Reading, writing, arithmetic — you know the drill. Such are the basic foundations of early education in America, and that's cool. But the truth is there are also many things little girls should be learning in school, but aren't... things that benefit their education, yes, but which will also shape the people they become. Unfortunately, because we live in a patriarchal society, little girls are automatically at a disadvantage when it comes to their educations. The current system has yet to catch up with the progress women have made, and therefore girls are missing out on some pretty crucial lessons.
As the mother of a 5-year-old daughter, I try to fill in the gaps at home. I do so because I worry she won't learn these things otherwise. However, the fact that I take it up on myself (as I'm sure most mothers do) to teach my daughter these things at home doesn't negate the fact that they should be incorporate into the curriculum. Otherwise, we're robbing little girls of an empowering and truly enriching education.
Although the full list of what little girls should be learning in school is likely much longer, the following five things deserve diligent consideration.
Think back to when you were younger. Remember how much of your early education was rooted in competition? We are taught to size each other up early and to fend for ourselves. We're taught to edge each other out so we can be the winner. And while being self-sufficient and able to protect yourself is important, it's also important that little girls know their success doesn't have to come at another girl's expense — there's room for all of us to succeed. Perhaps if this point was being emphasized to little girls through teamwork building, intersectionality, and real-life examples of women who worked together historically, we wouldn't be living in a culture of undercutting — a culture which often tries to pit women against each other.
Even as adults, we are constantly being told that simply saying the proper name of a woman's body parts is inappropriate. How can our kids ever have a chance at healthy self-esteem if we perpetuate this cloak of secrecy and shame surrounding their bodies? Some girls start puberty as early as 8 years old and, yet, periods are still considered stigmatic. If girls were taught about their bodies in an early education setting, we could perhaps help normalize that which is completely natural and normal anyway.
The number of women in STEM fields may be growing, but there is still a woefully large gender gap. Despite a massive nationwide push by corporate and billionaire tech donors as well as President Obama, coding has yet to go mainstream — and certainly yet to see the kind of numbers of girls enrolling in coding classes that the industry needs. In this digital day and age, coding is an invaluable skill and, arguably, one that will be required of our kids' generations as we move into the future. Like learning a new language, coding is actually easier to learn if implemented at an early age — and, of course, if we break the cycle of a culture that tries to teach girls from an early age that STEM subjects are for boys.
From a very early age, girls begin to hear things that are subversive to critical thinking: Mind your manners, be polite, don't speak unless spoken to, that's not ladylike, and so on. Often, these things carry over into the classroom. The problem, though, is that we should want our little girls to be taught to use their voices. To think for themselves. To think critically about the world around them. This could easily be done by opening the door to having actual conversations in classrooms as opposed to simply lecturing. Or, here's an idea, we could actually teach little girls about the amazing women in history whose critical thinking skills led to monumental change. Which brings us to our final point...
No, not the watered down version little girls currently learn about growing up. Rather, we're talking about the complete picture — all of the amazing things women throughout history have accomplished but for which men have received the credit. This should include (but not be limited to): Rosalind Franklin's discovery of the double helix, Ada Lovelace's strides in computer programming, Lise Meitner's articulation of nuclear fission, and so very, very, very many more.