life happens during the early years of school. School is very influential in a person’s life. Our early education and the socialization that happens in childhood stays with us throughout our lives. Those early experiences form who people become as adults, so what are children learning in school? Given the non-gendering teacher base both co-ed and single-sex classrooms can work, but families are still concerned about what teachers teach in the “privacy “ of classrooms and what the present experiment will find.

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