Last month, New York City mom Lynne Polvino sat down to complete a worksheet with her elementary school-aged daughter. The homework required students to read a short story and fill in the blanks as they went along using context clues. When Polvino began to read the story, however, she quickly realized that it was not something she wanted her daughter to be learning at school.
The story was about a young girl named Lisa who was upset that her mother was going back to work after taking time off to stay at home with her children. Since Lisa’s mother and father both had to be at work on time, the worksheet stated that the household was not running smoothly anymore.
“The morning was terrible,” the worksheet read. “Lisa’s father made breakfast. It was not too good. And he asked Lisa to wash the dishes. That was not too good either.”
In the end, Lisa ended up feeling “fine” only because her mother left work early to be with her. Polvino was extremely disappointed that her daughter’s homework was portraying working moms in such a negative light, so she decided to rewrite it.
In her modified story, Polvino created a positive atmosphere for Lisa and both of her parents. Everyone in the story was happy about the mother going back to work, and the father was on paid paternity leave so that he could care for Lisa and her younger brother. When Lisa’s father told her to clean the dishes in this version of the story, she did so without complaining, because “all functioning humans should learn how to clean up after themselves and help others.”
Polvino concluded the rewrite by mentioning how happy Lisa was to grow up in a society free of gender bias and misogyny. She had her daughter complete this new and improved version of her previously sexist homework, and then Polvino posted the two worksheets side by side on Facebook. The posts received an enormous amount of positive feedback, and acquired over 10,000 likes and 700 comments total. It was also shared more than 500 times!
Although Polvino noted that the rewrite should be taken as social commentary rather than a criticism of the school or teaching staff, she still brought the worksheet to the school’s attention. Her daughter’s teacher apologized and promised to more carefully screen each worksheet before distributing them to students.
Kids’ minds are like sponges – they absorb everything, especially at the elementary school level. All adults, and especially teachers, should take care to use this to their advantage and to implement positive views on equality at a young age. Cheers to Lynne Polvino for taking a stand and refusing to allow her daughter to be exposed to such sexism. If you would like to read her entire rewrite, click here.
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