Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Early Indoctrination

It amazes me how naive I can be at times, especially when it comes to how other people raise their kids.

Little Circus is almost 4 and is in preschool for the first time this year (she was in an at-home daycare previously), and I've been noticing things creeping in to her behavior that I thought came from her peers - the Disney Princess fascination, asking to wear a dress so she'll be "pretty", coordinating all her clothes and accessories so they match - but now I'm starting to realize that a lot of it is coming from her teachers.

Every few weeks, the class focuses on a different color, and they use that color exclusively to paint, draw, and learn what things in the world can be that color. At the end of the phase, they'll have a day to celebrate that color. The kids are supposed to wear something with that color on it and bring in a toy or something for Show and Tell, and they have a party featuring food of that color. Blue Day went by without a hitch, so did Green Day, and Brown Day.

Then came Pink Day.

The night before, when we were picking out her clothes and trying to find the pink stuffed dog that had gotten lost in her toybox, LC informed me that the boys don't wear pink, so they didn't have to participate in Pink Day. They didn't have to wear pink or bring in an object, but they could eat the food at the Pink Party. She said it again, to make sure I understand: Boys can't wear pink. It's a girl color. ONLY for girls. Her teachers said so.

I guess I shouldn't be so surprised, but a part of me still is. We live in South Florida, home of old men who wear pastel guyaberas while they play dominoes, and young men who wear light-colored linen suits with sherbert-colored shirts and ties. Even the homophobic Catholic school boys wear "Nantucket Red" (meaning: pink) polo shirts with the collars flipped up, like they're living in some kind of John Hughes retrospective. I wasn't expecting little boys to come to school in a Strawberry Shortcake dress, but I don't see what would have been so outrageous about bringing in something pink like a Dora the Explorer toy or even a card from the game Candyland. I understand that this is the age where kids are really honing in on gender, but I guess it was just asking for too much to assume that the teachers wouldn't vehemently reinforce gender stereotypes for kids who are still fairly androgynous.

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