Category Archives: 1.1 Social Justice

‘No More Boys and Girls’ – A Lesson on Gender Stereotyping

If you were asked to buy clothes for a child, it’s hard to break away from the instinct to associate the colours blue for a boy and pink for a girl. Similarly, when asked to picture a toy that would appeal more towards a boy or a girl, I know that, in my case, I would initially picture a doll for a girl and lego for a boy. This subconscious instinct to categorise what we believe to be socially acceptable or appropriate for children of both biological sexes is what is defined as ‘Gender Stereotyping’; a term used to describe the preconceived ideas whereby males and females are arbitrarily assigned characteristics and roles determined and limited by their gender. After watching the BBC Documentary ‘No More Boys and Girls’, I’ve learnt just how vastly gender stereotyping effects aspects of everyday life, let alone within schools.

So is the way we treat boys and girls the real reason as to why we are yet to achieve gender equality? Throughout his documentary, Dr Javid Abdelmoneim set out to find the answer to this question by carrying out a series of tests and interventions with children at their most influential age; a class of seven-year-old primary pupils. When asked to describe a boy, some of the responses given by pupils included ‘boys are strong’, ‘boys are smart’ and ‘boys don’t cry’. In comparison, when asked to describe a girl, the majority of the responses given revolved around ‘being pretty’ and ‘wearing makeup’. In addition, after running various tests, Dr Javid found that girls were significantly less self-confident and boys found it harder to express their emotions. Furthermore, when given the task to solve a Tangram puzzle, Dr Javid found that boys had a greater spacial awareness and ability to piece together puzzles and shapes than girls. This is most likely a result of the experiences children have in childhood, the toys they play with, and the world they inhabit, thus shaping the abilities they adapt, as well as physically changing the structure of their brains.

With the aim of addressing these issues, one of the first interventions Dr Javid put into place was setting the children the task of displaying a series of paired quotes around the classroom. Some of these quotes, to name a few, included; ‘boys and girls are strong’, ‘boys and girls are smart’, and ‘boys and girls are sensitive’. By doing so, this was the first step in educating the children that, what boys can do, girls can do too, and vice versa. To further implement this, when asked to draw what they pictured to be a mechanic and a dancer, the majority of the children drew the mechanic as male and the dancer as female. However, when inviting a male dancer and female mechanic into the classroom, this further combated the pupils’ beliefs of what is seen as a ‘man’ a ‘woman’s job’. Furthermore, when observing behaviour in the classroom, Dr Javid picked up on the ways in which the teacher would address the class; calling the girls ‘love’ and the boys ‘mate’. Although seemingly harmless, this was a way in which children were being treated and regarded differently. To avoid this, a chart was created whereby a mark would be made for each time these nicknames would be mentioned. By removing nicknames associated with each of the sexes, this further implemented that both boys and girls should be treated and regarded as equals.

At the start of term, the difference in self confidence levels between girls and boys stood at 8%. At the end of term, this percentage dropped down to only 0.2% as a result of the various interventions put into place. Additionally, the boys’ pro-social behaviour increased by 10%, their observed bad behaviour decreased by 57%, and their ability to identify emotions had improved greatly. Along with this, over the term, girls’ self motivation increased by 12% and, after two weeks of practice, the top 10 pupils at Tangram puzzles were 5 boys and 5 girls.

From these results, it is clear that, by implementing gender equality to children of such an influential age, children are already able to dismiss the stereotypical ideologies and ‘differences’ that have existed for generations and acknowledge each other as equals in only a short space of time. By removing gender stereotyping, you are left with more confident, happy children that recognise their similarities with others, as well as their own abilities, enabling them to reach their full potential.


Sociological Perspectives on Racism and Sexism

Racism and sexism are two of the many issues that unfortunately continue to remain prevalent in today’s society. As part of our ‘Values: Self, Society and the Professions’ module, we were given a lecture on racism and sexism throughout history and how these issues from the past still remain prevalent to this day. It was interesting and thought-provoking to learn about various events in history motivated by these issues that took place within our own country, some of which for the very first time.

One of the stories we were told of that I had never heard before was that of Emmett Till, a young boy who’s life was taken at the hands of a racially motivated crime. When reflecting on this particular story, for a child so young to endure such a horrible act over the colour of their skin breaks my heart. Furthermore, it hurts to think that the children of this generation will continue to grow in a society in which racism continues to be present.

Sexism and patriarchy were other issues that were discussed in the lecture. When looking back on the Women’s Suffrage movement, a topic that I had previously learnt about during my time at school, it shocked me to see that, regardless of the tireless campaigning put in with the aim of achieving equal voting rights for women, sexism and patriarchy continue to be issues that are still prevalent in this modern day and age. The gender pay gap, for example, is an issue that remains at large, whereby women are working lower paid jobs and/or working less hours compared to men.

It shocks me that, in a world advancing with technology for example, racism and sexism are issues that are still holding us back in the past and are preventing us from progressing on-wards. As a future primary school teacher, from this lecture, I left with my belief strengthened that the classroom should be a happy and safe environment for each and every child, free of racism, sexism, and prejudice.

Equality in Education

Equality is a value that has a profound effect upon the opportunities each of us are granted in various aspects of life. Within education, equality has a significant impact on the ways in which children feel accepted and included in school and, as a result, has a major effect on each and every child’s learning and education. From recently participating in the first seminar of the course, I realised just how important equality is within education and the impact it has on the well-being of each child.

For the first part of the seminar, having been split into four groups of around six members, each group was handed an envelope, in which we were then instructed to use the materials inside to think of an object that would be useful for a first year student. The materials my group were given were various coloured sheets of paper, scissors, glue, paper-clips, pens and more. Having been given more than enough materials to choose from but only a limited amount of time, our group came to the decision to create a ‘Map Book’. When presenting our idea to the remaining groups, our seminar advisor, Paul Cowie, seemed intrigued and enthusiastic with our idea through his use of eye contact, body language and praise given at the end of our presentation. As a result of the positive feedback, our group were left feeling good about our idea.

In contrast, we noticed that some of the other groups were only given a limited amount of materials to use from when creating their ideas. Despite creating and presenting interesting and practical ideas from only a handful of resources, these groups were made to feel discouraged about their ideas from the negative feedback given from our advisor, as well as his lack of interest shown through little enthusiasm and engagement with their presentation. After presenting our ideas, we were then asked as a whole how our overall experience creating and presenting our ideas went. On the one hand, my group and one other found the experience to be positive as a result of the level of praise and enthusiasm we received. From the number of materials we were given, we also found creating an idea to be a relatively easy and straightforward task. On the other hand, when asked about their experience, the other two groups found the experience to be demoralising and discouraging as a result of the lack of interest and enthusiasm shown for their ideas throughout the exercise. Little did we know that the whole meaning of the exercise was to reflect on the wider issue of equality in the education system.

From this seminar, I learnt that it is important to recognise and acknowledge that all children come from a number of different backgrounds and that not all schools will necessarily have the funding for the variety of supplies more affluent schools may have. When treated differently from others, children begin to feel discouraged and disheartened or even frustrated and aggressive, resulting in their confidence and self-esteem to diminish. As a result, this leaves a negative effect on their overall mental well-being. Therefore, regardless of background and affluence, I believe that equality is a value that should be prevalent in the heart of teaching. If each child in a classroom of children is treated with equality, each child will be made to feel involved and included, rather than discouraged and isolated.


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Teacher, Lorraine Lapthorne conducts her class in the Grade Two room at the Drouin State School, Drouin, Victoria

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