Equal Opportunity Starts in Kindergarten

Most educated people living in countries that are not dominated by fanatical religions believe in equal rights and opportunities. It took us far too long to accept, that women must be treated the same way as men want to be treated. But far too often, we still act in various forms of ineffective, crazy hierarchies – in our deepest inward, far too many of us still believe that white people are superior to colored people, that the poor are not as worthy as the rich, that men are better business managers, that women are more qualified for household work, etc. One wonders, where do all these attitudes and prejudices come from? It is definitely linked to the idiotic desire of superiority over other humans or to the immense greed of many people. But once again, where does that come from? Where does it start? 

When a German feminist demanded on the worldwide network a 50/50 ratio of women and men as members of parliaments, on companies’ boards and all in other organizations, a friend of mine posted: ‘Equality of genders must start at the beginning of life, not at the end.’ I totally agree. If we would be raised from birth in the understanding that we are all equal, the world would be a wonderful, peaceful place.

But families, kindergarten, and schools teach our kids’ different values. I believe, for example, those obedient roles of women were indirectly assigned them in early childhood. Cooking, cleaning the house, making the laundry, going to parent-teacher conferences and looking pretty are all mommy’s roles; barbeque ribs, mowing the lawn, washing the car, etc. are daddy’s jobs.  

We constantly underestimate the importance of early childhood education. We shape people’s minds, behaviors, and attitudes in kindergartens and primary schools. Besides family, these are the institutions, which set the tone for years to come, the beginning of many dilemmas. We dress little boys as Superman, knights and pirates and girls like princesses, little mermaids or cheerleaders. We tell boys not to cry like little girls, and girls to be strong like men. We find it weird, if boys play with dolls or dance ballet (Honey, our son is gay!) or if girls want to play soccer. 

If children learn these clichés before they can even walk and talk, no wonder that our societies have such problems with accepting equality. 

Philipp Graf von Hardenberg
Philipp Graf von Hardenberg

Dr. h.c. Philipp Graf von Hardenberg is Founder of the Yaowawit School Kapong in Phang Nga (yaowawit.org), President of the Thanyapura Health and Sports Resort Phuket (thanyapura.com), Chairman of the United World College Thailand (uwcthailand.ac.th) and a member of the International Development Committee of the United World College (uwc.org) movement

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