I was walking out of my kids’ preschool the other day with another mom. She has two kids 15 months apart (bless her). Her younger son, Jonathan, is in Molly’s room and the older one, Noah, is in Pre-K. We were chatting about our kids and work and how we’re always running late. Then we got to talking about the intervention I’m involved in at ASU. I was telling her how we’re trying to increase contact and positive experiences between boys and girls in hopes of bringing kids together who, at this stage, are beginning to spend more and more time apart. At this point she stops walking and says to me,
You know, that’s so interesting…. I swear, just now, when I dropped off Noah, it looked as if the teacher had said, ‘Girls over here – Boys over there.’ The kids were all so into making these paper chains, but the girls were all standing around the teacher turning them into bracelets and earrings, and the boys were all off on the other side of the room tying each other up! I don’t even think I noticed at first – everyone was just having fun. It’s funny how you can walk into a classroom, see everyone working happily, and not really think about that division.
It is funny, isn’t it? I know I don’t always see it at first. But it is happening. It’s happening in the classrooms and on the playgrounds -”The Great Divide.” And even when it appears that kids are playing with other gender friends, the quality of the interaction is far different than when they are engaged with a same gender peer. Wouldn’t it be great if boys and girls could play together for longer stretches of time, and with a higher level of engagement, just as they do with friends of the same gender?
So why is it that we don’t notice? Or do we notice, but don’t think much of it? Maybe it’s because we’ve come to expect it. Are we just dismissing this grouping as “kids being kids?” If kids were segregating themselves by race, ethnicity or religion, I don’t think I would be so quick to accept that as “kids being kids.” Segregation is exclusion, and exclusion is a practice I don’t want to see practiced. How about you?