A public elementary school in Massachusetts is using something called a “Gender Snowperson” to teach fourth graders not to assume people they meet are male or female, a district official revealed.
The revelation has triggered mockery and backlash online, with commentators accusing the school of indoctrinating young children in far-left ideology.
Johnny Cole, the director of equity & student support for Lexington Public Schools, first tweeted about the Gender Snowperson last Wednesday during a visit to Bowman Elementary School. In a series of hashtag-heavy posts, illustrated with photos, Cole cheered the “great #equity #learning that’s happening” at the Lexington school.
“There were lots of examples of #culturallyresponsiveteaching aimed at increasing #achievement & #studentengagement,” he said. “Here are just a few!”
Cole went on to praise a third grade teacher for preparing students to conduct “respectful conversations” and a fourth grade teacher for discussing immigration in a way that promotes “#Inclusion” and “#Diversity.”
It was in a third classroom, Lauren Archibald’s fourth graders, that Cole discovered the Gender Snowperson drawn on a display board. The photo he posted shows the gender-neutral snowman accompanied by colorful sticky notes explaining the nuances of gender, sex and sexuality.
A green note defines “Gender Identity” as “Who you are and how you feel as a person.” The options provided are “Girl, Boy, Both, or Neither.”
Beneath that, an orange note explains that “Sexual Orientation” is “Who you love or are attracted to.”
Finally, a yellow note labeled “Gender Assigned at Birth” reduces birth sex — “Girl, Boy, Intersex” — to a “Pronoun assigned at birth.”
In his tweet, Cole reported approvingly that “4th grade #students in Ms. Archibald’s class could clearly articulate what #genderidentity is to me and why it’s important to use #nonbinary language in describing people we don’t know yet.
3/4 4th grade #students in Ms. Archibald’s class could clearly articulate what #genderidentity is to me and why it’s important to use #nonbinary language in describing people we don’t know yet.#JoyInLearning #EdEquity #LGBTwitter #WeAllBelong pic.twitter.com/tJaWvBEpHQ— Johnny Cole (@LexingtonDEI) October 16, 2019
“This is sick”
Cole’s Gender Snowperson post at first went largely unnoticed. But on Tuesday, a progressive educator’s group called Teacher2Teacher shared the photo in a tweet of its own, saying: “Using this “gender snowperson,” Ss learn about identity and language!”
Conservatives quickly took note. Many expressed shock that 9- and 10-year-olds are learning gender theory.
Anna James Zeigler, a contributor to the right-wing Federalist website, said she was immediately pulling her children out of public school.
Oh wow. I'm going to send my kids' private school some extra money even though we've already paid this year's tuition.
— Anna James Zeigler (@ajzeigler) October 23, 2019
“Why is the snowman white?” another commenter joked.
The Gender Snowperson cometh
While conservatives have long complained of bias in education, some liberals have also started to sound the alarm.
In the October issue of Atlantic magazine, National Book Award-winner George Packer recounted his efforts to navigate New York City public schools on behalf of his children. He described the system increasingly beholden to “a brutal meritocracy and a radical new progressivism”:
The legacy of racism, together with a false meritocracy in America today that keeps children trapped where they are, is the root cause of the inequalities in the city’s schools. But calling out racism and getting rid of objective standards won’t create real equality or close the achievement gap, and might have the perverse effect of making it worse by driving out families of all races who cling to an idea of education based on real merit. If integration is a necessary condition for equality, it isn’t sufficient. Equality is too important to be left to an ideology that rejects universal values.
Neither Cole, Bowman Elementary School, its principal, Jenny Corduck, or Teacher2Teacher, immediately responded to Pluralist’s requests for comment.
However, based on their internet activity, they all appeared to be part of a teaching world focused heavily on issues of social justice.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Cole is a former “Diversity Consultant,” who recently joined the school district staff. His bio says, “I believe firmly that issues of social justice are easily compatible with the goals of any organization.”
On Tuesday, Cole tweeted about his visit to a pair of fourth grade classes at Joseph Estabrook Elementary School, also in Lexington. He hailed them for “engaging w/ #HardHistory by identifying ways #enslaved people demonstrated #resistance.”
Cole also recently promoted a number of other tokens of woke pedagogy, including LGBT activism by educators, efforts to avoid “offensive” Halloween costumes and a children’s book by Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor.
Saw lots of great #learning @EstabrookSchool today, including two #4thgrade #classrooms engaging w/ #HardHistory by identifying ways #enslaved people demonstrated #resistance.@Tolerance_org @k5socialstudies #nottooyoung #equity #edequity #edutwitter #socialstudies #elementary pic.twitter.com/LyLvHbnQ7f
— Johnny Cole (@LexingtonDEI) October 22, 2019
Corduck’s Twitter feed is similarly progressive. And Bowman Elementary School’s website touts the diversity of its more than 500 K-12 students, boasting that “one-third of Bowman students speak a language other than English at home and represent many countries of the world.”
For its part, Teacher2Teacher’s social media accounts feature a variety of affirmative messages and recommendations of resources for educators, including regular references to values like equity and inclusion. The group prominently advertises the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.