‘My Little Pony’ bag is ‘bullying trigger’

Grayson Bruce, 9, can’t take his My Little Pony lunch bag to school because school officials say it’s a “trigger for bullying.”

Bullies who think My Little Pony is for girls are “punching me, pushing me down, calling me horrible names, stuff that really shouldn’t happen,” the North Carolina boy told WLOS-TV.

Buncombe County Schools gave WLOS a statement that said: “An initial step was taken to immediately address a situation that had created a disruption in the classroom.  Buncombe County Schools takes bullying very seriously, and we will continue to take steps to resolve this issue.”

Easy-Bake for all

Hasbro will meet with a 13-year-old New Jersey girl who wants a gender-neutral Easy-Bake oven suitable for her little brother.

McKenna Pope complained the oven  is only available in “girlie purple and pink colors,” she wrote in a petition on Change.org.

My husband asked for an Easy-Bake oven for Christmas more than 50 years ago. He didn’t care about the color. He just figured he could eat more cupcakes if he made them himself, instead of having to wait for his mother to bake.  Later he honed his cooking skills by working in a pizza place.

Gender scrambling is in, writes Hanna Rosin.

. . . Mattel unveiled the Mega Bloks Barbie line, which encourages girls to do what their brothers used to do to annoy them: take apart and rebuild the Barbie house. Lego’s surprise hit this season is a construction kit called “Friends” aimed at girls. Yes, it’s pastel colors, and the characters—Mia, Olivia, and Stephanie—are much curvier than your usual Lego figures. But their logos, printed on the boxes and online, are practical-minded construction type phrases such as: like, “Let’s get to work,” or “Let’s figure it out.”

Costco, meanwhile, is selling a “Police and Fire Playset” that looks remarkably like a dollhouse, with kitchens, bathrooms and loungy sofas and chairs, all in primary colors.

Other popular dollhouses this season stress “female independence,” writes anthropologist Lisa Wade. Instead of a “heteronormative” husband, wife, and children, kids can play with several Barbies and one Ken.

And we all know Ken is gay.

Swedish preschool bans ‘him’ and ‘her’

At a government-funded preschool in Stockholm, teachers avoid “him” and “her”, reports the New York Times. There are no “boys” and “girls,” only “friends.”

Masculine and feminine references are taboo, often replaced by the pronoun “hen,” an artificial and genderless word that most Swedes avoid but is popular in some gay and feminist circles.

In the little library, with its throw pillows where children sit to be read to, there are few classic fairy tales, like “Cinderella” or “Snow White,” with their heavy male and female stereotypes, but there are many stories that deal with single parents, adopted children or same-sex couples.

Girls are not urged to play with toy kitchens, and wooden or Lego blocks are not considered toys for boys. And when boys hurt themselves, teachers are taught to give them every bit as much comforting as they would girls. Everyone gets to play with dolls; most are anatomically correct, and some are also black.

Blurring gender lines will “theoretically, cement opportunities for both women and men,” Swedes believe. Or there could be some confused “friends” in the future.

Who killed the liberal arts?

    Who Killed the Liberal Arts?  Joseph Epstein blames his fellow professors in a Weekly Standard essay.

    (Professors) in their hunger for relevance and their penchant for self-indulgence, began teaching books for reasons external to their intrinsic beauty or importance, and attempted to explain history before discovering what actually happened. They politicized psychology and sociology, and allowed African-American studies an even higher standing than Greek and Roman classics. They decided that the multicultural was of greater import than Western culture. They put popular culture on the same intellectual footing as high culture (Conrad or graphic novels, three hours credit either way). And, finally, they determined that race, gender, and social class were at the heart of all humanities and most social science subjects. With that finishing touch, the game was up for the liberal arts.

    Epstein became a liberal arts major because he didn’t think he could pass accounting.

    He’s responding to Andrew Delbanco’s College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be, which complains that most students enroll in college to earn job credentials, not to pursue an education.

    This cartoon says it all.

Science vs. single-sex classes

Science Doesn’t Support Single-Sex Classes, argue Rosalind Barnett and Caryl Rivers in Education Week.

The loud, hissing sound you hear may be the air coming out of the tires of a much-hyped vehicle for improving American public education: the single-sex classroom.

. . . A consensus is emerging among scientists that single-sex classrooms are not the answer to kids’ achievement issues. This fact appears to be true even for students of color, who are often seen as those most likely to be helped by sex-segregated classrooms.

In The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling, published in Science, eight psychologists and neuroscientists “found the rationale for setting up separate classrooms for boys and girls ‘deeply misguided’ and ‘often justified by weak, cherry-picked, or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence’,” Barnett and Rivers write.

Boys dominate AP physics, computer science

Most STEM fields are likely to remain predominantly male. Boys take more AP physics and computer science exams, while girls now dominate AP biology (59 percent), notes Curriculum Matters, who’s been reading the AP Report to the Nation. While Calculus AB exam-takers are evenly split, 59 percent of those who tackle the more advanced Calculus BC are male.

Males make up 58 percent of AP music theory exam-takers, 74 to 77 percent in physics and 80 to 86 percent in computer science.

Gender differences were minor for Chemistry, European History, Latin, Statistics and U.S. Government and Politics.

In The Big Bang Theory, three males are physicists (theoretical, experimental and astro) and one is an engineer, while the female scientists are biologists.


Schools try separate classes for boys, girls

More schools are dividing classes by gender, reports the Washington Post, looking at Imagine Southeast Public Charter School, a D.C. elementary school that separates boys and girls starting in first grade.

“I need the cleanup crew here,” shouts (Soheila) Ahmad, a 23-year-old first-time teacher, sweeping her arm around the central area of the class, where a few books lie scattered on the blue rug, and six blue beanbag chairs are arranged in a reading circle. Three boys hop to it, hoisting and heaving the beanbags into a pile against the far wall. A fourth boy collects the books and reshelves them. It is 10:30 a.m. and time for math.

“Let’s practice counting by 10s to 100,” Ahmad says.

The boys, standing behind their chairs, begin to chant, jumping in place as they say each number: “Ten, 20, 30, 40, … ” they sing, as their jumps and hops get bigger.

“Now let’s count by 2s to 100.”

The boys find their rhythm. Some do scissor jumps. Some do jumping jacks. One pounds his thighs. Another dances wildly, huffing out the numbers as a breathy backbeat. Yet another channels Michael Jackson, moonwalking backward, each sliding step punctuated by his counting. The decibels rise — a stampeding herd of elephants racing toward 100 — and the pace quickens. Ahmad doesn’t blink an eye.

She quizzes them for 15 minutes on their addition facts and divides them into their math groups: Persevering Penguins, Ferocious Foxes, Eager Eagles. The Penguins test each other with addition flashcards. The Foxes play math games on three computer terminals in the corner. The Eagles sit on the floor and have a math lesson with Ahmad. When it is time for the groups to trade places, Ahmad asks, “All set?”

“You bet!” the boys shout, swapping places in a raucous bustle.

Ginene Pointer’s first-grade girls sit quietly at their desks till their math group is called.

“Strawberry Shortcake House,” she says, as four girls stand quietly, push their chairs in and walk to the carpet, where they sit in tidy rows at her feet. “Unicorn House. SpongeBob House …”

When all the girls are seated, Pointer, 31, who has taught for nine years, gives three of them plastic baggies with their supplies: small white boards, construction paper and markers. The leaders distribute the materials and return to their spots on the floor, crossing their legs with military precision. The girls carefully arrange scraps of construction paper on one corner of their slates, sock erasers on their laps and markers in their hands. They are ready for the game.

“Six plus unknown partner equals 15?” Pointer asks.

The girls scribble furiously on their boards. A student named MaKayla raises her hand.

“Nine!” she says softly when the teacher calls on her.

“What?” Pointer asks. “Use your big girl voice, please.”

“Six plus nine equals 15,” MaKayla responds firmly.

“Yes,” Pointer says. “Let’s give her a round of applause.”

The girls clap.

“You go, girl! You go, girl!” one chants.

The boys are allowed to move around during lessons and teachers introduce competition through games. The atmosphere for girls is more relaxing, though they like games too.

Like students nationally, Imagine’s girls do better than the boys in reading and about the same in math.

According to the DC Benchmark Assessment System (DC BAS), which measures students’ progress annually in reading and math, 100 percent of Pointer’s girls scored “advanced” in reading, compared with 50 percent of Ahmad’s boys. Almost the same percentage of girls and boys scored “advanced” in math (40 percent and 38 percent, respectively), but 60 percent of the girls were “proficient” in math (the next step down from “advanced”), compared with 38 percent of the boys.

I’m not persuaded that single-sex classes are more effective. Once the boutique effect wears off, kids seem to do about the same. And the research on boys’ and girls’ brains is sketchy, as the story indicates. But it’s the sort of option that may work well for some students in some schools. If the parents want it, why not try it?

Maine rights panel backs down

Once eager to ban “biology-based” school restrooms, locker rooms and sports teams, the Maine Human Rights Commission has shelved guidelines that covered everything from preschool to college, reports Fox News.  The panel canceled a public hearing on how schools should accommodate transgender students and postponed indefinitely work on a “Sexual Orientation in Schools and Colleges” brochure.

Maine rights panel bans biology

“Biology-based restrooms, locker rooms and sports teams discriminate against transgendered students, says the Maine Human Rights Commission.

. . . Last year, the commission ruled that, under the Maine Human Rights Act, a school had discriminated against a 12-year-old transgender boy by denying him access to the girls’ bathroom.

The transgendered boy’s parents sued after the school told him to use the single-stall faculty restroom, rather than the girls’ room.

The  commission will issue guidelines for schools from preschools to universities, including “some private schools,” Fox reported.

A transgendered boy might feel uncomfortable in a boys’ bathroom or locker room. Wouldn’t a whole lot of girls feel uncomfortable encountering him in a girls’ restroom or locker room?

Coaches are worried about the effect on women’s sports if males can compete on women’s teams.

Boys and girls, living together… it'll be anarchy!

When I went off to college some 18 years past, I knew that the dorm hall was going to be co-ed.  I didn’t know that the bathroom would be.

This was quite a shock.

But I got used to it.  To this day I’m not sure if it is a good thing or a bad thing that I got used to it, but I did.  And people will get used to same-sex dorm rooms, too.

Although the number of participants remains small, gender-neutral housing has gained attention as the final step in the integration of student housing.

In the 1970s, many U.S. colleges moved from having only single-sex dormitories to providing coed residence halls, with male and female students typically housed on alternating floors or wings. Then came coed hallways and bathrooms, further shocking traditionalists. Now, some colleges allow undergraduates of opposite sexes to share a room.

Pitzer, which began its program in the fall of 2008, is among about 50 U.S. schools with the housing choice, according to Jeffrey Chang, who co-founded the National Student Genderblind Campaign in 2006 to encourage gender-mixed rooms. Participating schools include UC Riverside, UC Berkeley, Stanford, Cornell, Dartmouth, Sarah Lawrence, Haverford, Wesleyan and the University of Michigan.

Frankly, I think more choice is probably a good thing.  But more choice means more choice — I rather think that schools should be hesitant to do away with traditional sex-segregated halls.   To the extent that gender-neutral housing might become the new default and could actually be a move in what often seems to be a ceaseless argument for the absolute fungibility of the sexes, I think I would object.  But I’m not sure were anywhere near that point yet.