Social Question

Blueroses's avatar

What do you think of a genderless upbringing?

Asked by Blueroses (18191points) May 28th, 2011

I read this story about a Canadian couple who intends to raise their baby as genderless. They won’t tell others the sex of the child and will allow the child to play and dress in any way it likes.
Sorry for the use of “it” for the pronoun but the fact that I couldn’t come up with a different gender-neutral word that everybody knows, is part of my question.

Is this neutrality possible in our society? Besides simple day-to-day language issues—- will they always use the child’s full name in reference? They will have to replace the gender references everywhere; in, for example, “Give that ball to your brother! I said, give it to him!”

What words do they expect people outside the family to use?

How will it effect this child to have no gender identity when he has 2 older siblings already identified as boys? How will they prevent the boys from comparing genitalia and determining if they are the same or different as the youngest child’s? Are these parents truly giving the child freedom, or are they setting the child up for a difficult life?

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61 Answers

jaytkay's avatar

The name is Storm?

Stripper name. It’s a girl.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Am I the only one with deja vu?

_zen_'s avatar

Does he stand up to pee? Just kidding, but when the boy looks down and sees a penis – he’ll know he’s a boy. Maybe it’s Strom, lol.

I just saw a couple of interviews with Chaz Bono lately, you know, female to male transgender. He seems happy and very together. That’s the bottom line for me; I hate to quote Lady Gaga but – God makes no mistakes.

Nonetheless – the child has a gender. He has sexual organs. If he later on, like a miniscule percentage of society, feels trapped in the wrong body – that’s a different kettle of fish altogether.

To raise him without referring to his gender, ale or female, seems, well stupid and cruel. But I have to learn more about who the parents are and what is behind this.

The quote: “If sex is what is ‘between the legs’ and gender is what is ‘between the ears’, neither is confused for any of our children,” said Ms Witterick.

I’ve heard that cliche before, and I only agree with it when an adult, transgender or not, says it. I don’t think it applies to a baby. I’d like to hear from some other, very certain people here, who might give a better perspective. Off to the other question that was apparently asked already.

marinelife's avatar

This questions was just asked four days ago and prompted pretty lively discussion.

zenvelo's avatar

The whole pivot on this for me is “Do they allow the child to choose or explore a gender identity, or do the continually prevent the child from doing so. I know parents that always chose gender neutral toys even if their daughter chose a doll. The poor kid felt oppressed.

So to me the experiment is all well and good until the kid gets to be three or four and starts a first social separation. Then the child needs to be encouraged to self identify, not be defined by the parents.

fundevogel's avatar

I’m intrigued by it. I’m interested in the chance it would give children to develop without any gender expectations placed on them and think it could go a long way in mitigating the gender biases built into our culture. I expect most kids raised this way would at some point publicly identify with a gender but I do think our expectations of all genders could be improved through this sort of child-rearing.

Sadly I expect the the first children raised in this way won’t reap as much of the benefits as later kids because it seems like society isn’t ready to accept children like this yet. It’s a shame really. I’m not sure if I had kids (which I won’t) if I would be willing to commit myself and them to it because of all of the grief it seems to bring at this point in history.

Oh well. We can’t all live in the 51st century.

Frankly, the bit about that family that concerns me is the unschooling. There aren’t that many parents that are capable of single-handedly providing an education as good as an actual school. And from what I can tell an awful lot of home schooling parents really aren’t qualified to be a child’s sole educator. And unschooling…that’s even worse.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

My take on it is that the parents aren’t going to attempt Storm from knowing their sex. They just haven’t shared it with others, except for a handful of people. The point seems to be to not judge the child based upon what bits are in the diaper region. They want their children to decide their gender for themselves, be it a boy, as the two sons have (for now), or anything else.

And I agree with @fundevogel. The only thing about the articles that seriously worries me is about their potential lack of ability to pursue a career choice due to their informal education..

incendiary_dan's avatar

@fundevogel As someone who teaches homeschooled and unschooled kids, I can say that your concerns have not matched the reality of my experience. Most homeschooled and unschooled kids I’ve met have been some of the brightest and most well adjusted that I’ve known. In fact, one of my colleagues was unschooled.

Homeschooled and unschooled kids are often sought by colleges and universities. They know well enough that those kids tends to be better prepared than those who went through formal schooling.

Blueroses's avatar

Sorry, folks. I searched before asking this question and Fluther didn’t show me anything related. Apologies to Seelix for the repetition. Topic fail.

Since my primary question is about external social language issues, feel free to use this question to discuss that topic and perhaps the two threads can supplement each other rather than being duplicates.

TheIntern55's avatar

I am a tomboy and was an even bigger one when I was younger. So I believe that the article is correct in stating that as this child gets older, things will start to get confusing. I’m sure they will also feel left out in school as the boys will want to stay away for fear of dating what might be a boy and vice versa for girls. Long story short, I grew up a tomboy with limited girlfriends. I now have a large group of friends who are girls and are still very close to the guys I hung out with when I was younger. They are the ones who told me about Fluther. However, for this child that maybe harder to make that transition to being with their own gender if they don’t know what it is.

gailcalled's avatar

I too have been a part of our local large home-schooling community. The teen-aged males who have worked for me were no different from any other sub-group..

My last guy got almost perfect scores on his SATS and was admitted ED to Williams, where he is flourishing. The boy I have now is planning to attend SUNY at Albany, one of the flagship schools.

fundevogel's avatar

@incendiary_dan I never said the kids were stupid, my concern is that it would take an unbelievably educated parent to do be able to deliver the education usually preformed by scores of specially trained professionals with their own expertise. Some parents are extraordinary. But extraordinary is the exception, not the rule. I could see dedicated parents being able to homeschool as effectively as a school for a time. How long exactly would vary by parent. But after a certain point you would have to have the mind of eight renaissance men to compete with the bevy of educators at a regular school.

Not to mention that homeschooling creates an insular environment. Children aren’t meeting any where near as many people and as such will probably not be exposed to much perspective beyond their parents. Of course some parents will go out of their way to expose their children to varied views. But from what I’ve seen a very large percentage of homeschoolers are religious parents that want to be in complete control of what information their children are exposed to.

Ultimately what it comes down to is public school (and private school in its own way) is held accountable to give kids a certain level of education, but there is no system in place to gauge the quality of the education provided by homeschoolers and hold them accountable to a certain standard.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I think it will create more problems than average kids will face as they socialize, go through puberty and face life as an independent adult. My parents briefly tried this with me and it created a lot of frustration for me, created a lot of roadblocks for me I didn’t understand as I tried to fit in with other kids. IT SUCKED.

fundevogel's avatar

@Neizvestnaya I’m curious about how you’re parents went about it. Clearly this mode of child-rearing is meeting a lot of opposition right now that isn’t fair to a child but I’m hoping that your parents at least always left the decision of whether or not to remain publicly un-gendered up to you.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@fundevogel I didn’t say that you said the kids were stupid, and I’ll ask you kindly not to use straw man arguments. My point is that homeschooling better prepares kids. Period. Everything you claim is wrong, paricularly the part about no systems being in place to insure homeschoolers get quality education (and interestingly, in states where those standards are more lax, the kids tend to do better in a wide range of metrics).

And no offense to anyone, but public school teachers aren’t particularly well trained. They just happen to have resources available to them, which are still inferior to the resources available at any public library.

gailcalled's avatar

@fundevogel; In NY state, and I would wager, the rest of the US, home schooling is not a slap-dash do-what-I-want at the kitchen table.

There are state laws, regulations, oversight and constant supervision. Here the home school community is just that – a community.

The kids get involved with the sports programs (including varsity) at the local middle and high school;they are active participants in the Shakespeare and Co Youth Programs.; they have all kinds of typical enrichment programs.

They take the state-wide standarized tests at appropriate times.

fundevogel's avatar

@incendiary_dan “I didn’t say that you said the kids were stupid, and I’ll ask you kindly not to use straw man arguments. My point is that homeschooling better prepares kids. Period.”

Your defense of homeschool was the the children were bright, but just because a child is smart doesn’t mean they are getting a good education. The only way to objectively evaluate the quality of schooling is by evaluating the curriculum and testing the child.

“Everything you claim is wrong, paricularly the part about no systems being in place to insure homeschoolers get quality education (and interestingly, in states where those standards are more lax, the kids tend to do better in a wide range of metrics).”

Ah yes. I’m wrong. That’s a counter argument I can’t possibly beat.
There is no national standard for home schooling. From wikipedia:

Homeschooled students in the United States are not subject to the testing requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.[28] Some U.S. states require mandatory testing for homeschooled students, but others do not. Some states that require testing allow homeschooling parents to choose which test to use.[29] An exception are the SAT and ACT tests, where homeschooled and formally schooled students alike are self-selecting; homeschoolers averaged higher scores on college entrance tests in South Carolina.[30] When testing is not required, students taking the tests are self-selected, which biases any statistical results.

“And no offense to anyone, but public school teachers aren’t particularly well trained. They just happen to have resources available to them, which are still inferior to the resources available at any public library.”

But if the school is doing their job their teachers will not have been hired without meeting the basic requirements. Namely acquiring the level of education appropriate, possibly in a specialized field. There is no such baseline for homeschooling parents.

fundevogel's avatar

@gailcalled If that’s the case then New York would seem to have a much more effective system in place than other states. Good for them.

chyna's avatar

Through my last job, I was in the position to watch dozens of interns come and go through our office. Two of the interns were homeschooled. They turned out to be the brightest, quickest and best workers we ever had. They also got accepted to the best school in the state. I live in a southern state.

Blueroses's avatar

There are truly excellent home school teachers, better guidelines and more socialization programs as the option becomes more popular, however, I have seen those that illustrate @fundevogel‘s first post also.

I was a child in northern Montana, home to several separatist factions and I would even go so far as to say “single-family cults”. One family in particular comes to mind. There were 9 biological siblings who were only allowed to play with each other and accompanied their parents on errands in a large van. The children were not allowed to leave the van unless one needed to use the restroom and in that case, they were only permitted to say “please” and “thank you” to any outsider.

This was my first exposure to home schooling and it took me a very long time to overcome my prejudices.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@fundevogel: My parents decided to first go with non descript clothes, in those days it meant pants for both boys and girls (I’m female), a non descript “bowl” haircut which I hated and thought looked like Mo from The Three Stooges and then the toys they wanted me to have were screened.

None of those things should have caused any mental distress and didn’t but what did cause a problem was not being allowed to do the “girlie” things I wanted . Once I reached Jr. High then I was the girl that all the boys were friends with but none of them got any “girl vibe” enough to treat me like other girls and many told me I wasn’t like other girls and so they couldn’t think of me in terms of being attractive to them. I was told the way I walked, the way I talked, the way I dressed, all of it was “weird”.

Not until after making my parents miserable with my social misery did they give in to let me do simple things like get my hair cut the way I wanted, to have a bigger say in choice of clothes and so on. It wasn’t until after high school that I made an effort to really feminize and let myself be ok with it, enjoy it. There are people who saw me as an adult and couldn’t believe I was the same person they tormented.

Blueroses's avatar

Thank you for sharing your experiences @Neizvestnaya. That addressed my first concern in reading of this family. Well-intentioned as the parents may be, they are imposing their particular strict values on a child who has no choice and the real world is harsh on those who appear different.

I’m sure it took you many years to overcome the cruelty you experienced from your peers and that though, being a stronger person for it, I wonder if you wouldn’t trade all of that strength for a chance to go through your youth as a part of the “normal” society.

fundevogel's avatar

@Neizvestnaya Yeah, that’s not cool. Going gender free ought to be about eliminating gender restrictions, not replacing them with new ones. I can’t believe they wouldn’t even let you pick how you dressed or wore your hair. That’s ridiculous.

fundevogel's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs I kinda like “zhe” and it’s gender neutral fellows. Though I don’t know anyone that uses it.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@fundevogel I think the problem with those is that it makes such a point to say that your language is gender-neutral – it almost automatically changes the subject to the genderlessness or that gender isn’t important (which sorta defeats the point) instead of just moving right along and saying “look, it really doesn’t matter what your kid has between their legs, the point is, they’re failing this class”. Only people who are focused on moving to a post-gender-wars point even knows those terms, much less uses them.

Mikewlf337's avatar

They are setting this kid up for a difficult life. This kid will just go through life confused. It is simple. If you were born a male then you are a male. If you were born a female then you are a female. Your gender is the gender you are born as and nothing will change that. I don’t understand why a parent would do that their kid(s). Let boys be boys and girls be girls. That is what the kid wants.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@Blueroses: I truly believe if I’d been let alone to go with the flow of how I felt and what I wanted then I would have had a more “normal” and happy childhood without always feeling left out of the girl things (girls thought I was ugly and weird) and not quite being welcome in the boy things (they thought I was fun but also ugly and weird). I think I would have enjoyed to go to dances & proms, that sort of thing. It was confusing to me that the lesbian girls got asked to dances by their guy friends but I was too weird for any guy to want to ask me.

Did it make me stronger? Not really. It retarded me socially to where it took a few years to learn to pick up the goings on between males/females so I could mix in well. Even now, my co workers tell me I’m strange… but in a good way. I understand what they mean by the “good way” is that I’m considered very physically attractive, dress very nicely and definitely feminine which I love to do for work and that I consciously move my body to be as elegant as possible which is what I want. None of it comes natural to me, inside I always feel like an oddity.

@fundevogel: It took a lot of making my parents miserable, enlisting my grandparents to give them hell and threaten to take me away, it truly took them having a kid of their own to stop focusing on me and so I was able to wrench away from their idiot ideas. My sister has struggled with a lot of the mysteries of being “weird” even though my parents didn’t bother with the clothes and toys restrictions. They actually feel bad for my sister and are clueless as to why she’s never fit in, never had bf’s (until recent), always been physically awkward, never an interest to marry or make babies, etc. Gah.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Basically, if they do it the way @Neizvestnaya‘s parents did, where you’re only allowed things that are gender-neutral, I’m against it. But if they allow all things of all genders – both trucks and peel-off nail polish, as well as books and blocks – then I’m fine with it. Don’t know that I’d raise my own child that way, but that could very well be because I just don’t see myself raising a child.

Blueroses's avatar

@fundevogel I’m aware of “zhe” as a gender neutral but as @MyNewtBoobs pointed out, it’s not a widely known pronoun in the big world. If I were to use it generally, outside of a specific group of people, I would feel awkward and pretentious. The cashiers at the farm and ranch supply store would look at me as if I’d sprouted horns.

fundevogel's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs I’m with you. If you’re raising a kid gender-free you have to eliminate all gender restrictions and just let them be. Let them define themselves in whatever terms they choose, traditional or otherwise.

Blueroses's avatar

@fundevogel @MyNewtBoobs Making sure to allow for them to define themselves in a gender role if they choose that. @Neizvestnaya clearly illustrated the problem with being militantly anti-gender. Basically, I don’t see what’s so wrong with allowing boys to be boys and girls to be girls when the two sexes have been the only (birth) option since the beginning of procreation. There is certainly room for improvement in respect and sensitivity across gender lines and for individuals who feel gender-trapped but the answer doesn’t lie in negating the fact that there are different sexes.

fundevogel's avatar

@Blueroses & @MyNewtBoobs As far as general neutral language goes right now it’s pretty much all awkard. The way the language is set up just trying to use gender neutral language calls attention to gender. Is zhe the way to go? Who knows? But I don’t think we’ll find a solution to the language problem without drawing attention gender. It’s a gap in our language’s functionality and if we’re to improve it’s functionality at some point that’s going to involve a fairly noticeable shift and yes, it will draw attention to gender.

I’m not advocating for a total shift to gender neutrality in pronouns. But I do think that it would improve the general functionality of the language in addition to providing a viable pronoun set for genders other than male and female. No one wants to be an “it” after all.

fundevogel's avatar

@Blueroses “Basically, I don’t see what’s so wrong with allowing boys to be boys and girls to be girls when the two sexes have been the only (birth) option since the beginning of procreation.”

I don’t think raising kids gender neutral would have a significant impact on the number of people that identify as male and female (and do so in the conventional way that syncs with their genitals). I do think it could allow us to broaden our perception of male and female if children were raised in a way that permitted them to define themselves with aesthetics and activities free of gender associations.

Just think of the terms masculine and feminine. What is it that characterizes some thing as masculine rather than feminine? Should these ideas be linked to something as basic as gender? I have my doubts.

wundayatta's avatar

What do I think of a genderless upbringing? I think it’s none of my business. Parents should be allowed to parent their children with whatever cockamamie beliefs they have and it is no one else’s business.

Parents have done all kinds of psychological damage to their kids throughout history. So what? Religious fanatics bring up kids believing all kinds of stupid stuff. There are kids brought up to believe they should be hit every day, and worse.

We sit fit, in the USA, to try to reduce the amount of physical violence children suffer through, but we don’t seem to do much about mental abuse. And what is mental abuse, anyway? Is being raised without knowledge of science abuse? Without knowledge of gender? Without knowledge, period?

I may think an effort to raise a kid genderlessly is foolish, or very ideological, but as I say, so what? Nothing any of us say here matters. The only thing that matters is what the parents do.

As weirdness goes, I think a genderless upbringing isn’t as bad as many. Will it help the child do more of what it wants in life? I doubt it. Will it make the child any happier? I doubt it. Humans are still tribal animals, and going along and fitting in matter more than weirdness in creating happiness.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I know I’m voicing an unpopular opinion with many jellies, but as I said on the other thread, I think the entire situation is weird, potentially damaging to the child’s emotional well-being and only came about because the parents wanted to generate attention for their beliefs. To be perfectly blunt and foul-mouthed: I think those parents have royally fucked up.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@fundevogel The lack of national standards does not equal a lack of standards at all. Various states have different guidelines about the number and breadth of lessons given to children. And really, “No Child Left Behind”?

Further, your assertions about public schools and their standards assumes that my criticisms come from a lack on their part to fulfill their function: this is wrong. My criticisms in fact stem from schools working exactly as they’re supposed to, which is not to make critically thinking, well adjusted adults. They are, by design, unable to fully nurture intellectualism and healthy social growth among children.

And really, I get the feeling that you just lack realistic firsthand knowledge of homeschooling. The “single-family cults” that @Blueroses spoke of are by far the rarity; more common is well educated, or at least well read, individuals who have similar criticisms to Mr. Gatto, whose most popular piece I linked above. For those who don’t know, Mr. Gatto was awarded numerous prestigious awards as an educator, only to retire and write comprehensive analyses of why schooling is intrinsically harmful.

Typically, homeschoolers socialize more than their schooled counterparts, and I’ll venture to say that typically they do so on more healthy and useful terms.

Further, there is a growing body of psychological evidence that the rigid formalization of schooling we know is not healthy and entirely unnecessary. Children naturally direct themselves towards learning what interests them, which is how to interact with the world around them. Unschooling is not without its caveats, but it is the closest we have to how we were clearly adapted to learn. The only issue, really, is whether children get supportive networks, which luckily in most cases they do.

Since this is only tangentially related to the initial post, even if it is a duplicate post, I’ll try to refrain from making it a whole thing.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate: In my familiy’s case is was definitely about them wanting to generate attention to their lifestyle and beliefs. There is much they regret now.

keobooks's avatar

It took me a second to realize that this was a second question. I conked out last night and was too beat to get back to it. I’m not sure of Fluther ettiquette here. Should I continue my old argument here or go back there? I’ll just muddle through and see what happens.

I got caught up and sorry—I still think it’s more about the parents wanting special attention. And I don’t think trying to get people to use awkwardly .constructed made up pronouns is going to change the English language. I could go on for a long time about how “Ze” is very different from “google” but this isn’t the place for it.

I still don’t think it will mess the kid up at all. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it on fluther, but I believe I’ve talked about it on Askville and 43things, but my parents accidentally sent me off to my first year of preschool “genderless” and the teachers had no clue that I was female for the first half of the year. I’ll talk about that another time if anyone is interested, but long story short, I suffered no long term trauma. The worst part of the story for me was when someone finally figured out I was a girl and suddenly all of the rules changed for me in a split second. But in the long run it all worked out.

About homeschool—I’m a full supporter. I’d do it myself except that there is a full immersion Spanish school up the road that’s a free public magnet school and my husband and I decided that fluency in a second language so young is too good an opportunity to miss out on—and we aren’t fluent in any language so we can’t offer it. Otherwise, I would definitely be homeschooling.

ninjacolin's avatar

Impending identity crisis.

YARNLADY's avatar

Coming late to the discussion, I can give an example of my upbringing that may be related. I was raised in a very close knit, religious family, and attended a public school. The two worlds were, well, a world apart. At home we were taught that love, faith, tolerance, and all the other virtues were a correct way to live. At school, exactly the opposite was true.

My school days were horrible, and I was teased unmercifully. The home life was a refuge, but did not entirely protect or comfort me, until I became an adult. It’s not fair to a child to be raised in a family that is entirely at odds with the rest of the community.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@ninjacolin Identity crises are an essential part of growing up. The question is, will this help or hinder a child in finding their identity. In a sense, this sort of thing creates more work for the child; without being able to use the social norms as sort of a cognitive scaffolding, the whole of the identity needs to be created by the individual. But that sounds well worth it, in my opinion. I’ve known far too many people who’ve limited themselves to the point of idiocy and self-paralysis based on their expected gender norms.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I wish more parents would consider what @YARNLADY wrote in her last sentence, “It’s not fair to a child to be reaised in a family that is entirely at odds with the rest of the community.” This doesn’t mean at odds with the world or society at large but the immediate community which is a kid’s world, that an important place that should be as safe and welcoming for growth as possible.

ninjacolin's avatar

@incendiary_dan somehow I suspect the question “What am I?” is secondary in importance and social relevance to a child growing up than the question: “What do others perceive me as?” I would be concerned the child may be being given too many needless options.

@incendiary_dan you seem to be defending this idea: “If we are interested in maximizing the welfare of our citizens, the way to do that is to maximize individual freedom… The way to maximize freedom is to maximize choice: The more choice people have the more freedom they have and the more freedom they have the more welfare they have.” Which Barry Schwartz tackles in his discussion Paradox of choice on TED. A really great discussion I would be interested in knowing what you think.

Blueroses's avatar

@incendiary_dan Yes, there are people “who’ve limited themselves to the point of idiocy and self-paralysis based on their expected gender norms.” They are also the people who conform to any current trend without thinking for themselves. The gender identity isn’t so much at issue as the way that they were raised within a herd mentality. Sex identification is only one part of that.

Now, personally, I was raised without gender norms imposed upon me. I had Tonka toys, train sets, Barbie Dolls, a chemistry kit, a microscope, an electronics kit, an EZ Bake oven, a BB gun etc. Pretty much whatever I wanted to play, I had the equipment. I don’t remember ever thinking, as a child, in terms of boys do this and girls do that. Barbie might be driving the dump truck today or swooping in on the army copter to rescue Ken from a firefight. Ken (poor thing lost his arm in the war) might be manning the oven or the communication radio. I didn’t care. They were toys and nobody told me the “right” way to play with them.

It wasn’t until later in school that I realized there were differences in how genders were supposed to behave. At that point, it wasn’t in my nature to fit in with “girly” or “boyish” but I did care, and cared a lot, about fitting in with my peers. I was allowed to do that to the best of my ability before coming back to the realization that the herd was ridiculous.

The point is: I was taught to think for myself without restriction. Enforcing a non-gender is every bit as restrictive as enforcing stereotypes. It is creating a new stereotype. As is so often the case, the people who advocate freedom of choice are the first to whine that the choices of other people are invalid or harmful.

Trust me on that. I went to high school in the most “liberal” town in this country where I learned that your personal freedom is all we care about as long as it meshes nicely with my idea of what your freedom means.

I agree with @Neizvestnaya and @YARNLADY. It is unfair for a parent to impose his/her ideals upon the child without consideration for how that child will be perceived and treated by peers. Socialization is the one thing that can not be taught at home. I go back to my first impression of the isolated family and the children who were not allowed any interaction. We all (children and adults) said “there’re those weird people”. Assuming those children didn’t spend the rest of their lives in their family basement, how prepared were they to go out into the world?

Change society’s norms where you can. Yes. Balk the system and create your own out of spite and at the expense of your child? No.

Dang. This is officially the longest post I’ve ever Fluthered.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@ninjacolin That’s an interesting quote. For the most part I agree with it, but I think it’s not a particularly important point of freedom, and can be coopted to give the illusion of it. Think of all the product choices we have in our culture, which are a sly replacement for actual self-determination and access to resources in our own communities. We can also consider the “choices” given within gender roles in the same regard. False choices built on the foundation of conventional gender norms aren’t going to be particularly liberatory.

I’ll make sure to check out that talk when I get on my own computer.

@Blueroses Gender is by far the biggest identifier in our culture, both self- and other-based identification (that, or race, I’m still not sure). How does that tie into the “herd mentality”? How might teaching a child to critically examine the most deep-seated and generally unexamined social construct in our culture effect their tendency to go with a “herd mentality”?

You said “Enforcing a non-gender is every bit as restrictive as enforcing stereotypes.” But the parents, to my knowledge, are not enforcing non-gender, simply hiding their child’s sex so the early influences aren’t gendered. That is not enforcing non-gender, it’s reducing/eliminating gendered conditioning.

You also said “It is unfair for a parent to impose his/her ideals upon the child without consideration for how that child will be perceived and treated by peers.” The first comment I have is that you have no way of knowing whether or not or how much those parents considered the repurcusions this will cause. In fact, I consider it kind of presumptuous to make that sort of assumption. But of further importance is the part about imposing ideals: that is exactly what people who follow gender norms are doing. It does not change just because one is in line with the culture, and another isn’t. A socio-political belief is still a socio-political belief if it is completely unexamined and programmed in.

To use an extreme example, I don’t consider it particularly admirable to teach your child Nazism or white supremacy just because all your neighbors do. Gender norms have clear negative effects for individuals and societies. Genderless upbringing of this sort might not be my favorite way to challenge gender norms, but I don’t consider outright rejection to be a particularly useful or healthy response.

You also said “Socialization is the one thing that can not be taught at home.” This is simply false, because the first socialization children learn is at home. Family socialization is the basis for further socialization. I don’t know why I have to say that.

“Balk the system and create your own out of spite and at the expense of your child? No.”

It can easily be argued that by not doing that they are also acting at the expense of the child: gender norms are harmful. The question then becomes a matter of which is worse.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I’m for it. I raise my kids in a gender neutral way. That means if they want to wear shorts, they do. If they want to wear dresses, they do. If they want to play with dolls, they will or with trucks. If they want a ponytail but someone tells them it’s for girls, I explain why that someone is wrong. Sure they can explore and self-identify however but I am there to counter all the people they meet in their daily lives who say they can’t do something because of how those people think a child their gender should act. I find it deeply problematic when another adult shuts down a choice my child makes because they think they shouldn’t have picked that toy or that umbrella or those binoculars. Those adults have NO right to do so and they DO hear a mouthful from me about their limiting MY child. They have never been constrained in this house and they will always be free with us – it’s the rest of the world that’s stunted to not see outside the binary which is fine if that’s where they want to stay and where their kids like to tread but do not place the same limitation on my kids. As I said before, as far as Storm’s parents, their kids will be fine and I don’t find them forcing anything on their kid and the baby will eventually come to understand what people associate with their sex and what gender they put on that sex since the child’s sex can’t be hidden forever. I also find it incredible how many people have to say nasty things about this family because they’re so threatened and their feigned concern for this child is obvious and not really ever about that child. If gender norms are so natural and inherent, then why fight what anyone’s ‘trying to force on their child’ – shouldn’t it all come to be as the Lord intended it to? I don’t think it will – when you raise a child in an environment welcoming of queers and trans folks, you raise a child with a huge heart, a commitment to a better world. One can’t argue with that unless their hearts are tiny.

Blueroses's avatar

@incendiary_dan You are correct in saying that I am making assumptions. Yesterday, I had a conversation with you wherein I made the assumption that you have thumbs. I then apologized saying I had no basis for that assumption and you told me it was perfectly logical to make that assumption based on what you were doing at the time. You said that I could logically extrapolate that from what I knew… you let yourself into your office by operating a door knob, answered your phone, handled a drink etc.

I am making assumptions in this case based on the parents’ actions of going to the press, answering the questions and pushing their agenda in public. If they were misrepresented, I don’t have the same advantage as I did with you by simply bypassing assumption and asking if you have thumbs. I can only base my opinion on my interpretation of their behavior and combine that with the first-hand experience of @Neizvestnaya recounted here.

I am not disagreeing with you about the need for gender stereotypes to be eliminated… God knows I get pissed at my grandmother when she tells me I’m single because I’m too opinionated and “men don’t like that”. I do think that making a point at the expense of a child’s ability to fit in with his/her peers is wrong. Ask the person who is now an adult and lived through that. Ask @Neizvestnaya

Blueroses's avatar

@incendiary_dan I forgot this: ” the first socialization children learn is at home. Family socialization is the basis for further socialization. I don’t know why I have to say that.”
Also true. At home, a child learns manners and response, but only from people who already love the child. Socialization as I meant (and I don’t know why I have to define it) means outside the home, with people who are not obligated to accept the child.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

THIS is how you teach children about gender without screwing them up.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I really believe kids can be taught respect and acceptance of of trans and queer kids/people without having to be messed with themselves. I went to a private school where we learned the existence and acceptance of all kinds of people but we ourselves weren’t made or goaded to change what we were interested in.

C’mon, giving your kid a “Moe” haircut isn’t going to socially advance them and neither is keeping them away from traditional feminine associated things, as if traditional male associated things are the safe default. That’s where I think many parents mis step when trying to skate their kids through gender identity projection by outsiders.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Some assumptions are logical and warranted. Some are not.

fundevogel's avatar

@incendiary_dan

“The lack of national standards does not equal a lack of standards at all. Various states have different guidelines about the number and breadth of lessons given to children. And really, “No Child Left Behind”?”

Honestly, this is the problem with state by state regulation. Some do a good job and some don’t regardless of the issue. So if it’s an important issue relevant to the whole country you really have to establish equal opportunity and protection nationally because you often can’t trust states to establish it themselves. That’s why desegregation happened at a national level. Left to the states’ discretion god knows how long it would have taken for southern states to give their citizens the same civil rights as the more progressive states. I’m dead certain Mississippi would behind the curve.

There is plenty to criticize public schools for. But is naive to think that until public schooling is all it should be that any alternative is as good. There are problems with public schooling. But the principle is that every child is entitled to a basic level of education. We bitch about bad schools and teachers when they fail their students and we should. That’s what improves the system. But who do you bitch to when a homeschooling parent isn’t qualified? Their principal? Child protective services? How can we even know if a parent is qualified? These are the issues that need to be resolved if you do believe that every child has a right to an education. We have standards for public education and we try to uphold them. The same should be true of alternative education systems.

“And really, I get the feeling that you just lack realistic firsthand knowledge of homeschooling. The “single-family cults” that @Blueroses spoke of are by far the rarity; more common is well educated, or at least well read, individuals who have similar criticisms to Mr. Gatto, whose most popular piece I linked above.”

Actually one of my professors homeschools his kids. He’s a great guy and really smart about a lot of things (clearly, he’s a professor). I’ve met his family and I know that his kids have stuff going on socially. I don’t really worry about homeschoolers like him. I’m not criticizing homeschool parents that can provide their kids an education comparable to a conventional school or the states that takes steps to ensure homeschool kids are getting the education they need. My issue is with all the kids whose parents are not up to that and not held to accountable by the state. Ultimately establishing a consistent criteria for homeschoolers probably wouldn’t really effect the parents you’re heralding. But it would put unqualified parents on the hotseat.

“Further, your assertions about public schools and their standards assumes that my criticisms come from a lack on their part to fulfill their function: this is wrong. My criticisms in fact stem from schools working exactly as they’re supposed to, which is not to make critically thinking, well adjusted adults. They are, by design, unable to fully nurture intellectualism and healthy social growth among children.”

I’m going to invoke Hanlon’s razor here. Whatever the flaws of public education are, they were not engineered to hobble intellectual and social development. I am a product of public education. I had some bad teachers, some excellent teachers and a lot of capable teachers. Is their room for improvement? Of course! But if you want all students granted and equal educational opportunities you can’t just condemn the system that protects equity in education. You improve it.

Are we done? I don’t think think my stance should be seen a criticism of the people you admire, just the shortcomings of a system that can’t catch unqualified educators.

fundevogel's avatar

* Addendum

Well, I still maintain there is no way a single person can offer the educational breadth of scores of trained teachers. But assuming a homeschooling parent can recognize the limits of their qualification and takes measures to fill in those gaps I’m cool with them.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@fundevogel I don’t want to keep this going too much longer, either, because we’ve gotten a bit distracted from the original point. I just wanted to throw in that the idea I presented about public schooling isn’t just based on extrapolation, but direct evidence. The original architects of American public schooling, and more specifically compulsory schooling, had as their explicit aims to “maintain class lines” and train factory workers. The biggest player in that was the oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller. So yes, it was specifically “engineered to hobble intellectual and social development”, probably because community driven education, self-publication, and a high level of public literacy was being achieved at that time in history due entirely to self-directed learning. It also is no surprise that these things are related to workers’ revolts. No amount of your own deference to the system can change historical fact.

You said “But if you want all students granted and equal educational opportunities you can’t just condemn the system that protects equity in education. You improve it.”

Even if what I mention above were not the case, this is impossible. Schooling is wrong. It’s not a natural, healthy, or productive way to learn. The set up itself is meant to teach obedience and deference to authority more than anything else, and no amount of shifting details within that system can do so. Good teachers, which I fortunately had enough of, are a great and important resource in that, but even they are inadequate to counter what public schooling really does. No amount of good intentions can change the fact that, whether intentionally or unintentionally, public schooling is set up in a way that makes learning and socialization harder.

“Well, I still maintain there is no way a single person can offer the educational breadth of scores of trained teachers”

No homeschooling parents I’ve ever met claim to. Homeschooling is not about all knowledge and instruction coming from one or two people. Again, despite your experience with one family, you seem to have scant real knowledge of homeschooling and more specifically unschooling. Luckily, most homeschooling parents take part in various community and educational resources, or else I’d be looking for more work.

P.S. Using lines like ” But is naive to think that until public schooling is all it should be that any alternative is as good.” is insulting to both of our intelligences. Don’t use arguments that nobody has made. Straw man arguments are just poor form.

keobooks's avatar

I know this is off topic, but @incendiary_dan is going there.. I don’t get why people take the word homeschool so literally. There are very few parents who actually stay fully at home while they homeschool. Almost all the parents I know who do it are part of co-ops. Some co-ops are purely parent run—but most around here, the parents chip in to hire teachers in subjects they aren’t comfortable teaching themselves (like math and science usually) or other interesting things. I remember talking to this 13 year old girl about this philosophy class she was taking ‘at school” and she was really interested in Descartes. I was floored. I said WHERE do you go to school that they have middle school philosophy classes? Her mother chimed in that it was in face a homeschool co-op that hired a philosophy/latin instructor that any kid in the co-op could attend regardless of their age if they showed enough interest to pay attention. It was mostly high school aged kids, but there were a few middle school kids and one 10 year old in the class. This blew my mind. This would NEVER happen in a public school and most likely wouldn’t happen in most private schools.

The kids are constantly going out to museums or other places in the community for hands on learning experience. I know one set of parents who travelled around the world and “homeschooled’ their kids by teaching them hands on geography/history.

As for the socialization thing everyone seems so hung up on, most of the homeschooled kids I’ve met were BETTER socialized than the public school kids. They usually learn to interact in groups of multiaged kids of all different learning levels, rather than the weirdly artificial situation set up in public schools where everyone is exactly the same age AND the same level of giftedness.

Another great thing about homeschooling is that if you’re really on top of your game and can “unschool’ correctly, you can make learning and lessons come from natural things happening in life. It helps kids realize that math isn’t just something you learn to get grades in a class. You learn math because you actually need it for some sort of task you are working on. There is no arbitrary separation between learning and “the real world’.

I was a teacher for many years in public and private schools. And after being in the schools, I decided before my daughter was even conceived that I would be VERY reluctant to have her go to traditional school. If we don’t get into the full immersion magnet school I was talking about, we’re homeschooling. If we DO get into the full immersion magnet school I was talking about, you can bet she’ll be getting lots of supplemental stuff at home to detox her from the crappy institutionalized learning she’ll be getting along with her free full immersion Spanish lessons.

I have toyed with co-op schooling with some native Spanish speakers and going that route. I just haven’t found anyone who was interested.. yet.

fundevogel's avatar

Keeping this short (ha!), because it is off topic. My statements have been dismissed based on the complaint that I don’t know enough about homeschooling and how it works. Ok, I don’t know as much about how homeschool can be run as I could. But I have stated several times that I have no issues with parents who are qualified to homeschool their kids and you have done a wonderful job of adding to my knowledge of how qualified homeschoolers do this.

But that is irrelevant my issue with homeschooling. I’m not saying it can’t be done well, I complain that there is no comprehensive system in place to ensure that it is being done well. It’s all fine and good for homeschool students with a top notch homeschooling community, but that does exactly jackshit to prevent the sort of shoddy education (and even abuse) that can occur when there is no system in place to ensure every child is getting the education they deserve.

Also, @incendiary_dan, this doesn’t make sense:

“just wanted to throw in that the idea I presented about public schooling isn’t just based on extrapolation, but direct evidence. The original architects of American public schooling, and more specifically compulsory schooling, had as their explicit aims to “maintain class lines” and train factory workers. The biggest player in that was the oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller. So yes, it was specifically “engineered to hobble intellectual and social development”, probably because community driven education, self-publication, and a high level of public literacy was being achieved at that time in history due entirely to self-directed learning.”

Horseshit. You’re talking about the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution was a dark time. A few filthy rich people standing on the backs of masses of poverty stricken people. Those people didn’t have time to give their children the idyllic “community driven education” you assert had been achieved. People, children and adults, worked in factories. Labor laws were shit so the days were long. When the [redacted] do you think children were getting a “community driven education”, in between losing their fingers in textile mills? Compulsory schooling took children out of the work force, it hurt industry. It took children away from the factory and gave them a better chance at life than their parents that toiled away in the factories and possibly suffering life changing injuries for which they were not compensated.

Godfuck. Industrial Revolution. Bitches need to teach that shit. Excuse my language, but I am amazed that anyone could mistake the 19th century as some fantastic era of community education. Rich people got great educations and printed material was widely available for the first time (most of which was yellow journalism or sensationalistic pap). It was the penny dreadful that won literacy in this country, not some sort of idyllic homegrown community education. That’s what pre-public school education in 19th century America had going for it. Penny dreadfuls and yellow journalism.

Watch out for conspiracy theories.

Wow, I utterly failed to keep that short. But I did get to rant about the Industrial Revolution. </historywank>

incendiary_dan's avatar

@fundevogel You fail at history. Never heard of the workers’ rebellions? The Haymarket Massacre? The machinegunning of striking miners? The late 1800’s had the highest per capita rate of independently published newspapers, in direct response to the horrendous treatment by the fatcats. Read some Zinn or stop acting like you know history.

That’s how you keep it short.

fundevogel's avatar

@incendiary_dan
“You fail at history. Never heard of the workers’ rebellions? The Haymarket Massacre? The machinegunning of striking miners?”

Labor rebellions and massacres are not typically a meter of education. They’re signs of problems with labor. You’ll notice I was quite forthright about the problems of labor. I thought we were talking about education. How is the Haymarket Massacre evidence of the success of community education in the 19th century?

“The late 1800’s had the highest per capita rate of independently published newspapers, in direct response to the horrendous treatment by the fatcats.”

You’ll notice that I already talked about publishing and literacy. It was a consequence of the technology being cheap and widely available for the first time in history, as I already said. No matter what time the technology had become available there would have been plenty to rail against. There’s always something to rail against.

fundevogel's avatar

@incendiary_dan “Read some Zinn or stop acting like you know history.”

A second book recommendation to me this week! And I think it was you that gave me the earlier recommendation as well. As I said before my plate is currently full with those hack-writers Hawkings, Hamilton and Harris. I’m sorry I waste my time with such silly reading when I should be reading what you tell me to, but there are only so many hours in the day and I read for pleasure.

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