Wednesday we had a meeting at Perry's school. It was a mid-year get together with admin and parents to see how the year was going, touching base and all that. In French, I'd call it a mise au point. Anyhow, it was for 5th and 6th grade parents.
It was interesting. One of Perry's favourite things is what they call Experiential Ed. They go out to do service projects, as a group. They've pulled noxious weeds, and made cat and dog toys, and today they're going to a local experimental sustainable and green farm
to do a service project.
This has meshed well with his Environmental Practices class. To best of my understanding, it's a second trimester class for all the kids, so they're all at the same point. The school is working on the ecological restoration of a local park, so this all fits in well. Plus, eh, we tend to be outdoors people. Perry is taught about, say, solal or Oregon grape, etc in class (not that we haven't taught him before, but in one ear out the other), and able to recognise them when we went hiking, and he likes that. So a great class, well integrated with the curriculum (like everything at that school. I love that school.)
At the parents meeting, however, the 5th grade parents started to complain about their Experiential Ed component. It seems they go to a local horse rescue, and help out there with caring and rehab of the horses. The parental consensus is that the kids aren't interested and just want to ride, something that is not done there.
Then the 6th grade parents started to complain about all the noxious weed pulling. One mother started and three more piled on. I spoke up in defense of it, said how much Perry was getting out of it etc, then was dismissed by the one mother who said something along the lines of, "But he's a boy. Girls don't like being in the mud pulling weeds."
Wow. Talk about selling girls short. Sigh.
Perry's school has a high coefficient of nerd parents. Very high, compared to either Linnea or AC's schools. There is, however, some people with kids there because that is what is done in their socio-economic class: you send your kids to
independent schools. Because mostly, I've found, nerd parents? Don't assume that because the kid is a nerd she isn't going to like tromping through the mud.
In these days of video games, one should not, also, assume that boys
like tromping around in the mud. Many don't.
So stop excusing a child's dislike for dirty, rough work by saying she's a girl. Just don't. It doesn't help. It limits girls in the long run.
Pushing kids a bit out of their zone of comfort, I think, helps them learn and grow. So maybe your kid -boy or girl- doesn't really want to spend an afternoon pulling Scotch Broom from a park. There are, however, things to be learned doing that type of work, about community, about parks, about noxious weeds, and about hard work.
Add in the fact that you've also not just limited your child, but also projected out to the world an opinion that will have effects: girls don't like to play in the mud. What about the girl who does
like to? Is she less of a girl? A freak? What?
In my family? AC? Mud? Bring it on! Perry? Mud! More mud! Is there a video game about mud? Linnea? OMG! Mud! My shoes are dirty! So I do understand that some kids don't like getting dirty. They don't enjoy wallowing... but I also suspect that for some, the lack of enjoyment came later, after she has internalised the message that girls should not like playing in the mud, and certainly not beyond a certain age. And that bothers me.
Girls, especially, should be encouraged. And not excused because they're girls and would rather be elsewhere. It won't serve them in the long term.