Gender neutral school calls students "penguins" instead of "boys & girls"

Girl with glassesPolitical correctness has once again been taken to an utterly ridiculous extreme. Apparently, superintendents within the Lincoln Public Schools system in Nebraska decided that using identifiers like "boys and girls" or "ladies and gentlemen" could be construed as offensive to kids grappling with gender identity disorder. As a result, these administrators urged teachers to avoid using these terms and, instead, opt for gender-less terms like "readers," "campers," and "purple penguins"--yes, penguins!--that they felt would be more "inclusive."

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These semantics changes were only one of the suggestions in a 12-step program devised by a group called Gender Spectrum so as to help teachers communicate with their charges more effectively, without alienating any of their pupils.

The group also suggested that, rather than using gender distinctions when lining students up, teachers should find other means to organize the children into groups--for instance, having one line for kids whose birthdays fell on days with even numbers and a separate line for kids whose birthdays fell on days with odd numbers. Can you imagine how long it would take to divide first and second graders still learning the concept of an odd or even number? Nightmare!

And the absurdities didn't end there. Teachers were prompted to chime in when overhearing discussions centered on gender--even if the conversing parties were using everyday terms like "boys" or "girls"--by asking questions like, "What makes you say that?" and then adding "I think of it a little differently." In other words, if a teacher overheard a student saying "Girls rule and boys drool," she'd have to chime in on the issue lest a boy become utterly offended. 

Obviously, when parents heard about these suggestions, they vocalized their frustrations, forcing Lincoln Public Schools Superintendent Steve Joel to make a statement explaining that these were not official school policies but merely helpful hints for educators. Hopefully, they didn't spend any money on this nonsense!

The very purpose of this little experiment is bewildering to me. Boys are boys and girls are girls. End of story. Kids are well aware of their gender from a very early age--heck, even as babies, they're exploring their bodies, and it's a totally natural part of their development. Now, if a child shows signs of gender dysphoria, I don't think the issue will disappear because he or she is now being called a "purple penguin." If, for instance, a boy really and truly thinks he belongs in a girl's body, he'll likely be displeased by the physical attributes of his gender--and referring to him as a "camper" won't change his growing awareness of his male genitalia. Cases of gender dysphoria will not be resolved via semantics.

Now, perhaps teachers can try not to perpetuate age-old gender stereotypes--the notion that all girls love pink and want to be princesses, for instance--but that does not mean they should act like kids are somehow genderless Teletubbies! 

Image via Corbis

Topics: children  education  gender  gender inclusion  teacher