Sunday, August 27, 2006

Unisex Bathrooms at Elementary School

Via Newsalert (see blogroll at left) comes a link to this treat of a story out of Oakland. I couldn't come up with a title that would convey my horror, disgust, and disappointment at what I read, so I just picked one little tidbit out of the story and hope that will be enough to draw people to this particular post.

Teachers at the private Oakland elementary school have stopped asking the children to line up according to sex when walking to and from class. They now let boys play girls and girls play boys in skits. And there's a unisex bathroom.

I hope I'm wrong, but I think they're really screwing those kids up. Longitudinal study, anyone?

Park Day's gender-neutral metamorphosis happened over the past few years, as applications trickled in for kindergartners who didn't fit on either side of the gender line. One girl enrolled as a boy, and there were other children who didn't dress or act in gender-typical ways. Last year the school hired a consultant to help the staff accommodate these new students.

"We had to ask ourselves, what is gender for young children?" Hodes said. "It's coming up more and more."

And the parents are doing what with these kids?

For some children, it's a passing phase. Some grow up to be heterosexual, some gay. Some children insist they are the opposite sex although they might have a hard time explaining it. One nurse therapist said a boy once told her, "I think I swallowed a girl."

"The point is we don't know the outcome and don't need to know," said Catherine Tuerk, who runs the gender variance outreach program at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., considered a leader in the field.

We don't need to know? Don't need to know??? Oh hell, we experiment on kids here in California all the time--fuzzy math, whole language--without needing to know the potential consequences. Why not let boys think they're girls?

I can already tell you which party they'll vote for in 15 years.

Odiaga speaks from a decade of experience counseling lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens who she says are scarred by early memories -- a daughter forced to dress like a girl or a son whose dad hit him when he refused to play sports.

Wow! Could there be any more stereotypes in that one sentence? Let's make sure I've got that right, now--lesbians don't like to dress "like a girl" and gay boys don't like sports. Got it. Glad I can be so accomodating and respectful of diversity.

But let's get back to the article. It wouldn't be any fun if we didn't throw in something to make religious people look like religious kooks, now, would it?

Gender variance is an especially touchy topic when young children are the subjects. The Traditional Values Coalition calls efforts to accommodate these kids "normalizing the abnormal."

The group's executive director, Andrea Lafferty, said gender variance is a Bay Area phenomenon.

"If you talk to your typical person across America, they would be appalled," she said. "God made us male and female, and God makes no mistakes. To teach a child at an early age self-hatred, and that's what this gender variance is, is very sad."

Then again, sometimes the religious folks make it easy for the left. I mean, seriously. Of course God makes no mistakes. But he allows people to be born with heart defects all the time. That's not a "mistake", that's the reality of the human condition. So is this gender issue, probably, but not to the degree that it's raised to in the Chron article.

Well, there's a lot more in the story, including a tale of a girl who wants to be a boy and is accommodated at school with her own bathroom. Hell, for a private bathroom I could wear a skirt. Probably look good in it, too.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but such upbringing without attempts to correct these deviances at such a young age strikes me as akin to child abuse.

On the other hand, I think recent legislation passed by the California legislature makes it illegal to raise a child as a heterosexual, so maybe I'm wrong in my opinion above.

Ellen K said...

We have friends of whom the husband is a closet conservative and the wife is a raving liberal loon. When she had her first child, a daughter, the kid was only dressed in gender neutral colors and never allowed gender specific toys. When her second child was born, a son, she did the same thing. Until the husband found the kid in the closet saying zoom zoom zoom to a shoe. And using a coat hanger as a gun. Sorry, the genders are different. And frankly, when I was teaching my kids modesty one of the things was privacy. Little boys will try to look up girls' skirts. I really dont' think we need any more distractions since we are starting to see fifth graders that are pregnant.

Anonymous said...

How much more complicated can we make our childrens' lives? I ache that this generation of children will not live carefree lives. What is wrong with a little naivete? Just yesterday my husband and I had a serious discussion because he didn't want our 6 and 7 year olds playing on the front porch if one of us wasn't out there to supervise...ON THE PORCH... in an upper middle class neighborhood...on a non-busy street. I support having my children wear helmets when they ride their bikes (although I wish they could feel the wind through their hair like I did as a kid) and child safety seats and seatbelts (although some of my favorite memories are riding in the bed of a truck). Anyway, I digress...... You get my point.

Anonymous said...

You people clearly need to be sent to diversity training camp. Tsk, tsk.

Anonymous said...

Well. The bright side is that, in purely political terms, these, should we say, uncertain, youngsters will doubtless grow up to follow a recently publicized trend: Democrats are having far fewer children than Republicans. Most of these kids will probably never reproduce and thus their impact on the body politic will be of little consequence. Except in California where such folk seem to migrate to breed.

IB a Math Teacher said...

"I can already tell you which party they'll vote for in 15 years."

It is a private school. It must be a better way than the public schools do it. If you let the market do its job, then the idea will be abandoned....right?

Darren said...

I don't follow, IB. Who has said anything about this being a market problem? It's a moral issue--kinda like abortion is.

IB a Math Teacher said...

Yes, it is a moral issue. My beliefs are different than yours, maybe. I don't find it immoral to teach sex ed. I don't find abortion appalling. And where my kids go to daycare, they have a unisex bathroom, and the kids never even shut the door behind them, despite the fact that it is a Christian daycare.

Private schools and charter schools are being pushed by many to be an alternative to public schools. Whether good or bad, that's what they are there for.* So a private school comes along and has the kids use the same bathroom. If it is a bad idea, parents will pull their kids out. If it isn't a problem, then they won't.

Please keep in mind, that it is the parents who are taking their kids to school with these issues:

"One girl enrolled as a boy, and there were other children who didn't dress or act in gender-typical ways".

So, it is the school that is bending to the wishes of the parents. There are many, many people, including a large list of teachers and parents (and bloggers), who feel that this has to be the way schools are designed around.

If you want the moral "problem" taken care of, should it be a law? If you want laws to take care of such issues in the private schools, then they might as well become public.

Finally, there have been lots of posts about teachers on strike, and lots of comments about firing them for not doing their job. Would those same people put their support behind a teacher who sends the boys and girls in this school to separate bathrooms, despite the official school policy? Or should they be fired for insubordination?

Darren said...

IB, no one here said anything about legislating anything. We've merely voiced our disapproval of what that school is doing; no one has suggested that we use the force of the law to shut the place down. Again, there's obviously a market for this kind of crap, and this school is satisfying that market. What we're lamenting in the comments on this post is that the market for it exists at all, and that those who fill that market void are potentially doing damage to kids.

You know, it's like a drug dealer. The market exists, he fulfills the need, but it's still *wrong* (as well as illegal, but that's a different story).

From what I read, the lefties don't like firearms manufacturers or sellers. However, they actually try to sue those people out of business, rather than just disagree as we're doing here.

Anonymous said...

The liberal has a point. If parents are sending their children to this school, then the problem is at home, with parents who are passing along deficient morals. The school is merely filling a market niche.

Darren said...

True, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't point out the problem anyway. I recall reading a week or two ago about a private Islamic school in New York where boys did nothing but recite the Koran for 9 hours a day--in Arabic, a language they don't even know.

Parents want it and the school is filling the need, but that doesn't mean that the rest of us can't examine the situation critically.

EdWonk said...

You know, I just had to link to this story.

Anonymous said...

Contrary to popular belief, gender identity is not determined SOLELY on the basis of biology. If it were, then transgender people would be biological impossibilities and would not exist at all. But if you had your way, there would be no safe haven for such people. Everyone would be compelled to act as if they are comfortable and in complete balance with their genitalia, whether they are or not. For you, morality is based on conforming behavior, not truth. And you think the lefties are dishonest!

Darren said...

Sex is a *biological* construct, whereas gender is a *social* construct. The bathroom is a uni*sex* bathroom.

Your attempt to make *me* the bad guy here only shows your situational morality, which is no morality at all.

Anonymous said...

These are kids going to the bathroom. Who cares if there are boys and girls in their peeing, washing hands, and so forth all at the same time? The teacher is nearby to make sure hurtful behavior isn't going on in either room (though here I think it's interesting to note that if there were only one room, the teacher could be inside, monitoring potential wrongdoing even more closely). So the idea of having young kids of all genders using the same bathroom could actually allow the teacher to have greater oversight of bathroom behavior.

I think, here, that the issue isn't the unisex bathroom. It's the parents and children who are posing questions about whether or not sex categories are strictly binary, especially for pre-pubescent children. Geneticists would suggest that sex categories are not binary, at least not at the chromosomal level. Healthy folks can have not only XX and XY but also XYY and XXY chromosomes. Since the vast majority of us have never (and will never) have a chromosomal mapping of our genes, it's hard to say how many of us possess exactly which collection of sex chromosomes.

If, as it seems, the biology isn't binary, is there any reason for the social practice to be binary? And even if the biology were binary, why does it matter that a little kid (or an adult) wants to play around with gender? Kids play around with everything else - that's how they learn. It doesn't hurt anyone if a kid wants to wear a skirt or refuses to wear a skirt; if others want their hair cut into a mohawk or have it french braided or buzzed off altogether. They're just doing their best to figure out how appearance matters by setting up rudimentary experiments. What if I wear my hair like this? What if I walk around in a tutu with a wand, will I feel like a princess? If I shave my head, will I feel like a soldier...or a butch? I don't expect a kid to know the various stereotypes associated with lesbianism but I included that example because it reveals that sartorial and related concerns are not so easily pegged to a given gender anyways.

In the end, the unisex bathroom isn't the major issue. The gender performance of little kids IS the issue. And really, there are kids who just want to do it a little differently. Is that immoral? Are their parents immoral? Nobody is getting hurt here. There's no evidence that the parents wanted a boy (or a girl) and forced their progeny to act like a boy. So long as nothing is being forced, I don't see the harm in letting kids play around with gender. That's how they learn.