Sweden Debuts Gender-Neutral Preschool

3596182798_fdf38a900eAt best, a school model for the more-enlightened future, and at worst, an intriguing social experiment. Via Yahoo News:

At the “Egalia” preschool, staff avoid using words like “him” or “her” and address the 33 kids as “friends” rather than girls and boys.

From the color and placement of toys to the choice of books, every detail has been carefully planned to make sure the children don’t fall into gender stereotypes.

Egalia doesn’t deny the biological differences between boys and girls — the dolls the children play with are anatomically correct. What matters is that children understand that their biological differences “don’t mean boys and girls have different interests and abilities.”

The taxpayer-funded preschool which opened last year in the liberal Sodermalm district of Stockholm for kids aged 1 to 6 is among the most radical examples of Sweden’s efforts to engineer equality between the sexes from childhood onward. Breaking down gender roles is a core mission in the national curriculum for preschools, underpinned by the theory that even in highly egalitarian-minded Sweden, society gives boys an unfair edge.

Egalia’s methods are controversial; some say they amount to mind control. But director Lotta Rajalin says that there’s a long waiting list for admission to Egalia, and that only one couple has pulled a child out of the school.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jeajean.breu Jea-jean Breu

    hello ,welcome, goodby

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeajean.breu Jea-jean Breu

    hello ,welcome, goodby

  • jackedu317

    no more boys and girls, just automatons… double plus good…

  • jackedu317

    no more boys and girls, just automatons… double plus good…

    • GoodDoktorBad

      Did you forget that children also have male and female names? Do you really think they are promoting androgyny here? The kids already know they are different genders and the teachers don’t deny or tell them otherwise. They just don’t stress gender differences. They are largely irrelevant in an academic setting anyway, especially because the kids are so young and won’t be sexually active for quite some time. 
      But Little Billy can still have a crush on little Mary or vice-versa. That will happen regardless of whether they say “boys and girls” or “friends”. 

    • GoodDoktorBad

      Did you forget that children also have male and female names? Do you really think they are promoting androgyny here? The kids already know they are different genders and the teachers don’t deny or tell them otherwise. They just don’t stress gender differences. They are largely irrelevant in an academic setting anyway, especially because the kids are so young and won’t be sexually active for quite some time. 
      But Little Billy can still have a crush on little Mary or vice-versa. That will happen regardless of whether they say “boys and girls” or “friends”. 

  • Anonymous

    It’s not like these kinds of experiments haven’t been done before (with some weird results). How far are they going to go with it?

    Besides, it’s got to be very hard to truly enforce gender neutrality in a language that alters verbs based on gender without possibly harming the kid’s language development.

  • SF2K01

    It’s not like these kinds of experiments haven’t been done before (with some weird results). How far are they going to go with it?

    Besides, it’s got to be very hard to truly enforce gender neutrality in a language that alters verbs based on gender without possibly harming the kid’s language development.

    • GoodDoktorBad

      I don’t think the idea is to “enforce” anything. The idea is to weaken unrealistic generalities concerning traditional gender roles and to promote more equal self esteem for both sexes. 

      Personally, I don’t like or necessarily conform to all the “manly” stereotypes and expectations that we’ve all been blasted with since birth any more than females necessarily like all the “I’m just a girl”, “princess”, “Barbie”, “barefoot and pregnant” crap.     

      • SF2K01

        If it were as you say, how exactly would they be weakening unrealistic/traditional gender roles by not using words like “him” or “her,” by trying to linguistically ignore a person’s gender?

        • GoodDoktorBad

          What’s wrong with just calling them by their names and refer to the group as “friends”? “Him and her” and “boys and girls” aren’t really necessary to address the students as a group. That’s the idea. Aside from anatomical differences, they are equals. I’m for that…
          I wonder how they handle the “potty break” though.

          Gender roles can be pretty damn confusing at that age. Hell , they can be pretty damn confusing for an adult. Patterns are set pretty early though, so why imprint arbitrary expectations based on gender that they may never really understand anyway? Life is confusing enough. Maybe they can learn to just be whatever they become by there own choices. They can grow to be a woman or man on their own terms. 
          People spend a lot of time and grief wrestling with what others expect of them based on their gender. It’s really pretty stupid, but we do it anyway to “fit in”. So then people feel they have to fake it and that’s just a shame…

          • SF2K01

            Nothing’s wrong with calling the group friends, I think people do that anyway (classmates), my point was that in Sweedish, unlike English, you will have to differentiate every verb based on the gender of a person or object. If I were designing the experiment, I would put more of a focus on trying to neutralize activity and dress, rather than language, i.e. everyone plays with dolls, or everyone plays trucks etc.

          • Nr.None

            I wasn’t aware that Swedish worked like that. Could you give an example?

          • Cecilia Funkel

            As a native speaker of Norwegiant, I can tell that this is not true. In Swedish the nouns can be divided into two categories, so-calles “masculine” and “neutral” genders, and adjectives have to concord with these. However, I don’t see why this would be a problem, as Swedish language doesn’t even distinguish between masculine and feminine gender, like Norwegian, German, Spanish or French. Rather than grammatical categories, I think the largest problem would be the vocabulary. Why is it “man” and “woman” and not “wom” and “manwom”? Even the word “human” is problematic, as it shows male dominance in the language. This is true also for Norwegian and Swedish languages (menneske/människa). Maybe we need Esperanto after all?

          • SF2K01

            I was misinformed about the verbs, but the gender styling still remains for the rest. I believe my point still stands, and Esperanto also has grammatical gender even though there are people who want to change it. Grammatical gender seems to me to be one of those completely obnoxious things that I’m glad English got rid of.

          • Cecilia Funkel

            In what way does Esperanto have grammatical gender, if all nouns end in -o and have the exact same conjugation?

          • GoodDoktorBad

            “I would put more of a focus on trying to neutralize activity and dress” 

            Some of the comments on this page seem to show a fear that they are promoting androgyny. I don’t think that’s true in general. But, I think if they were promoting androgyny,  gender neutral activity and dress (especially) would be a good start toward that goal. 

            Language geared toward equality between the sexes seems more logical. After all, where else do we get all the silly ideas and traditions regarding “males should be like this” and “females should be like that”.  
            Most of our attitudes come from an early age when we heard different interpretations from the people around us. 
            Much of what we believe about who and what we are we heard from an outside source. 

            Still, the obvious physical differences and some generalized behavior differences are inherent to males and females. I don’t think we can make those things disappear simply by reprogramming speech, modes of dress or gender neutral activities. 
            Masculine and feminine principals just won’t allow it.
             

          • SF2K01

            “Where else do we get all the silly ideas and traditions regarding ‘males should be like this’ and ‘females should be like that’.”

            As mentioned on a recent article on Disinfo, advertising of course! Before that it probably just stemmed from overemphasizing natural abilities (men have a stronger upper body meaning better hunters) or going off of the first person they knew to be good at a given thing. I once read an interesting article about gender stereotypes in terms of what jobs a person could do. In German, a doctor is a masculine job and most doctors are male. In Russia, a doctor is seen a feminine job, and thus more doctors were women. In other words, both are equally capable, but who will want to do the job will be based on cultural views of that role.

      • Guest

        Oh you said it

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think the idea is to “enforce” anything. The idea is to weaken unrealistic generalities concerning traditional gender roles and to promote more equal self esteem for both sexes. 

    Personally, I don’t like or necessarily conform to all the “manly” stereotypes and expectations that we’ve all been blasted with since birth any more than females necessarily like all the “I’m just a girl”, “princess”, “Barbie”, “barefoot and pregnant” crap.     

  • Anonymous

    If it were as you say, how exactly would they be weakening unrealistic/traditional gender roles by not using words like “him” or “her,” by trying to linguistically ignore a person’s gender?

  • It

    This is like having to shave for work. I want my glorious beard intact :P. But in other news “people are free to experiment with counter culture, failure is always a option”

  • It

    This is like having to shave for work. I want my glorious beard intact :P. But in other news “people are free to experiment with counter culture, failure is always a option”

  • Guest

    Oh you said it

  • Anonymous

    What wrong with just calling them by their names and refer to the group as “friends”? “Him and her” and “boys and girls” aren’t really necessary to address the students as a group. That’s the idea. Aside from anatomical differences, they are equals. I’m for that…

    Gender roles can be pretty damn confusing at that age. Hell , they can be pretty damn confusing for an adult. Patterns are set pretty early though, so why imprint arbitrary expectations based on gender that they may never really understand anyway? Life is confusing enough. Maybe they can learn to just be whatever they become by there own choices. They can grow to be a woman or man on their own terms. 
    People spend a lot of time and grief wrestling with what others expect of them based on their gender. It’s really pretty stupid, but we do it anyway to “fit in”. So then people feel they have to fake it and that’s just a shame… 

  • Anon

    for some of the kids i’m guessing this is gonna be a huge obstacle in their social interaction with people latter on because if not obvious from the start people don’t know how to interact with someone if they don’t know if its a he or a she

  • Anon

    for some of the kids i’m guessing this is gonna be a huge obstacle in their social interaction with people latter on because if not obvious from the start people don’t know how to interact with someone if they don’t know if its a he or a she

    • Thoughts

      This shines light on the very point though. Do we still live in a society where knowing a persons gender is a necessary premise to the way that we proceed to interact with them in general social circumstances such as work, community, school, and other common human endeavors. Certainly, if you are looking to pick up someone of a certain gender then in the contexts where this is appropriate people will willfully show everyone their gender, whatever that might mean in a given context. But is it not saying that gender ambiguity is an obstacle to social interaction similar to claiming for instance that not knowing someones race in a chat-room online makes social interaction difficult. There are a great many people in this world for whom gender has itself been the huge obstacle to social interaction. 

  • Guest

    “We Are Gender” ….. that was a Star Trek joke and also the sad truth. I can hear it now “Why does friend have one that sticks out, whats wrong with friend?”

    Not cool Sweden!

  • Guest

    “We Are Gender” ….. that was a Star Trek joke and also the sad truth. I can hear it now “Why does friend have one that sticks out, whats wrong with friend?”

    Not cool Sweden!

    • GoodDoktorBad

      The sad truth is you don’t even know how stupid a comment that was. 

    • GoodDoktorBad

      The sad truth is you don’t even know how stupid a comment that was. 

  • Anonymous

    The sad truth is you don’t even know how stupid a comment that was. 

  • Anonymous

    Did you forget that children also have male and female names? Do you really think they are promoting androgyny here? The kids already know they are different genders and the teachers don’t deny or tell them otherwise. They just don’t stress gender differences. They are largely irrelevant in an academic setting anyway, especially because the kids are so young and won’t be sexually active for quite some time. 
    But Little Billy can still have a crush on little Mary or vice-versa. That will happen regardless of whether they say “boys and girls” or “friends”. 

  • Anonymous

    Nothing’s wrong with calling the group friends, I think people do that anyway (classmates), my point was that in Sweedish, unlike English, you will have to differentiate every verb based on the gender of a person or object. If I were designing the experiment, I would put more of a focus on trying to neutralize activity and dress, rather than language, i.e. everyone plays with dolls, or everyone plays trucks etc.

  • Nr.None

    I wasn’t aware that Swedish worked like that. Could you give an example?

  • Cecilia Funkel

    As a native speaker of Norwegiant, I can tell that this is not true. In Swedish the nouns can be divided into two categories, so-calles “masculine” and “neutral” genders, and adjectives have to concord with these. However, I don’t see why this would be a problem, as Swedish language doesn’t even distinguish between masculine and feminine gender, like Norwegian, German, Spanish or French. Rather than grammatical categories, I think the largest problem would be the vocabulary. Why is it “man” and “woman” and not “wom” and “manwom”? Even the word “human” is problematic, as it shows male dominance in the language. This is true also for Norwegian and Swedish languages (menneske/människa). Maybe we need Esperanto after all?

  • postpunkprometheus

    Star Trek references should abound here.  The Borg also enforced gender neutral typing and look where it got them! An asswhooping from no less than John L Picard hisself that’s what!  Borg is also a Swedish surname as others Star Trek related have pointed out.

  • Anonymous

    Star Trek references should abound here.  The Borg also enforced gender neutral typing and look where it got them! An asswhooping from no less than John L Picard hisself that’s what!  Borg is also a Swedish surname as others Star Trek related have pointed out.

  • Anonymous

    “I would put more of a focus on trying to neutralize activity and dress” 

    Some of the comments on this page seem to show a fear that they are promoting androgyny. I don’t think that’s true in general. But, I think if they were promoting androgyny,  gender neutral activity and dress (especially) would be a good start toward that goal. 

    Language geared toward equality between the sexes seems more logical. After all, where else do we get all the silly ideas and traditions regarding “males should be like this” and “females should be like that”.  
    Most of our attitudes come from an early age when we heard different interpretations from the people around us. 
    Much of what we believe about who and what we are we heard from an outside source. 

    Still, the obvious physical differences and some generalized behavior differences are inherent to males and females. I don’t think we can make those things disappear simply by reprogramming speech, modes of dress or gender neutral activities. 
    Masculine and feminine principals just won’t allow it.
     

  • Coddddeeeee

    Reminds me of the book “Anthem” by Ayn Rand..

  • Coddddeeeee

    Reminds me of the book “Anthem” by Ayn Rand..

  • Anonymous

    “Where else do we get all the silly ideas and traditions regarding ‘males should be like this’ and ‘females should be like that’.”

    As mentioned on a recent article on Disinfo, advertising of course! Before that it probably just stemmed from overemphasizing natural abilities (men have a stronger upper body meaning better hunters) or going off of the first person they knew to be good at a given thing. I once read an interesting article about gender stereotypes in terms of what jobs a person could do. In German, a doctor is a masculine job and most doctors are male. In Russia, a doctor is seen a feminine job, and thus more doctors were women. In other words, both are equally capable, but who will want to do the job will be based on cultural views of that role.

  • Anonymous

    I was misinformed about the verbs, but the gender styling still remains for the rest. I believe my point still stands, and Esperanto also has grammatical gender even though there are people who want to change it. Grammatical gender seems to me to be one of those completely obnoxious things that I’m glad English got rid of.

  • Cecilia Funkel

    In what way does Esperanto have grammatical gender, if all nouns end in -o and have the exact same conjugation?

  • Thoughts

    This shines light on the very point though. Do we still live in a society where knowing a persons gender is a necessary premise to the way that we proceed to interact with them in general social circumstances such as work, community, school, and other common human endeavors. Certainly, if you are looking to pick up someone of a certain gender then in the contexts where this is appropriate people will willfully show everyone their gender, whatever that might mean in a given context. But is it not saying that gender ambiguity is an obstacle to social interaction similar to claiming for instance that not knowing someones race in a chat-room online makes social interaction difficult. There are a great many people in this world for whom gender has itself been the huge obstacle to social interaction. 

  • bluntrophy

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  • http://twitter.com/bluntrophy bluntrophy

    hello, welcome goodbye

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