Looking at the shoulders of giants: This week I am drawing almost exclusively from other people's printed material, as I feel the proverbial wheel has already been created better than I could have re-imagined it. I have little extra to offer this topic other than a hearty "I CONCUR!"
I have long held beliefs similar to those offered by Mary Wollstonecraft in the late 18th century enlightenment period. Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), this notable feminist wrote in her preface;
my main argument is built on this simple principle, that if [woman] be not prepared by education to become the companion of man, she will stop the progress of knowledge and virtue; for truth must be common to all.Simply put, if you don't offer equal access, why would you expect anything that resembles equality? The imperative that Wollstonecraft presents us with is teach all the children so that they may fulfill their full potential, [regardless of gender.]
They tried to teach me a gender bias that rang hollow: When I was a kid I heard grown-ups (parents, teachers, employers) say things like "girls are good at language, and boys are good at math." When we asked our grade-school PE teacher, Mr. B., why girls played badminton while we played football, he said "boys and girls are different, and besides, you guys wouldn't want girls with muscles would you?" I knew immediately that I didn't care... I loved Mr. B., but felt bothered by his answer. It felt creepy. I didn't feel as close to him after that day (which is why the memory has stuck in my head all these years). Years later, when this sort of topic came up in my all-boy high school, I remember arguing that if girls were encouraged to play with legos or erector sets more, there might be more "mathy" girls out there. As a father of both a boy and a girl I can attest that boys are girls ARE different. But their capacity for intellectual understanding and interest is not split by gender. Their potential is in no way tied to their sex. Some of their toy interests somewhat align with social norms, but there are so many exceptions that designating girl-pink for her and fire-engine red for him seems rude and wrong! I am proud that both my children believe rightly that there is nothing they cannot achieve if they work for it. I love that their interests are all over the map despite what the world around them tells them is "normal".
The Heart of my post this week started with this comic: Web comic artist M. Patrinos of Seasonal Depression made this clever comic about the questionable marketing decisions LEGO has made to target girls with the "LEGO Friends" line. She simply said on her facebook page, "I love you Lego, but-"...
Reuniting 1981 with the present: I stumbled across an article reposted on social media, but originally appearing on a blog Women You Should Know. In it Lori Day explores this larger topic in part by speaking with the young girl who graces the Lego ad that appears at the top of my entry this week. I will not reprint the article here, but suggest you use the power of the inter webs to click the link and read it either now or after you finish my entry: The Little Girl from the 1981 LEGO Ad is All Grown Up, and She’s Got Something to Say. Lego seems to be trying to win a larger audience (who may have bought into certain gender stereotypes equating serving cakes to guests and pink everything) at the expense of maintaining a beautiful original stance on a gender-less creative toys for kids. To Quote a line from Lori Day's article, "Children haven't changed. We have." I cannot help but think there could be a more subtle way of mixing all sorts of bricks together so that children could creatively seek their own preferences. If color is the issue, why could you not have three bags of the stock bricks to pick the color of your submarine or spaceship walls? Creator legs already offer three sets of instructions for use with the same bricks. Why not three sets of some bricks for the same set of directions?
ALL is the critical word for me in education: The following instruction sheet from the early 70s reveals Lego's original stance on creative toys for all children. It is included in another blog entry, this one by Stephen Luntz on IFLScience!