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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Gender lessons: Boy parts, girl parts

While some states restrict sex education in the early grades, elsewhere teachers are “embracing” new resources and lessons about

gender identity, reports Laura Meckler in the Washington Post.

“Seven states now require that curriculums include LGBTQ topics,” she writes. “The National Sex Education Standards, developed by experts and advocacy groups, name gender identity as one of seven essential topics, alongside puberty, consent, sexual orientation and other subjects.”

That can mean anything from telling kids there are no “boy colors” or “girl colors” to telling them that boys don’t necessarily have “boy parts” nor girls “girl parts.”

A lesson meant for first grade called “Pink, Blue and Purple” comes from a curriculum called “Rights, Respect, Responsibility” developed by the activist group Advocates for Youth. It tells students that gender is not a fixed attribute. “You might feel like you’re a boy even if you have body parts that some people might tell you are ‘girl’ parts,” the teachers are told to say. “You might feel like a girl even if you have body parts that some people tell you are ‘boy’ parts. And you might not feel like you’re a boy or a girl, but you’re a little bit of both. No matter how you feel, you’re perfectly normal!” The lesson continues with students looking at various toys and assessing if each best suits boys, girls or anyone. Through discussion, the teacher helps students understand that all the toys — dolls, drums, paints, helicopters — are for anyone.

In his kindergarten classroom, one teacher in Massachusetts tells five- and six-year-olds about anatomy. “We don’t say a penis belongs to a man,” he said. It belongs to a human, he explains.

A curriculum called HealthSmart asks fifth-graders to read a story “about a child who is bullied because of gender expression and then create a text message campaign to encourage their peers to accept and respect diversity,” writes Meckler.

Bill Farmer, a science teacher in Evanston, Ill., “introduces the idea that gender is a social construction, not a biological fact,” writes Meckler.

He teaches that there are three separate identities: biologic sex, or what sex organs one has at birth; gender identity, or what gender one identifies with; and gender expression, meaning how one presents to the world. So a student might paint his fingernails — a typically female gender expression — but still identify as a boy. . . . He added that there are at least one or two trans or nonbinary students in each of his classes, more than ever before. “Most students are testing out or trying to figure out where they fall in their gender identity.”

Lessons on gender fluidity are “cult grooming and ideological grooming,” charges James Lindsay, a conservative activist. “When I was a child I wanted to grow up to be a firetruck. Children do not always know exactly what is going on in the world and they need some strong boundaries to protect them.”

Some Democratic governors are telling schools to dial back gender identity lessons in the early grades, writes Meckler.

Maine, Gov. Janet Mills removed a video from the state’s education department website after the Maine Republican Party began airing an ad attacking the governor for it, she writes. The video shows a kindergarten teacher telling children that sometimes doctors “make a mistake” when they tell parents whether their newborns are boys or girls.

Discussing how to think about genitalia in kindergarten and first grade is unnecessary, writes Ann Althouse.

WaPo nudges its readers to regard objection to these lessons as something conservatives do. We’re told that “a conservative activist” calls it “cult grooming and ideological grooming.” That is, we’re encouraged to see the objection to the lesson — rather than the lesson itself — as strange and extreme.

Teaching small children that nobody should be bullied for being different is uncontroversial. So is discussing gender stereotypes. Telling kids to ignore their  biological reality is very controversial, and not just with “conservatives.”

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