Elementary Students Identify Problematic Gender Binary Images Within Language Works
Anne Wester, Willow Lead Guide (Lower Elementary), sat down with us to explain a recent project the Elementary students have been working on.
"The Elementary program recently got two new sets of SRA cards for our language work. SRA works so well with Montessori because it's self-guided and has leveled selections. It's essentially about developing confident readers who are working at the right level and moving at their own pace."
SRA sets help to:
"We finally got a set that included our emergent readers (those who are reading about three letter words). The SRA uses pictures in this set. We noticed, in our very first set of our brand new 2022 box that they used gender binary pictures. For example, the student looks at a picture and is supposed to decide which cartoon character is the father, which is a girl, which is a queen. The kids got fired up about it. The intention is to contact McGraw Hill and figure out who we should focus our letters to. They have an Equity Advisory Board and we think we’ll start with the head of that. The sixth years will use this as a persuasive writing lesson to teach them how to be heard when they feel passionate about making a change- in this case, a change for more gender-inclusivity in their materials. You can see we are fixing these for the time being. The images that depict gender binaries are being covered up with objects instead. Repetition of images helps the emergent readers so if they see these objects multiple times it works well. In this case here, an image where you are supposed to pick out a cartoon of a father is getting covered with images of pants and a belt."
Charlie Avink, a sixth year student at The Montessori School, shared his perspective as a student:
“I don’t want to say they didn’t try or intentionally overlooked people who are non-binary or transgender. It can just be better. They can edit the problematic ones. The other SRAs have bigger problems, but this is still an issue and it's not good enough. It’s brand new so you would think they could just not include something like this. Instead, use more objects like maps or boxes instead of a woman or a man. Because it tells us 'A woman is supposed to look like this, a king is supposed to look like that.' You don’t know who is reading it. They are assuming someone will look like the image on the card. Say I said, 'My friend here is a boy because he has short hair and looks like one to me.' But I don’t know that! I didn’t ask him his pronouns. It has to do with how you feel. I identify as a boy but maybe my friend here doesn’t - you can’t assume those things and it’s imprinting on children that a boy or a girl is supposed to look this way, or you have to be one or the other in the first place. I’m proud of them for making improvements from the last set to this one but they still have more work to do. If they could just stop production and fix those issues, that would mean a lot to us."
Students in the classroom are helping The Montessori School advance our commitments of being an Anti-Bias, Anti-Racist community where all children and adults feel validated and celebrated in their identities. We thank the Elementary program for their work on this project to ensure classroom materials are reflective of that.
Posts written by various members of The Montessori School community in Kalamazoo, Michigan