It’s fair to say that our society is sexist enough already, without children being given sexist homework by sexist teachers to enforce sexist attitudes and carry them over alive and kicking into the next generation.
So when Lynne Polvino discovered that her six-year-old daughter Hazel had been asked to fill in the gaps for an out-dated story about working mothers, she was outraged.
Lynne, from New York, posted the full story on her Facebook page (see below), but in brief, the narrative went something like this:
Lisa’s mum finally returns to work having left to bring up Lisa. Her dad makes her a bad breakfast and then asks her to wash up. Lisa is not happy and she only cheers up once she realises her mum has left work early to be with her after school.
Lynne, who works herself as a children’s books editor, decided to rewrite the story to “reflect the kind of world” she wants her kids to live in when they grow up.
Here's the homework assignment my daughter brought home yesterday, side-by-side with my rewrite.
When Lynne first read the story she felt like she’d been “punched in the gut” because, like most working mums, she isn’t able to leave work at 2pm every day.
“It just pushed so many buttons for me and with each sentence, it managed to get worse!” she told Today. “My shock and dismay quickly turned to outrage. I mean, what decade are we in, anyway? In this day and age, we’re going to tell kids that mothers working outside the home makes their children and families unhappy? That fathers don’t normally do things like cook and wash the dishes?”
“I’ve had so many moments where I’ve felt that I wasn’t doing either thing – work or motherhood – very well,” she said, bemoaning the lack of affordable childcare and adequate maternity and paternity leave policies.
“There’s not nearly enough support out there and all the subtle and not-so-subtle messages we hear – even in our children’s homework! – telling us that we should be at home taking care of the kids and managing the household make it hard not to feel guilty, not to question ourselves.”
Lynne chose not to send her altered story to Hazel’s teacher, but emailed them to make her concerns known. The teacher agreed that the story was “out-dated” and promised to review pupil assignments more carefully in the future.