Boys Aren’t Allowed to Play With Legos or Are You Fucking Shitting Me Seattle!?!

I’ve reproduce the full text and linked to the article in question at the end of my post

You’d think that in as progressive an area as Seattle and its suburbs, people would at least treat children fairly. Miss Keller, a teacher on Bainbridge island, our local bedroom island and haven for wealthy families, doesn’t let boys play with Legos. When allowing girls and boys free choices in play items, she was upset when girls generally played with dolls and boys generally played with Legos. Instead of allowing the kids (KIDS!!) to make their own choices, she imposed her idea of what girls ‘should’ play with on her students. I hope I’m not the only one who sees the irony here. She argues that it’s totally fair to lie to her male students (“I always tell the boys, ‘You’re going to have a turn’ — and I’m like, ‘Yeah, when hell freezes over’ in my head,”) about what they are and aren’t allowed to play with because the poor girls are told by society that they should play with bakeware sets and pretend to be nurses. Instead of encouraging boys and girls to, I dunno, play with whatever feels good to them and create an atmosphere where feminine and masculine traits are seen as normal human behaviors that range along a spectrum and are found in both boys and girls, she restricts the opportunities of her male students in the interest of ‘making it fair’. While I empathize with her desire to see greater gender role flexibility in men and women, I don’t think requiring girls to play with ‘boys toys’ is any better than requiring girls to play with ‘girls toys’.

Academic and gay porn performer Conner Habib said during the SASS panel last March that the Gay and Lesbian movement didn’t win gay rights, it won straight rights for conventionally gay people. By creating a category for gays and lesbians that was essentially straight white nuclear families except sometimes with two mommies or two daddies, the movement eliminated the broad range of sexual expression from the movement. By forcing girls to play like boys, Miss Keller is destroying the rich continuum of gender expression and creating a classroom culture that calls certain behaviors bad or good depending on which gender is expressing them, exactly what she purports to fight with her ‘only girls play with legos’ campaign.

Growing up, my brother got Kinects, Legos, Star Wars memorabilia, model airplanes, and toy trucks, as does my nephew now. My parents made him share them with me, though usually they didn’t need to force him. To us it was normal for me to play with both dolls and Legos and my brother and his friends sometimes played with me and my barbies. I was less interested in Legos so I played with them less often and we usually included some violence into our doll’s lives but the crossover was totally normal to us. Now, I have well rounded interests in physics and horses, human relationships and the chemistry animating my own body, I’m a scifi fan who reads high fantasy, I like dicks burgers and fancy sushi, and I look forward to sharing all my interests with my nieces and nephews alike. Maybe instead of forcing people, male or female, gay or straight, introverted or extroverted, theoretical or practical, meditative or exploratory into some narrow expression of their dominant traits, we can appreciate the nuances and richness of behavior and emotion present in each one of us.

To Miss Keller: I think you have the right idea when you bought pink and purple Legos: break down gender stereotypes around color. Maybe instead of forcing girls to play with them, you could have also purchased super hero action figures for the girls to play with and let each child make his or her own choice.

In Karen Keller’s kindergarten classroom, boys can’t play with Legos.
They can have their pick of Tinkertoys and marble tracks, but the colorful bricks are “girls only.”
“I always tell the boys, ‘You’re going to have a turn’ — and I’m like, ‘Yeah, when hell freezes over’ in my head,” she said. “I tell them, ‘You’ll have a turn’ because I don’t want them to feel bad.”
Although her approach might anger some parents, Keller is sticking to her guns: It’s all part of a plan to get girls building during “free choice,” the 40 minutes of unstructured play time embedded at the end of every school day.

Injustice or ingeniousness?

For years, Keller, who has taught at Captain Johnston Blakely Elementary since 2008, watched with discouragement as self-segregation defined her classroom — her boy students flocked to the building blocks while her girl students played with dolls and crayons and staples, toys that offered them little challenge or opportunity to fail and develop perseverance.
She did her research and concluded that something had to give; her girl students were indeed missing out.

Play linked to spatial skills

Lego play, Keller found, has been widely attributed to accelerating development and helping children fine-tune spatial and math skills, two of the largest areas of cognitive disparity between men and women.
Further, female STEM role models are few and far between, and part of the reason for their underrepresentation, Keller believes, are the gender stereotypes women are socialized into from an early age.
She faults toymakers for reinforcing those roles — “the stuff LEGO is marketing for girls is just so limiting;” ‘girl’ sets replete with themes such as baking, cooking, care-giving, homemaking, decorating and hair styling — but she also faults teachers for not taking action.
“I just feel like we are still so far behind in promoting gender equity,” Keller explained.
Which is what led Keller to her classroom experiment.
If girls were given the opportunity, would they develop different play preferences? She thought so, and she could cite a study or two to back the claim up.

Guiding “free choice”

At first, Keller tried enticing her girl students with pink and purple Legos.
“But it wasn’t enough,” she said. The girls weren’t interested and the boys just expanded their palettes.
So this past fall, when Bainbridge Schools Foundation announced its Classroom Enrichment Grants, Keller saw her chance to affect change.
She asked for funding to purchase LEGO Education Community Starter Kits for three Blakely classrooms, writing that “while it’s not necessary to board up the playhouse and adopt the babies out, concrete steps can be taken to ameliorate the gender gap in the kindergarten and present engaging ways to develop girls’ spatial skills.”
What she didn’t tell BSF, however, was that the boys wouldn’t get to play with the new 1,907-piece sets.
“I had to do the ‘girls only Lego club’ to boost it more,” she explained. “Boys get ongoing practice and girls are shut out of those activities, which just kills me. Until girls get it into their system that building is cool, building is ‘what I want to do’ — I want to protect that.”

It’s a fair practice

In Keller’s mind, it’s a fair practice “because fair is getting what you need to succeed or to get better.” Fair doesn’t have to be the same, and she says her kindergarteners get that.
At least for now.
While Keller sees more girls in the building area than before, it’s still not the norm, she said.
So the boys will just have to wait their turn.