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Jewish Boys Less Sexist than their Non-Jewish Peers? A New Study Offers Hope

This year a group of over 700 girls and 750 boys in grades one thru six at five different private schools in Southern Florida, including one Jewish day school, were asked if they would like to see a girl become president. The majority of the girls, including the Jewish girls, responded with a resounding “yes.” But for over 7’30 boys the responses to these questions and a group of other questions were not nearly as positive. In fact 40% of all boys said “no” they would not like to see a girl grow up and be president and over one third said they did not think it would ever happen.

Interestingly, more girls (40%) than boys (37%) said that they would like to be President. When asked if only boys were smart enough to become president, 7% of the girls and 41% of the boys answered yes. We found that 45% of the boys and 43% of the girls were told by others that only boys can become president of the United States. It is clear that boys and girls react very differently to this conditioning. 96% of the girls say “yes” they would like to see a girl as president and 93%) believe that someday it will happen. But the boys clearly disagreed with the girls, 40% of the boys responded that they would not like to see a girl become president and 34%> said they didn’t think it would happen.

When the responses from students attending the Jewish day school were separated from those attending the four other private schools, we could see that the Jewish girls and boys have more positive attitudes about having a woman as President.

Only 3% of the Jewish boys agreed with the 41% of boys in the larger group who thought only boys are smart enough to become President. And only 3% of the Jewish boys, compared to 45% of all boys, had been told that only boys can become president. Happily, 82% of the Jewish boys said they would like to OFFERS HOPE. see a girl grow up and be president, compared to the 60% of the boys in the larger group. Eighty-one percent of Jewish boys and 66% of all boys believed that a girl will be President.

A slide show, “How I Grew Up Feeling I Could be President of the United States” helps boost girls’ confidence in themselves,and help boys overcome their prejudices. The 41 artist-illustrated slides depict a unisex child who grows up believing that he or she can become President of the United States. For example, one slide shows the child asking Mom, “Can only boys be President?” She answers, “Girls can also be President.” On the next slide, the child asks Dad, “Can girls be President?” He answers, “Of course girls and boys can both be President.”

On another slide, the child asks teacher, “Is a girl smart enough to become President?” The teachers respond, “Of course.” On the following slide, the child goes onto say, “My teachers told me girls have been elected president or prime minister of England, Israel, India, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nicaragua and Canada.” When the child says, “It would be great if we could add our country’s name to that list” the child’s statement is reinforced on the next slide. “My teachers told me I was right,” says the child.

Schools alone cannot change children’s attitudes, of course. One teacher reported that one of the girls in her classroom had gone home after the slide show and told her father she would like to be President; her father responded, “No way.” The teacher said, “I hope she doesn’t listen to him.” Many teachers have expressed the need for parents to become aware of their own negative attitudes and to learn how those attitudes can crush a girl’s hope that someday she can be President of ther United States.