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“Strip away the fear, underneath is all the same love”

January 27, 2014

On the heels of the 2014 Grammys, where Macklemore and Ryan Lewis made an incredible statement worldwide by marrying 33 couples during their performance of “Same Love” and Queen Latifah beginning the performance by stating, “Whatever God you believe in, we come from the same one. Strip away the fear, underneath is all the same love,” I reflect on my experiences in early childhood/elementary settings with my students.

Why do we teach gender stereotypes? Where is the line for teachers to instill a quality of questioning the “norm”?

Over the last few years there have been multiple posts, videos, and research articles that have stated kids don’t care, it’s the generations before that care. Care about what? Care about who you love. Why must we instill in our children that boys like girls and girls like boys? Why must we instill in our children that boys like trucks, getting dirty, and sports? Why must we instill in our children that girls like to paint their nails, wear dresses, and play with dolls? Like many other ideas in our society gender socialization is an old way of thinking that is still infiltrating into our society, but kids just don’t care.

In my first year of teaching I had a little boy who was being raised by his working mom and a stepdad, who was very involved. This little boy was four years old and everyday he would walk into my room, take off his shoes, and put on a dress and heels from the drama area. From that point on the other teachers in the room and I knew that he would now be referred to as “Sasha” and not his given name. Now some people reading this may cringe at that scenario. However, I would ask you what is the difference between that and the same little boy putting on a Spiderman costume and the teachers referring to him as Spiderman the rest of the day? Nothing is different, other that our preconceived notion of what boys “should do” and what they “shouldn’t do.” In the case stated above the mother and step-dad were accepting, they did not demand he take off the clothing, they valued his choice of expression. In this same classroom though, I had a dad who would be irate if he walked in and his son was even IN the housekeeping area, because “that is not where boys belong.” So, I ask you, how do teachers let children express themselves, experiment in the safety of a classroom, and understand their place in a community if their self-esteem is squelched every time? In 50 years (or even sooner), people will look back at how we “make” kids conform to society’s idea of what they “should be” and just shake their heads, as they do about interracial marriages today.

It should not matter if a boy walks into your classroom with pink fingernail polish on. It should not matter if a girl walks in with a football jersey on. Our job as teachers is to teach our students to question and reflect. We are to teach students to question why they “should” and reflect on why they don’t.

I pray that one-day my children and students will be in a country and society where it doesn’t matter who is marrying whom, but rather that people are loved and nurtured in a reciprocal caring relationship.

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