Today I observed a group of seventh and eighth grade boys lead a Socratic seminar on To Kill a Mockingbird. Most of the discussion centered on race and symbolism and Boo Radley, but there was one question about gender that went something like, "Jem often accuses Scout of 'being a girl.' What does it mean to be a girl? What does it mean to be a boy? How do the different characters feel about gender?"
Most of the boys agreed that boys and girls are different. Here were some of the most illuminating statements:
-"Boys are braver, but girls are smarter."
-"Boys are more reckless and girls are more responsible."
-"Boys care less about appearances."
-"Boys and girls have different habits. Boys like video games more, but tomboys like Scout play them too."
-"Jem was wrong to call Scout a girl as an insult. Not all girls are the same."
I wanted to cheer for that last kid, but the teacher made it very clear that I was just supposed to watch and only step in if the students were interrupting each other or getting off topic. Anyway, it was a lot of fun listening to the boys so excited about a book, even if I was disappointed in all the gender stereotyping. I love To Kill a Mockingbird, and Atticus is probably my favorite fictional dad of all time.