Should Schools Teach Our Boys to Be Chivalrous?
Today, I overheard a colleague praise the actions of a 3-year-old thusly:
“Wow, what a gentleman you are… holding the door open for Susie.”
I was bothered by this. Not because the boy, John’s, actions were unworthy of praise. But because it seemed to be praising them for all the wrong reasons. I wondered, would she have praised John had he held the door open for Bill instead of Susie? How would she have praised Susie had she held the door open for John?
Holding the door open for someone is a kind thing to do. Had my colleague said, “Wow, what a kind friend you are… holding the door open for Susie,” I would not have been bothered — provided she would have offered the same praise for the same action between any other combination of sexes. Praising, and thereby encouraging, kindness seems to be a pretty unobjectionable* practice in today’s schools.
But praising gentlemanliness? Setting up different expectations for behaviors — expectations that communicate different understandings of ability, of competency, of respect deserved — for the different sexes seems pretty clearly objectionable. To me, this seems to go far beyond other things I might find objectionable but which there is great disagreement about with regards to how schools treat sex differences (e.g., school uniforms). Praising — teaching! — chivalry seems to be teaching that females are deserving of a particular type of treatment because A) they are deserving of more respect for some inherent reason related to the presence of female reproductive organs, B) they require greater support because of inherent weaknesses related to the presence of female reproductive organs, or C) some bizarre combination of the two.
This is not the only example I’ve seen of schools teaching chivalry. Some are far more egregious, in my opinion. So, I ask you, commentariat, is chivalry really a lesson we want our schools to be teaching?
* I actually could come up with some minor reasons to object to this particular act of kindness in particular settings, but when can’t I find a nit to pick?
In the old days
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