The Effects of Gender Bias on Elementary School Children

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The Effects of Gender Bias on Elementary School Children

“It’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy!” is typically the first thing parents hear after the birth of a child. This simple statement of fact sets the groundwork for every interaction they will have with their daughter or son, and for every experience that child will have throughout her or his life. Gender identity—the private experience of being female or male—forms a core part of one’s sense of self (Welker). The nature of this private experience is enormously influenced by what we are taught it means to be a girl or a boy, and these lessons are typically fraught with instances of gender bias—what Beverly Stitt, author of Building Gender Fairness in Schools, defines as “a set of beliefs or attitudes that indicates a primary view or set of expectations about peoples’ abilities and interests according to their sex” (Stitt 3). We are educated in this way first by our family members and then, beginning at a very tender age, by the mass media.

By the time children enter kindergarten, they have assimilated the transmitted sex stereotypes and accept gender discrimination as the norm. The school often encourages this accommodation by exposing the child for thirteen years to a “hidden curriculum” of gender inequality, imparted by instructors who do little to alleviate its effects. The result is that generation after generation of women are prohibited from reaching their full potential as individuals and as members of society. In this nation, education was once regarded as the great equalizer that made the circumstances of one’s birth irrelevant to one’s ability to prosper. Beginning in the primary school, we must teach and practice sexual equality.

As Andrew Windass,...

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...eing Harmed by Sesame Street?” Anderson 50-53.

DeCrow, K. “Look, Jane, Look! See Dick Run and Jump! Admire Him!” Anderson 44-49.

Dixon, Kathleen. Personal interview. 1 March 1991.

The Pinks and the Blues, a videotape shown in HDE 30 on November 8, 1988.

Rose, J. “A Parent’s Voice.” Skelton 11-21.

Short, G. & Carrington, B. “Discourse on Gender: The Perceptions of Children Aged Between Six and Eleven.” Skelton 22-37.

Skelton, C., ed. Whatever Happens to Little Women? Gender and Primary Schooling. Philadelphia: Open University Press, 1989.

Stitt, B. Building Gender Fairness in Schools. Edwardsville, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1988.

Stockman, K. Lecture. 8 Nov. 1988.

Trexler, T. Personal interview. 4 March 1991.

Welker, J. Lecture. 30 Nov. 1989.

Windass, A. “Classroom Practices and Organization.” Skelton 38-50.

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