The topic of gender gaps in work, home, leadership positions, and areas such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) continues to be debated in politics and the media. Debates rage about nature vs. nurture, social expectations and stereotypes, and much more. But have we looked at a potential underlying contributing source: the lack of education in our schools explicitly and factually teaching gender equity as law and norm.
Here are seven reasons why (and maybe how) gender education should be taught in our schools.
1. The fact that equality — not sameness — for all is the law as well as the founding value of our country.
2. There is a responsibility for educators to offer better exposure for — and clear, direct teaching of — the relevance, importance, and new norms for gender equality.
3. Many immigrant and minority families may not share religious, cultural, or social norms with broader American society, especially regarding male and female roles and gender equality.
4. It is the duty of public educational institutions to expose, explain, and impart a working understanding of historic and current customs, norms, general laws, social standards, and cultural trends of the United States to students. Educators cannot, out of a respect for minority or immigrant cultures, simply ignore and not teach minority or immigrant students the current standards, norms, and legal and societal expectations regarding something like gender equality in American society.
5. American society impacts males and females differently, but possibly more so within many minority and immigrant communities. Laurie Olsen, in her book, Made in America: Immigrant Students in Our Public Schools, found that female immigrant students faced different and often more difficult situations than males, in part due to American culture’s focus on individual desires and romantic love as bases for marriage and relationships.
6. Gender equality is not only an aspect of American culture and society, but has becoming increasingly accepted as an integral part of modern industrialized culture and societies around the world. It is important to teach that gender equality is not simply an American cultural construct, because many minority and immigrant families hold dominant American culture as deficit in morals and values they hold in esteem.
7. Gender equality can be pursued while accommodating and/or respecting many traditional gender roles and values. Helping students to understand that gender equality and norms continue to evolve and that there is a certain continuum — even as modern ideals are pursued — may allow such pursuit of ideals while not calling for wholesale or immediate rejection of traditional or alternative roles, norms, and gender values.
This understanding will better position immigrants and minorities for success in American society, and help all students to embrace our age old value of equality for all, while still respecting each of our family’s cultures and values.