Every now and again a story comes along that sums up a whole idea perfectly. Yesterday I saw a story of a teacher and her girls-only Lego club. From the local paper that profiled her teaching inspiration:
In Karen Keller’s kindergarten classroom, boys can’t play with Legos.
They can have their pick of Tinkertoys and marble tracks, but the colorful bricks are “girls only.”
“I always tell the boys, ‘You’re going to have a turn’ — and I’m like, ‘Yeah, when hell freezes over’ in my head,” she said. “I tell them, ‘You’ll have a turn’ because I don’t want them to feel bad.”
We could stop here. This is bad enough. Not only is she withholding from boys a creativity and learning tool that they are interested in, but also she’s boldly lying to them, ostensibly to spare their feelings.
Boys aren’t dumb. They will notice that she says they will get a turn when they never do. They will also notice that she disregards their disappointment. Boys treated this way will quickly learn not to trust her and to resent their girl peers.
We hear a lot about teaching boys to respect women. This is a textbook case study in how not to do that. From Keller they learn that women lie and girls get special privileges.
But Keller’s method doesn’t just damage the boys in her care. It hurts the girls, too.
Keller’s refusal to let the boys play with Legos teaches the girls that it is acceptable to achieve at boys’ expense and that in order to achieve, they have to be protected from the competition of boys. If the teacher didn’t keep the boys at bay, then the girls wouldn’t be able to play with the toys as well as the teacher expected. This is how the Confidence Gap, that “startling” lack of confidence in their own abilities that girls show by their pre-teens, starts. Just as the boys notice the teacher has no intention of fair play, the girls notice that the teacher has to restrain the boys in order for the girls to succeed the way the teacher expects. As a practical matter it makes the girls resent the boys almost as much as it teaches the boys to resent the girls.
But it gets worse. It insults girls’ instinctual interests. On the whole, they prefer to play with the dolls. That is what annoyed Keller in the first place. Every good modern woman knows that girls can “do more” than caring for others. That’s sh*t work that we pay dark skinned women to do. Keller is teaching the girls that their natural interests are not acceptable. If they want to be worth something, if they want to be something, then they have to do the stuff the boys do. That’s the standard, the boy way.
And, finally, Keller is sowing the discord of the Mommy Wars. Those incessant battles about how-to-mom—this sort of nonsense is why we have them. I wrote a piece last summer about how to end the Mommy Wars, allowing girls to think about motherhood was the main recommendation. The reason:
We aren’t supposed to think of motherhood until we have deemed ourselves ready, found a source of sperm, and then seen the double blue line. Even then, we are supposed to focus on our pregnant bodies first, while avoiding any negative facts or stories. Negative energy is not healthy and pregnancy is supposed to be a blissful time of blooming and life.
Thus, it is often when we find ourselves with an unexpectedly fascinating and helpless newborn in our arms, healing cesarean scars or vaginal tears, and bleeding nipples that our meticulous positive pregnancy planning first encounters unyielding reality. We have no idea what to do next.
We reach for books because studying hard is supposed to get us through everything else…Alone with our piles of expert reading material and the sinking feeling that we won’t know if we are doing well for years, we look for the next best, or really the next available thing: what are the other mommies doing? Not what they are saying, mind. That doesn’t matter much as moms train each other to cushion everything they say with an admission that her choice is particular to her details. Therefore, to assure ourselves that we are doing the right thing, we want to see other moms doing what we are doing. This is motherhood-by-majority-rule, and that is how mothers vote.
So this little teaching method of Keller’s, it hampers boys’ education, fosters resentment that men have for women, undermines women’s confidence in career and at home, and perpetuates the assumptions about physical labor as unworthy.
We want to know why the Sex Wars continue, why the Mommy Wars wage, and why men go “on strike”? Because nonsense like this is taught in our elementary schools, and the powers that be are so convinced that it’s all right, that they don’t even bother to hide it.