An entire school class raised ‘gender-neutral’ for BBC documentary
A BBC documentary airing tonight explores what happens when children are raised without gender.
Does the way we raise children instil warped ideas of gender?
In a provocative TV experiment, Doctor Javid Abdelmoneim aims to find out whether stripping away the pink and blue will change the way this class of seven year-olds think.
Taking over one Year 3 class from Lanesend primary school on the Isle of Wight, Doctor Javid aims to remove all differences in the way boys and girls are treated to see if, after six weeks of ‘gender neutral’ treatment, he can even out the gaps in their achievement across a range of important psychological measures, from self-confidence to spatial awareness.
The TV doc banishes all gendered clothing and markers from the classroom, introducing gender-neutral loos and activities to ensure all children are treated the same.
Doctor Javid explains that there are some “basic biological differences” between sexes, but biology cannot fully explain why men and women’s life chances – from pay, to careers – are still so unequal in the UK.
Even a quick shopping trip reveals just how much childhood has changed since Doctor Javid was growing up, with a tsunami of pink and blue clothes and toys aimed at different genders.
A visit to Professor Gina Rippon at Aston University, one of the UK’s leading experts in brain imaging and neuroscience, reveals there is no such thing as a male or female brain type – and instead the brain is a plastic organ, shaped and moulded by experiences, in which childhood is key.
Shocked by the children’s own polarised opinions on how boys and girls should live their lives, Doctor Javid commissions Dr Stella Mavroveli from the Psychometric Lab at University College London to assess between boys and girls behaviour and psychological traits, from confidence to self-esteem, empathy and social skills.
Upset by the results, Dr Javid sets out a series of interventions both in class and at home to tackle these differences.
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In this first episode, the class of seven year-olds are tested across a range of important psychological measures.
Doctor Javid is shocked by the results, which are enough to convince class teacher Mr Andre to eradicate from the classroom anything that reinforces the idea that boys and girls are fundamentally different; from the books they read, to the way he speaks to them.
The children meet a group of professionals who challenge their ideas about what jobs men and women can do, and later take part in a game designed to test their strength and their expectations of what they can achieve.
Meanwhile, Doctor Javid observes what happens to a group of adults unknowingly playing with babies who have had their clothes swapped with the opposite gender.
No More Boys And Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free? airs tonight on BBC Two at 9PM.