France Has a New Plan to Get Rid of Sexism in Schools: Ignore It

In gender theory, there is the classic battle between the idea that gender is a social construct, and the idea that gender roles are biologically inherent. Either theory can be a catalyst for both good and bad social changes. But in France, a new government report that accuses French schools of sexism has called for "the withdrawal of the concept of gender theory from all school manuals, decrees and draft laws." Removing the discussion of gender theory from school curricula altogether is more repressive than helpful.

The report, which was published in the Paris-based daily newspaper, Le Figaro, detailed education ministry inspectors discovering that in French schools, boys are treated "in a preferential manner" by teachers who remain "convinced that they are being totally fair." In contrast, their young female counterparts are constantly being delegated the responsibility of watching over the class when a teacher needs to leave. Overall, teachers' academic and scholastic expectations of girls are "lower." The report also claims that boys are given more encouragement to excel, while girls are often asked close-ended questions in class, failing to allow them appropriate room for response.

As a result, France’s education ministry has proposed the "deconstruction" of gender stereotypes in French schools as a solution for encouraging equal treatment of boys and girls, removing gender-based expectations of students, and broadening the definitions of gender. But while the government may be trying to do this in the interest of the students' academic success, removing gender theory from schools will actually prove to be detrimental in the long run.

Commentators note that removing of gender theory is useful, as the notion that gender is a social construct propels anti-gay marriage arguments in France. However, the analysis of the different theories in school is crucial for children to develop their own perspectives on gender identity. If the topic is suppressed in schools, it may help in the removal of presumptions about male and female students temporarily, but it does not provide a solution to the gender biases those students may later experience in the workplace.

If the education ministry wants to ensure that a teacher’s sexist assumptions about male and female students are hindered, not talking about gender theory is not the answer. It should be customary that regardless of whether teachers believe boys and girls need to be taught differently, no matter what subject is at hand, their belief should not affect how they treat their students. In this case, it is the teachers that need to be reminded of this, and not the gender theories that should be hushed.