A Bainbridge Island, Washington kindergarten teacher decided to do away with what she saw as gender inequity by letting only the girls in her class play with Legos.
Karen Keller has been trying to get the girls in her class more interested in math and science, but noticed that during the 30-minute free choice time at the end of the day only boys were playing with Legos. Keller banned the boys from the Lego bin so the girls would not be intimidated, writes Dan Springer for Fox News.
“I always tell the boys, ‘you’re going to have a turn- and I’m like, ‘yeah, when hell freezes over’ in my head. I tell them, ‘You’ll have a turn’ because I don’t want them to feel bad.”
Keller was aware of research that showed that having open-ended “trial and error” playtime with building materials is beneficial to kids. She felt that girls would miss out on developing necessary spatial and math skills if she did not intervene.
When the Bainbridge Schools Foundation, a parent-led school support group, heard about Keller’s mission, they gave her a grant to purchase several new sets of Legos. The grant’s title was “Deconstructing Gender Play in the Kindergarten Classroom.”
But KIRO Radio host Dori Monson criticized Keller’s idea as discriminating against boys:
“Why do we have to tear down boys to elevate girls?” Monson, who is the father of three girls said, “If girls want to play with dolls and boys want to play with Legos, why do we have adults in the public schools who feel like they have to make a social statement about gender equity?”
Galen Crawford, Bainbridge Island School District’s spokeswoman, responded to the controversy by explaining the boy’s Lego ban was an “isolated, short-term practice.” She said all students have access to all instruction and non-instructional materials. She added that the district did not discriminate.
Ashe Schow of the Washington Examiner comments that Keller should have done more research, because in the past ten years, girls have been playing catch-up with the boys in math and science and have moved ahead in many other areas.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) revealed that boys are 50% more apt to fail at reaching basic proficiency in math, reading, and science than girls. Boys rank behind girls in literacy skills as well.
Boys outrank girls in math to about the equivalent of approximately three months of learning, but they are close to being the same as girls in science and are a year behind girls in reading.
Recently, the difference in performance between young men and young women has been blamed on the fact that boys spend less time on their homework and reading books than girls. But another reason, according to Schow, is because teachers like Keller promote girls and hold back boys.
The OECD found that girls have better teacher assessments, while, on tests that are anonymous, boys do much better.
CBS Seattle reports that Keller attempted to lure girls to the Lego station by using pink and purple Legos, but the move was not successful. Then she added the “girls only Lego Club” to promote it even more rigorously.
Keller was the recipient of a barrage of hate-filled phone calls and Facebook messages after her actions went public. But she continues to believe that one of the reasons for the dearth of female STEM role models is because women are brought up in our culture to accept gender stereotypes from a very early age.
Due to an influx of inquiries, Keller’s name is no longer on Captain Johnston Blakely Elementary’s staff website, according to Elyse Wanshel, writing for The Huffington Post.