Sarit Pekerman Shahar, principal of the "Bavli Yerushalmi" elementary school in the posh Shikun Bavli neighborhood of Tel Aviv, was shocked to the core when she discovered that boys and girls in the first grade look at themselves differently – and immediately proceeded to reeducate them. She told the story in an email she sent Monday morning to the parents of the school's pupils.
"In the course of the past two years we initiated a social values program on 'Gender and Equality between the Sexes,'" she began. "The children study the subject of gender through multi-disciplinary learning discovery. The pupils in the fifth and sixth grades meet basic concepts like social constructs, objectification, gender stereotypes, feminism, chauvinism, peer pressure and more."
A few months ago, she told the parents, she met with five first grade teachers, to prepare for Parents' Day. The pupils had been working on a "Self Portrait" project, in which they drew self portraits and listed the character traits that described them.
"I looked closely at all 144 portraits that the children drew and I read what they wrote. I was stupefied by the fact that over 90% of the boys described themselves as smart, brave and strong," Pekerman Shahar recalled. "Over 90% of the girls described themselves as being neat and orderly, kind hearted and diligent. At that moment I decided: The 'Gender and Equality between the Sexes' program will begin in the first grade in our school, starting next year."
What is more, she proudly told the parents – the school was chosen to present the program to the heads of the Tel Aviv District of the Education Ministry – and it was possible that the program's ideas would soon create "ripples" through the district.
The principal's email was written in response to a query by parents who wanted to know if the school planned to take part in an upcoming multi-school physical education activity sponsored by the Ministry of Education, in which boys and girls will compete separately. She made clear that the school would not take part in the activity. Twenty eight other school have pulled out of the sports day as well because of the distinction it makes between boys and girls.