Gender Neutral Childhood Education

Egalia in Stockholm, Sweden

In Stockholm, Sweden, there is a new school called Egalia, which is a gender-neutral school for childhood education of children ages one through six. This is a taxpayer-funded preschool, which opened last year in the liberal Sodermalm district of Stockholm. At the present time, they have 33 kids enrolled called" friends," rather than boys or girls. They avoid all pronouns such as him, he, her, she or his. Their goal is to break down gender roles in the national curriculum for preschools as the egalitarian Swedes think society gives boys in unfair edge. There is a waiting list for children to get into this school and only one child has been removed because the parents were unhappy with the school.

Egalia School Playground

source Bostonglobe
source Bostonglobe

Women's Rights

Certainly women have fought for equal rights and equal pay since the mid-1800s in the United States. In 1920, the Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor was established in order to gather information and to lobby for legislation to protect women workers from abuse and unsafe conditions. This is the year that women finally earned the right to vote. Since that time women have continued to fight for more rights and equal pay for equal work. And in other areas of the world Muslim women are fighting for the right to drive cars, but the conflict has always been about equal rights, not to break down gender roles. Women have fought for the right to enroll in military academies and serve in active combat; to hold leadership roles in religious worship; to be free from sexual harassment and for affirmative action. These are just a few areas that have changed since the 1960s. Women have fought for these issues as women, not as gender-neutral people.

Egalia Toys

source The Week
source The Week

Egalia Philosophy on Teaching

In Egalia, they have planned every detail to make sure that children do not fall into gender stereotypes from the color and placement of the toys to their choice of books. They have also hired " gender pedagogues which is something like a dogmatic teacher who is there to help staff identify language and behavior that might reinforce stereotypes. This is one of the most radical examples of Sweden's efforts to engineer equality between the sexes. One of the teachers, Jenny Johansson, stated, "society expects girls to be girly, nice and pretty and boys to be manly, rough and outgoing."

The boys and girls play together with the toy kitchen and plastic utensils, which are placed strategically next to Lego blocks to make sure there is no mental barrier between cooking and construction. The children's books are primarily concerning homosexual couples, single parents or adopted children. There are no Cinderella type classic fairy tale books as they would be seen as cementing stereotypes. One of the staff explained how they try to help the children discover new ideas when they play. For instance, if they are playing house and the role of the mom is already taken and they start to squabble, then it is suggested that they could have two moms or three moms and so on.

Egalia Playground

All children wear the same vests. source the daily femme
All children wear the same vests. source the daily femme

More Opinions

The World Economic Form of 2010, reported on the gender gap and they found Sweden and three other Nordic countries lead the world when it comes to gender equality. Sweden is also considered a pioneer in legalizing gay and lesbian partnerships.

They are not the only ones that have this idea of gender-neutrality. Recently in the news, a Canadian couple drew international attention for their decision to try to raise a genderless baby by not telling anyone whether their child was a girl or boy. This child was named Storm. Small babies are usually raised in a fairly identical fashion and it would see the problems might start once the child is entering school.

Many Disagree

Most experts agree that exposing your preschooler to a variety of playmates and experiences will help them bloom into self-confident adults. Different gender roles don't seem to be problematic as long as they are valued equally. Gender neutrality would seem that toys for boys are valued more highly than those for girls. Some parents in Sweden do think things have gone too far, and they feel that obliterating gender roles will confuse their children making them ill-prepared to face the world outside of kindergarten. Some considerate it brainwashing. What happens when these children enroll in a normal first grade? Will they fit in and feel part of a group?

A child psychologist at the University of California, Jay Belsky, questions whether gender neutrality is the right way to go. He stated, “The kind of things that boys like to do-- run around and turn sticks into swords-- will soon be disapproved of, so gender-neutrality at its worst is emasculating maleness.”

Differences Between Boys and Girls

Gender-neutrality training would seem to be pushing the children toward being gay, or lesbian as nothing is taught about a normal relationship between a man and a woman. Apparently most of these children come from homes with lesbian, transgender or single parents. The fact is boys and girls are different physically and in the way that they learn. Even at the preschool age, girls have higher levels of the hormone oxytocin which encourages girls to love and care for their dolls, while boys see them more as inanimate objects to be thrown around. Verbal skills are developed earlier in most girls and while boys rely primarily on their visual cues, girls tend to use all their senses.

Summary

In conclusion, it appears that there is more risk of damage to a child's self-image and self esteem in the long term. It is social engineering to raise a child without a concept of their gender. The child quite possibility might end up confused as to their normal gender role. After all, someone who is inclined to be gay may know it at a fairly young age, but why would they need a neutral-gender school? I doubt gender neutrality schools are the answer to any child’s normal growth or school experience.

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Comments 37 comments

Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Interesting article but I tend to agree with Jay Belsky.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Susan, I do too. Thanks for your comment.


sheila b. profile image

sheila b. 5 years ago

So for these parents, their children are not he or she, but IT?


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Sheila, Apparently, at least until they are 7 and maybe by then the school will have more grades! I feel sorry for the children. Thanks for the comment.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina

Great, thought-provoking hub. You presented the information so clearly but the whole time I was reading it I felt sorry for the kids because it feels like they're part of an "experiment" that may forever interfere with their ability to experience themselves as the gender in which they were anatomically born into, and that they may also forever experience themselves as separate from the rest of society.

One wonders how they will adjust once they have to attend a regular school and live in the real world.

My personal philosophy is to celebrate and appreciate the uniqueness and individuality of each child and foster their natural abilities and interests.


cardelean profile image

cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

Very interesting hub. I saw on the news about the Canadian couple but was not aware of this school in Sweden. As a parent of two young children, my daughter is 4 and my son is 3, I can say that I try to allow them to explore a variety of things that are both boyish and girlish. My son the other night wore my daughter's pink pjs to bed and my daughter wanted to watch the construction crew working outside our house this morning.

I think that allowing children to explore a variety of interests and being ok with what they choose is key. By teaching them in a genderless environment is not realistic because we live in a gender driven society. By teaching children that there are differences in everyone, even within each gender, we are building a more compassionate world. Nice job.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 5 years ago from Jamaica

Hi Pamela, interesting article. I am not sure what I think yet, first time hearing about this type of school.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

HappyBoomerNurse, I agree with your personal philosophy. Thank you so much for your comments.

cardelean, I had 3 boys and they played with some toys that would be considered for girls at times and they turned out just fine. I didn't push them either. I appreciate your comments.

Cardisa, Thank you for your comment.


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

The Egalia gender-netural school is an intriguing idea but the children who attend may find it very difficult to 'fit in' with the rest of society when they get older.

Interesting but impractical concept in my opinion.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

drbj, Thanks so much for your comments.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America

I'd like to see the data for the experiences the kids will have after Egalia - in grades 1,2 and 3 in the future. I hope the kids are not gender-confused, but I really want to see the outcome with a number of these kids. What will be different? If it's bad, I hope Egalia stops its program.

I don't mind the gender-neutral education and think it's better than the torture we underwent - During school contests, from running a race to an art contest, whenever a girl won the teachers said, "Oh, but it doesn't count, since you're a girl." In the hospital for penumonia I was not allowed to have Legos because "Those are boy's toys" - and I hated the only othe roption, paper dolls, so just read a book. I've a dozen examples.

I like the neutral term "friend."


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Patty, I think young children play together and don't think too much about whether toys are meant for girls or boys. It sounds like you had people push you very much in one direction. I was a tomboy and I don't remember ever being told that wasn't okay. I liked climbing trees, etc.

I am interested in the outcome of this school also but I am concerned about the children as they get older and blend in with the rest of society. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and your comments.


mama_em profile image

mama_em 5 years ago

Very interesting, thanks for a great Hub. This one has me thinking!


SubRon7 profile image

SubRon7 5 years ago from eastern North Dakota

Back in the days of Russia's Peter the Great, the Russians fought and even "feared?" the--apparently warlike--Swedes. What on earth happened? Of course we know what happened during WWII. Somehow this school does not surprise me, but it absolutely is not the answer. That's my opinion. Thank you, Pamela99, for exposing it!


Tom Cornett profile image

Tom Cornett 5 years ago from Ohio

Looks like another shot at brainwashing children towards what some believe is perfection. We are all already perfectly unique. Why would any sane person attemt to change that?

Great and informative Hub! Thanks for writing and posting it. :)


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

mama em, I appreciate your comments.

SubRon, I have my doubts about the future for these children also, particularly if they would continue this type of training beyond 6 years of age. Thanks for your comments.

Tom, I agree each person is unique and I appreciate your comments.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, to start with I was nodding my head in agreement with the idea, but as I continued to read and realised that they hadn't even got heterosexual books there, I started to change my mind. and now I think it is a bad idea, those poor children will be so confused when they go to normal school, I think it will do more harm than good, genders are genders, you shouldn't manipulate them, I would like to know whether the children at that school still did act in the normal way of boys and girls though, fascinating, cheers nell


always exploring profile image

always exploring 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

Facinating that anyone would send a child to this school. When a child is born, he/she is either straight or gay, no amount of teaching will change that. Thank you for sharing.


Lau's Thoughts profile image

Lau's Thoughts 5 years ago from North Yorkshire, England

I agree with you Nell Rose - I was happy to read the promotion of equality in the school but, very disheartened to realise that it was, in fact, excluding a 'different' way of life. Heteronormativity and gender stereotypes may be considered damaging if aggressively promoted, however, the complete lack of exposure to gender and heterosexuality must create just another bias.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Nell, I think it will be interesting to see how these children will function in later years if that information is ever made available to us. Thank you for your comments.

always exploring, That is my thought also. It appears that the gay agenda is pushed which doesn't allow the children the options that are actually their stated goals. I agree with your statements and thank you for the comments.

Lau's thoughts, I reacted the same way as you and Nell when I first read this information. I appreciate your comments.


BobbiRant profile image

BobbiRant 5 years ago from New York

I guess I don't understand why teaching empathy, gender understanding and equality is not as good as gender neutrality. If parents taught those things then maybe both genders would have more respect.


rachelsholiday profile image

rachelsholiday 5 years ago

Because I'm going to school for Gender Studies I've had the opportunity to read a lot about a lot of the concepts you've written about here. One thing I wanted to point out before I launch into my thoughts is about the Canadia couple you mentioned. They are not trying to raise a "genderless" child, they're just trying to raise Storm to be comfortable with what he is, regardless of hir's sex.

I think that the school in Sweden is definitely taking this "genderless" idea to far. I think gender is a good thing to have in society, and it's specific gender roles that go to far. For example, boys playing with dolls is not okay. Or girls trying out for the football team is not okay. I think that children need to be raised with love and understanding in an environment that accepts them for who they are and helps them develop their talents.


Lau's Thoughts profile image

Lau's Thoughts 5 years ago from North Yorkshire, England

rachelsholiday - I agree! We live a world that exists in more than just binary terms :o)


Docmo profile image

Docmo 5 years ago from UK

Interesting Concept Pamela, but perhaps it is taking ' gender equality' too far. 'Neutering' a gender goes against our physical and mental make up biologically, instead it would be nice if they remove the stereotypes and make each boy and girl respect each other for their strengths. Equality is not about abolishing any distinction but instead valuing each others uniqueness and respecting the biological traits that make us what we are, and also learning from each other the traits normally associated with each gender.

A genderless world is a sad one. It is as if we are saying we can only respect each other if we become monochrome gray entities who think alike, look alike and behave alike- what a dangerous thought! We may as well have stayed as a single celled amoeba.

Fascinating hub, voted up!


rachelsholiday profile image

rachelsholiday 5 years ago

Docmo, I would agree that we need to appreciate everybody's uniqueness. However, I think that uniqueness is something that is specific to each personality. And personality is not necessarily defined by biology.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 5 years ago from UK

Agreed. that sentence wasn't intended to mean uniqueness is only down to biology but as you say it is also down to personality - which is down to nature, nurture, personal reflection and environment. However the biological uniqueness of gender is also undeniable and to be valued. The rich tapestry of life is what keeps us going. I totally agree with your previous comment about cliched gender stereotypes that stop children from trying various things. I always support my kids to not to worry but peer pressure is overwhelming. It makes me thing many mums and dads must condone gender stereo typing because where else do other kids get it from?!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Bobbi, I think most of the problems children have are due to not being taught basic understanding and acceptable behavior at home. Thanks for your comment.

Lau's thoughts, Thanks so much for your comment.

Docmo, I love the way you explained the importance of equality and respect. I agree with your comments. It is hard to raise children today and we need to treasure our children for who they are. Thanks so much for your comments.

Rachelsholiday. You made an important statement because uniqueness is specific to personality and not something we try to indoctrinate our children with when they are too young to understand. I appreciate and agree with your comments.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

Social engineering at its zaniest. The feminization of boys has damaged the West and may well spell its ultimate doom. The idea that there is no such thing as "normal" is crazy and stupid. Thank you for the excellent report. Well done!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

James, I agree and I appreciate your comments. I haven't seen you for a while and appreciate you stopping by.


Bethany Culpepper 5 years ago

What an interesting topic! I liked the idea of having two moms when role-playing - it doesn't have to be a political statement - just let the kids share the role. Although, I wouldn't mind having a little extra help at my house!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Bethany, A little extra help at home is always a good thing. Thanks so much for your comments.


Paul 4 years ago

Hi Pam, I found the article intriguing, but at the same time I don't find the school completely gender neutral. Such in the case of when the two are playing house and the conflict arose. By changing it into two mommies, that still set a gender identity. Like others who have posted, I tend to agree Jay Blesky and the emasculation of boys. but I would also like to follow the impact on these children not only into the early grade years but into high school and early adult hood.

very interestin indeed.

Matt


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Paul, It will be interesting to see how these children learn and react over the years. Thank you for your comment.


htodd profile image

htodd 4 years ago from United States

Great post...Thanks


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

htodd, Thanks for your comment.


Ruchi Urvashi profile image

Ruchi Urvashi 4 years ago from Singapore

Something new. I felt while growing up that women in poor and developing countries, face lot of bias and discrimination. The situation was so bad that I wanted to run away. As I became adult, I became financially independent and felt that when women stand on their own feet, things start to change. This article about neutral school gave me some spark as I felt that world is heading towards equality. Enjoyed reading and voted up.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Ruchi Urvashi, You may be right and so many work hard deserving respect with a good income. Thanks for your comments.

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